The ACT Amidst the Pandemic

Although all juniors are required to take the ACT this March 8, Universities in the UW system continue to be “test-optional.” According to the website UW Help, Schools like UW Madison, UW Milwaukee, and more under the UW system will not require submission of test scores through spring of 2025.
“We recognize that changes to test availability and testing environments due to the COVID-19 pandemic leave many students with inequitable access to standardized tests,” University of Wisconsin Eau Claire says on their website.
The College Board Blog explains that if a college has the “test-optional” policy, it means those who do not submit their ACT will not be at a disadvantage compared to those that do.
“If you choose not to have your scores considered, you will not be disadvantaged, as we will continue to review all aspects of the application,” The Office of Admissions and Recruitment at UW Madison says on their website.
Despite this, school counselor and building leader department chair Ann Ash urges students to still study and take the test seriously as it can be useful in other ways.
“Scholarships are the big thing, or to strengthen a specific area. You take the ACT during the year, so it can help students identify skills and things they need to work on before they go to college,” Ash says.
Ash comments that the ACT isn’t only looked at for scholarships, but it can be considered during the application process for apprenticeships and jobs in the trades as well. This being said, the future of the ACT is unclear as its purpose and uses continue to change.
“I think that originally the thought behind the ACT was a leveling thing. [The ACT] was the one common factor that they could compare students on,” Ash says. “However, there are a lot of situations where kids don’t test well and they’re really bright and really strong.”
For those that don’t test as well as they’d like to, Ash mentions that while not submitting a score won’t impact certain applications, submitting a low score compared to the University’s expectations can negatively affect chances of getting accepted.
Whether excelling at the ACT is a priority, or in the back of your mind, Ash offers some advice to get the most out of the experience.
“The three things that predict success in the ACT are taking a strong high school schedule, [having a] familiarity with the test, and sometimes taking [the test] a couple of times.”