By Kate Merrill

BOSTON (CBS) – Jeb Bartholomew has spent countless hours hunched over practice tests preparing to take the ACT exam for his college applications. “I’ve been studying since February, so I pretty much know it cold now,” he said.

A rising senior at Weston High School, Jeb was originally supposed to take the test in April, but it was postponed due to coronavirus. The test was rescheduled for June 13, but that also was postponed. He was finally able to get a seat for a test scheduled for July 18, or at least that’s what he thought. “[We] got a letter on June 29 saying there was no capacity and he was booted from the testing site,” explained his mom, Annie Dempsey.

Dempsey said many of Jeb’s friends are running into similar problems, some are even driving to Vermont to take the test.

According to Winchester college counselor Cathy Costa, finding a seat for a test has been a challenge because of the pandemic, but she said it’s not the end of the world. “I don’t think that colleges that are looking for strong applicants are going to penalize based on test cores this year,” she explained. “But it does take away a potential positive that some of these students may have been hoping for and that’s life, unfortunately.”

In a statement, the ACT told us: We continue to work closely with test centers to safely provide testing opportunities for as many students as possible, but social distancing requirements and state guidelines have significantly reduced the number of open test centers and available seating for testing.

The ACT plans to offer test dates in the fall, but for Jeb, who hopes to apply early decision, that’s cutting it close. “Let’s say your son has a bad day, there’s no opportunity to retake the test,” Dempsey said.

Costa’s advice: focus on the parts of the application that you can control. “There is still a lot of opportunities for students to highlight positive aspects of themselves to colleges and that’s what I would encourage them to focus on this summer,” she said explaining it might be wise to make good use of any downtime before school starts.

But for Jeb and his family, this isn’t just about getting into colleges. Test scores often translate into scholarship dollars, which can be critical for many families. “The level of stress this adds to the situation is immense in an already very, very challenging time,” Dempsey said.

Many schools have already started to deemphasize test scores in admissions and according to Costa, this year’s unusual college application cycle could mean more changes moving forward. “I think one of the things that this whole covid episode is highlighting is the ability to adapt and be resilient and I think that students have a lot of opportunity to display that to colleges as they go through this cycle. It’s not going to be like any other cycle and I think we are already seeing that.”

Kate Merrill

  1. R Cruz says:

    I also have a rising senior – we have paid for the ACT twice because both times it was stated that I would be refunded once the schedule goes through. Our latest scheduled date was cancelled with no additional time proposed. Also, the ACT site does not answer phone, chat or email. How convenient for them! This is maddening.

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