Dear Parents of High Schoolers–here’s the scoop the SAT and ACT this fall.

High School and Covid
Parents Corner–Paige tells us what’s up.

Hey Parents

Let’s talk about standardized testing for a moment. 

You’ve all heard, or perhaps lived the recent horror stories. Test dates canceled… again. The necessity of driving for hours, only to find that the ACT was canceled the day of… and this week, the inability to get through to ACT to figure out what’s going on.

Many of you are probably wondering, “Is it even necessary to take a standardized test?  Aren’t lots of schools going test-optional?”

Here are my up-to-the-minute tips for both the SAT and ACT:

1.) Always rely on the standardized test websites (ACT and SAT) for the information, including dates, deadlines and changes.

2.) When you do connect with the test site of your choosing:

  • Plan to schedule more than one test date, and consider the Sunday option.
  • Be prepared to drive to a more remote location; city spots fill quickly. 
  • Tests held at private schools, and at non-school sites are more likely to take place in the fall than tests held at public schools. Try to book one of those, first.
  • Consider scheduling an October date as well.
  • Once you’ve managed to schedule a date or dates, check updated information via the test websites.

3.) While College Liftoff plans for all of our clients to apply by the early action deadline (typically 10/14-11/1), it may be possible to test after the deadline.  Check the policy at each college on your student’s school list.  Many will take scores after the application has been submitted. 

4.) Know that the ACT has delayed its rollout of both the online and test-at-home options until sometime in 2021.

5.) If your student hasn’t taken a standardized test yet (Class 22 and beyond) consider waiting until spring. 

6.) Consider taking the SAT instead, since they have been far more transparent, adaptive and organized through this. (Or consider signing up for both).

7.) Encourage your student to continue studying and preparing. There are a wealth of options, both paid and free, to help students prepare for either test.

8.) This sounds like a lot of hassle, and I know many of you have heard the words ‘test-optional’ bandied about.  I’ve got to tell you though, we believe your student should still take the ACT/SAT even though it’s optional, and here’s why:

  • $$$–many schools will continue to utilize test scores to determine merit-based aid, so although they’ll admit without the test, they won’t necessarily offer non-need based aid.
  • NCAA athletes will definitely need a set of scores for eligibility.
  • The evil twin paradigm:  Imagine your terrific kid had an evil twin–same GPA, same class history, same extracurriculars;  they even wrote a pretty similar essay. The good twin and the evil twin look exactly the same on paper, except one sent in a good test score and one didn’t. If the choice comes down to the two of them, who is the admissions officer likely to select?

While it’s kind of silly to think of an evil twin scenario, it’s not hard to imagine that there will be many similar applicants applying to the same school. Your terrific kid should make his or her best case for admission.

There are some students who won’t need the SAT/ACT scores in the coming year, if this sounds like your child, please speak with your College Liftoff advisor 

Upcoming ACT Dates:


  • Saturday, September 12
  • Sunday, September 13
  • Saturday, September 19 


  • Saturday, October 10
  • Saturday, October 17
  • Saturday, October 24
  • Sunday, October 25 

Upcoming SAT Dates

  • August 29th (registration deadline was July 31st)
  • September 26th*
  • October 3rd
  • November 7th
  • December 5th
  • *SAT subject tests are offered on date except for September 26th