Standardized tests a whole new ballgame

Picture this: you're walking into Wrigley Field and see the Sox playing. You check your tickets and nope, it's not the Cross Town Classic.

That is the same feeling every single junior across Illinois felt when they received email after email, month after month with the subject: ACT CANCELED FOR APRIL. Then, the same thing two months later, ACT CANCELED FOR JUNE. We were walking into the stadium completely blindsided.

Only this time, the stadium was our college admissions process, and the Sox were our applications. We are walking into this process playing for the wrong team. Since we were in elementary school, we've taken standardized tests, like the ISAT. I had been conditioned from a young age that standardized tests were simply a part of measuring my growth in comparison to other students.

But now that we have the option of not submitting scores, many are beginning to question not only the relevance of standardized tests, but also whether we really have a choice about submitting scores.

School counselors will tell you: "Still submit your scores! They can help set you apart!" So does not submitting a score put you at a disadvantage?

Fortunately, on June 29, instead of getting the same email repeating itself, stating "ACT CANCELED FOR JULY," mine read: "Preparing for your July 2020 Test Date." I eagerly clicked on the email and a wave of relief flooded my body after reading the first few lines:

"We're pleased to announce that you will still be able to test on the July, 18, 2020 test date."

But here's the catch. I would have to travel about six hours to take the test in Traverse City, Michigan! Due to canceled locations in Illinois, there was not a single seat open in the state to test. My family even decided to make a vacation out of it and spend a few days there. My friends were shocked, and my parents' friends laughed when they heard about our plan. Travel ... to take the ACT? Why is it worth that amount of effort?

This question is one I have been asking myself a lot lately. If all but three of the schools on my list are "test optional," why am I going through all this effort? Upon talking to my peers, several have also traveled or plan on traveling to do the same, to places like Lake Geneva or South Bend.

Students will push to make their applications as competitive as possible at top universities. But this year, those stakes were heightened enormously. I never could have imagined traveling to take a standardized test a year ago. But today, it is almost a new normal.

We've been given the chance to be judged on something more than a number for once in the college admissions process. So submitting a test score truly is up to you due to the flexibility presented by universities for the class of 2021.

But I have to wonder, who traveled the farthest or had the weirdest experiences with the ACT or SAT. I mean, could I have tried to take the test in Hawaii and gotten a killer tan along with all the stress it caused me? Probably not, but maybe worth a try for my next test date?

- Alegra Waverley, a senior at Hinsdale Central High School, is a contributing columnist. Readers can email her at [email protected].