Student Services Adapts ACT and SAT Options for COVID Protocol

     As this year’s seniors and juniors know well, it has been nearly impossible to secure a spot at a testing center for both the ACT and the SAT. Once this spot is secured, students are not guaranteed that the test center will be open the day of their test. Many students are relocated to centers unreasonably far away. Others’ tests are cancelled all together. While all students understand that these cancellations are due to an abundance of precautionary measures that keep students and proctors safe during these unprecedented times, it has been both frustrating and stressful for students to secure good scores for college applications. Thankfully, Fenwick has found a way to provide Fenwick-only SAT and ACT tests.

     As many colleges are allowing students to apply “test optional” — an application option that doesn’t require applicants to submit test scores — it is understandable that students are questioning if taking advantage of the tests at Fenwick is worth it. If colleges are not requiring scores, why should students take grueling three hour exams? However, students are reminded that although the absence of test scores cannot hurt an application, good test scores will give students a leg up. 

     Junior Mikeala Burns is choosing to seize the opportunity Fenwick has offered. She said, “even though most colleges are test optional, the test scores can help me get into a better school, and gives the colleges a better understanding of my academic capabilities.” 

     While there are no disadvantages to not submitting scores, there certainly are advantages. College counselor Ms. Anderson agrees with this, stating, “For those students who test well, or for those students who struggled with their initial adjustment to high school, it could prove beneficial to submit a test score along with their application.” 

     While each student has different stakes resting on their success, most have adopted the attitude that testing can’t hurt them. Junior Hugo Nunez says, “I am taking advantage of the tests at Fenwick because there isn’t much to lose.” Students should recognize that test scores are of decreased importance but can shine a spotlight on their application.

      In light of this, Fenwick made the decision to provide Fenwick-only testing dates. The process to accomplish this wasn’t easy. Ms. Anderson describes this, stating, “The first hurdle was just attempting to reach someone at the College Board and ACT to request to be a Fenwick only site. It is not easy to connect with a liaison in a normal year, but thanks to the chaos created by the pandemic, it was nearly impossible.” Ms. Anderson explained that she “completely lucked out and found an ‘ACT Angel’” who put Fenwick staff in contact with the right people to host a Fenwick-only ACT.

     Fenwick staff stepped up as volunteers to provide an orderly, hassle-free test for their students. Ms. Anderson specifically mentioned Ms. Bolden, who created a way for Fenwick students to register for the test through their Fenwick Smart Tuition Accounts.

     Unfortunately, Fenwick staff had more to worry about after securing the Fenwick-only exams. COVID health risks are still a major issue despite many of our teachers receiving their vaccinations. The most helpful precaution, though, is simply that the only students in the building while testing will be Fenwick students. Minimizing contact with students from other schools and regions of Illinois will vastly reduce risk. A day, B day, and full e-learning students will also be separated during testing. Additional precautions include the normal mask requirements, windows open and fans turned on, limited students per classroom, and temperature checks and questions at the door. According to students, these precautions have paid off, and they feel safe testing in the building. Junior Linden Gierstorf says, “I do feel safe, there’s limited contact and everyone [will sit] 6 feet apart from each other.” These measures, combined with Fenwick’s low number of cases, leave students and teachers feeling safe and confident. “I know that [Fenwick] will be taking the precautions necessary to keep everyone safe,” says junior Mikeala Burns. 

     Fenwick students have also expressed gratitude for the ability to test in a familiar environment. Taking standardized tests is a taxing and stressful process, but having the home court advantage takes some of that pressure away. Junior Mikeala Burns expresses her relief. “Being comfortable in the environment does give me a small sense of peace,” she says, “which will allow me to focus more intensely on the test.”