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Securing Atlanta's Future Thought Leadership

Yet another barrier to college…required tests that are too often canceled

By Damian Ramsey

Laila Williams is a senior at Towers High School in DeKalb County. She is the editor of the school newspaper, the secretary of the student council, and a participant in multiple organizations including the Technology Student Association, Future Business Leaders of America, Young Ladies of Purpose, and College AIM. Laila boasts an impressive 3.7 GPA, and dreams of one day starting multiple businesses that address inequities in her community. Despite her impressive profile, Laila missed the opportunity to attend University of Georgia (UGA) because of issues with taking the SAT. She registered junior year for a June administration of the exam. On test day, she arrived to find the location changed. Laila was unable to get across town in time to take the exam and had to forfeit her waiver. In October, Laila registered a second time. The evening before her exam, Laila received a call from her principal stating she was exposed to COVID. Again, Laila was unable to take the test, and she forfeited her last remaining waiver. Laila was unable to meet UGA’s test requirement and missed the application deadline. 

Laila’s case is not uncommon. The wave of COVID-related test site closures have been yet another challenge for college bound seniors nationwide. Day-of-test cancellations have made it difficult for students to reschedule their exams, social distancing measures have greatly reduced test site capacity (forcing students to take their tests in distant locations), and many students have spent time preparing for the test only to discover they are unable to take it. These challenges are even more burdensome for low-income students, first-generation students, and BIPOC students, like Laila, who often lack the means to travel to an alternative testing location and lack the money to reschedule their exam. 

In the wake of these challenges, postsecondary institutions nationwide adjusted their admissions policies to accommodate students who could not complete testing in time to meet application deadlines. Since spring 2020, the number of colleges adopting test optional policies has more than tripled. According to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, more than 1,800 accredited colleges and universities made the tests optional for admission in 2022, and nearly 80% of four-year colleges have either extended test optional policies for another year, or have gone completely test-blind, doing away with the requirement entirely. 

Though some schools have remained test optional during the pandemic, that is no longer the case for the University System of Georgia (USG). USG announced that all twenty-six of its institutions across the state would require the SAT or ACT for admission during the Spring/Summer/Fall 2022 terms and subsequent semesters. This return to mandatory testing caused a spike in incomplete applications at Georgia State University (GSU), the largest of the USG schools. 

During 2020-2021, when tests were optional, 19% of applications to GSU were incomplete. This year at the same point in time, with the return to mandatory testing, 52% of applications were incomplete. GSU admissions had 5,094 more incomplete applications this year than last, mainly due to missing test scores and transcripts. The inability for students to complete the testing requirement left thousands of potential undergraduate students with one of two options – postpone enrollment until they can meet the test requirement, or apply elsewhere. Laila, for example, is now considering private or out of state schools with strong business programs and test optional admissions policies.


The lack of access to required tests for college admission, in the midst of widespread COVID-related test site closures and cancellations, has created barriers to enrollment for students nationwide. Low-income students, first-generation students, and BIPOC students feel these barriers even more strongly. By bringing awareness to this issue, Learn4Life hopes to encourage passionate partners across all sectors, to target resources and interventions to eliminate obstacles to college access (especially for metro Atlanta’s most marginalized students). Doing so could reverse postsecondary enrollment declines, improve retention of local talent, and safeguard our local workforce and economy.  


 If you’re a parent, or from a school, nonprofit, community organization, or business, and you’d like to join our collective impact work to improve postsecondary outcomes in metro Atlanta, let us know here. We’d love to have your voice at the table.  


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  1. Robert Peppel February 18, 2022 12:44 pm

    Why not do the testing in the schools?Report

    1. Damian March 1, 2022 1:47 pm

      Good question Robert. Under normal circumstances, testing in schools is an option, but the pandemic made this difficult. In order to adhere to COVID safety protocols, some districts went completely virtual so in-person test administration could not happen.Report

  2. Willie Wilson June 20, 2022 8:05 am

    It is very unpleasant when something like this happens, and I feel sorry for Laila Williams. I was in a similar situation, and I also failed the exam because they put it at a different time and didn’t notify everyone (including me). Since then, I have had a not so good relationship with the college, and often I use https://edusson.com/write-my-argumentative-essay to write the argumentative essay and not to waste a lot of time on it. Instead, I prefer to work. Until this was the best choice in my life, I didn’t have any more stress about the university, and I felt much better.Report


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