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  • Writer's pictureLTC Brechin, USAF, Ret.

Another Cancelled SAT!

Updated: Jan 16, 2021

Many students applying to the US service academies are frustrated by the cancellation of SAT and ACT tests since the Spring with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of test sites are school buildings so often local school board, county and state restrictions lead to these last minute cancellations. In fact, the College Board noted that 402,000 students registered for the August SAT date; unfortunately, 178,600 students could not take the written examination as testing sites were closed due COVID -- some 44% of the students that registered! It is likely that more testing sites will be closed in the coming months. In fact, here in Oregon, the smoke and fires that envelope the state, and the entire west coast of the US, have led to similar outcomes.

So, what can you do?

The first point is that that military academies -- the US Air Force Academy, the US Military Academy, the US Naval Academy, the US Coast Guard Academy and the US Merchant Marine Academy -- will not waive the need for a qualifying test score. The only exception that I have seen so far is West Point's "test flexible" policy just announced in mid-September. This policy allows the Class of 2025 to use a PSAT score in the admissions application (provided you can present supporting details on the reasons you did not have an opportunity to take an SAT or ACT).

Thus, with a small exception, you must register for the 'next' test (the ACT or SAT) as soon as possible. I recommend signing up for multiple dates. Students often improve their scores with each test, plus as you may recall, the academies will 'super score' your ACT or SAT scores. In other words, they will combine the high-score components of multiple tests to derive a super score, which will then be considered your best test score for either of the examinations. The academies, by the way, have no preference so take whichever test you like, and perhaps both, since one may be more available than another.

Many other 'civilian' colleges and universities are waiving their requirements for ACT and SAT results so that may help with a reduced population of students wanting to take the tests. Plus, both ACT (the organization) and the College Board (the SAT providers) are increasing the frequency of testing so that should help with availability too. Other candidates, like yourself, are suffering the issues that you are experiencing, which will provide an 'even playing field' for all applicants.

The academies are aware of the issues and are finding ways to extend different deadlines. Scores as late as early February 2021 will be considered in the appointment process. The issue for most students will be the need to have qualifying scores with your nomination sources, typically your state's members of Congress and the Vice President. Unless your nomination sources follow the USMA policy, then a PSAT will not suffice. Again, the only option you have is to schedule ACT/SAT tests as often as you can to allow you to qualify and compete.

This entire process can be frustrating, but as you should recognize, these events are insignificant when compared to the kinds of missions, challenges and obstacles that you will face as a military officer after you graduate. Hang in there. And use this opportunity to show your resilience and fortitude!

This article from Inside Higher ED is quite good and provides some useful links.

Also, reach out to me if you would like to discuss a coaching engagement -- I provide active consultation on the entire admissions process, including preparation and review for interviews, essays (personal statement), activities and more. Call me at (503) 515-7406.

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