By Sophia Kim
This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing has been crucial for the health and safety of our community. In an effort to prevent further spread of the coronavirus, SAT and ACT testing centers have closed down and testing dates have been canceled. As a result, many students this year did not have the opportunity to take or retake the SAT or ACT. For the Class of 2021, this issue has caused stress and worry regarding college applications.
Colleges around the US have acknowledged this problem, a situation unique to our time, by becoming “test-optional.” More than 1,500 schools currently do not require students to submit SAT or ACT scores to be considered for admission.
What does “test-optional” really mean? Are colleges being truthful in saying that test scores are really optional? If I have taken the SAT/ACT already, should I submit my scores, even if the application doesn’t require them?
These are completely valid questions. Let’s first start with what it means to be a “test-optional.”
Types of Test Optional Schools
There are several types of test optional schools. One important thing to remember is that no matter what “category” a school falls under, application/admission policies vary from college to college. Be sure to check the specific requirements for schools that interest you.
To check which colleges are currently test optional, go to: https://fairtest.org/university/optional.
Truly “test-optional” colleges do not require students to submit their SAT or ACT scores in order to be considered for admission. Schools that are currently test-optional include the University of Chicago, Wake Forest University, Bowdoin College, Bucknell University, Pitzer College, and Brandeis University.
“Test-flexible” schools allow students to submit scores from other assessments such as SAT Subject Tests or AP tests in place of the SAT and ACT. Schools that currently fall under this category include NYU, Middlebury College, Drexel University, and the University of Rochester.
“Test-blind” schools are colleges that will not consider your SAT or ACT scores even if you submit them. These schools try to de-emphasize the importance of test scores in determining a student’s merit, however test-optional schools are much more common. Some examples of currently test-blind schools include Hampshire College and California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
Some colleges guarantee admission if an applicant has a certain class ranking or GPA. These schools typically require a student to be in the top 10% of their class or have a 3.5 unweighted GPA. However, as I stated earlier, each college has its own set of policies, so be sure to check.
Now that we’ve differentiated between these different admissions policies, let’s discuss some common questions regarding test-optional schools.
Does test-optional really mean test-optional?
Parents and students this year may be skeptical about whether colleges will really be impartial in choosing between students who have included their scores and those who have not. This is a fair question.
According to Robert Schaeffer, interim Executive Director of FairTest, test-optional schools will not penalize students who do not submit scores. Schaeffer says, “It is important for students, their families, and counselors to understand that ‘test-optional means optional.’ In other words, students who do not submit results from standardized exams will neither be advantaged nor disadvantaged.”
The National Association for College Admission Counselors (NACAC) agrees with this sentiment. In fact, NACAC released a statement in August 2020 confirming it. Over 470 representatives from colleges around the country have signed the statement to confirm that students applying to their schools will not be penalized for excluding SAT/ACT scores. You can check the list of colleges that participated here: Test-Optional Means Test-Optional. Through the document, Angel B. Pérez (CEO of NACAC) wanted to show students that colleges will be true to their word: “I decided to create the statement and circulate it among schools because I have heard from our high school counselor colleagues that their students just don’t believe that test-optional schools really mean it.”
Should I include my SAT/ACT scores even if the school is test-optional?
If you have taken the SAT or ACT already, you may be wondering whether you should include your scores in applications or opt to exclude them.
This is a decision that students have to make based on other factors. Most sources state that strong test scores will always strengthen an application. Therefore, students must think about whether their scores would positively contribute to their application overall. It is important to note that if an applicant does not submit SAT or ACT scores, college admissions counselors will have to rely more heavily on other aspects of their application such as GPA, course rigor, and personal statement.
Additionally, students may want to include SAT or ACT scores if they are looking to receive merit scholarships. For the most part, colleges award merit scholarships based on test scores. However, there are certain colleges that have modified the scholarship requirements because many students have no scores to send. Penn State, Miami University of Ohio, University of Maryland, and Indiana University are among those colleges that will not be looking at SAT/ACT scores to award merit scholarships to incoming freshmen. However, keep in mind that most colleges will continue to use SAT/ACT scores to determine who will be awarded these scholarships and how much money they will receive.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had so many unexpected effects on all of our lives. Who ever thought that one day students would be able to apply to college without an SAT or ACT score? These really are bizarre times. I hope this article answered some questions and relieved some stress or confusion. Please be sure to wish our seniors the best of luck in their college application processes!
