SAT 2020: a tale of cancellations, suitcases and hotels


Illustration by Nyomi Fox

Out of 402,000 students registered for the August 29 SAT administration, nearly half couldn’t test because COVID-19 shuttered their testing centers.

I was fortunate not to be one of those people. On August 28, I (and conceivably thousands of other people) packed a bag, got in a car and drove 100 miles — over two hours — to a hotel so I could take the SAT the following morning. Many skipped the lodging and got up a few hours before dawn.

The college admissions process, already rife with anxiety and stress, was thrown into even greater disarray as a result of the coronavirus. Hodgepodge cancellations of the SAT were the last thing anyone needed.

I cannot ignore the comical aspect of my situation. First of all, instead of taking the test in Bethesda, Maryland, I took it in Mechanicsville, Virginia. Yes, Mechanicsville. After hearing that the test was cancelled in MCPS and all across Maryland, I began searching for other options. I nearly registered to take it in DC, but worried it would get cancelled there as well. I found another vacancy elsewhere in Virginia. Yet, in a moment of frustration and anger, I gave up, emphatically and dramatically closed my laptop and decided not to take the test. When I changed my mind some minutes later I was at the mercy of the reliable College Board website, which left Mechanicsville as my only option.

“So you came to Mechanicsville of all places!” my proctor joked as she saw the address on my testing ticket.

In all seriousness, I am lucky to have had the means to travel just to take the test. In a rough estimate, we incurred additional costs of around $200, not including the test itself.

According to their website, “College Board is a mission-driven not-for-profit organization that connects students to college success and opportunity.” During difficult times such as these, this mission becomes even more important. The SAT has a pivotal influence on the academic career of students after high school, regardless of whether or not the institution they are applying to has chosen to waive test requirements this year.

There must be consistency for all students regarding the accessibility of the SAT. The lack thereof creates unnecessary confusion, disparity, anxiety and stress during a time when the opposite is crucial. What we need is clarity, equity and equanimity.