By Marissa Cohen
Over the past few months, school board meetings have become the number one source of information about everything from reopening plans to football games. However, if you’re like most students in Council Rock, you’re probably way too busy to watch these now almost four-hour-long meetings. Here are a few of the most important and relevant points that came out of the October 1 board meeting.
Covid-19 Reopening Plans
For many students, parents, and teachers, the past few weeks of hybrid learning have been going well. As we start getting accustomed to this new way of learning, the school board has already started to discuss a five day a week plan for in-person learning. Much of this month’s meeting was spent discussing this plan, specifically the target date for implementing this new plan. As of now, it’s hard to tell whether or not students will even be able to go to school for a full week since news about the pandemic changes almost daily. There have already been two cases of Covid-19 in CRN alone, and no one knows if that number is going to increase. However, the school board is staying optimistic and cautious: the current target date for reopening five days a week is November 16th. Of course, the school board can’t force students uncomfortable with in-person learning to come in, so the 100% virtual option will still be available. It will be interesting to see how this plays out: after the announcement that cases have started showing up at CRN, more students have opted out of the hybrid option and are now virtual. And without a hybrid, two days a week option, there could be an increase in students who go 100% virtual because they aren’t comfortable going in all five days. They will be having a final vote on this notion on October 22nd, and if you have any concerns or comments, you can make a public comment at email@example.com .
Education Committee and New Electives
It seems that even one month into school, teachers are already planning new electives for the 2021-22 school year. In the technology education department, a new elective called STEM guitar was approved. The basis of this elective is building a guitar, a process that will teach students about many different aspects of the STEM field. Three new electives in the Family and Consumer Sciences department are Global Foods and Culture, Nutrition and Dietetics, and World of Fashion 2. These three electives and the STEM guitar one were not voted on unanimously: some board members had concerns about expenses and about having enough teachers to include these subjects in the curriculum. However, two new gym and health electives were approved unanimously: Unified Physical Education and Achieving Happiness. These new electives may give students more options for their required gym classes, something that can add diversity and fun to this requirement. All of these electives will most likely be available beginning next school year.
CR Health and Safety/Athletic Health and Safety Plans
Another major issue in this month’s board meeting was regarding the current health and safety plans and Governor Wolf’s restriction mandates. Previously, the plans stated that there could be a maximum gathering of 25 people indoors and 250 outdoors, and that allowing spectators at games would be a case-by-case decision. However, after much discussion, the school board revised those statements. Now, the district will strictly follow whatever the CDC and Governor Wolf’s guidelines are. And for us, it means that a limited number of spectators and talent scouts will be allowed to come to games, something that will hopefully boost morale and school spirit for our great teams.
As they have been the past few months, this board meeting was filled with lots of discussion, debates, and public comments. There is currently a lot of turmoil over what’s right for the students and how it may conflict with the health and safety concerns of the state. These times and these decisions are increasingly difficult, so it’s important to stay informed about what’s going on in our district. These meeting summaries will most likely be written monthly, so make sure to visit the Indianite’s website next month to learn about November’s meeting.
By Anushka Rajmohan
As the famous psychologist, Carl Jung once said, “About a third of my cases are suffering from no clinically definable neurosis, but from the senselessness and emptiness of their lives. This can be defined as the general neurosis of our times.” Although in the world we live today, psychological experts are able to diagnose most who suffer from this “neurosis” with known and studied mental disorders, Jung’s other statement still stands as a constant: mental health has been declining and continues to do so, especially among teenagers. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened mental health, this mental health crisis has been on-going for decades now.
Before the 1900s, mental health was not a big societal concern, and those with mental health disorders were mostly considered “crazy” and were stigmatized. However, as psychology began to grow as a prominent field of study and psychologists began to understand more about the effects of previously thought to be milder mental disorders such as depression and anxiety, the issue of a widespread decline in mental health in teenagers became much clearer.
As this noticeably became a public health concern, the Department of Human and Health Services (HHS) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) started to analyze data from the 1900s to the 1980s to find possible trends and causes to this crisis. They noticed that the suicide rates among teenagers were steadily increasing from 1900-1950 and then sharply increased starting around the 1980s, exceeding the rate of suicide for all peoples.
This mental health decline has only been intensifying, with psychological disorders among children and teenagers rapidly increasing since the mid-2000s. As of now, in the United States, the second leading cause of death for young adolescents, teenagers, and young adults is death by suicide. This fact is even more alarming when compared with the results of the National Survey of Drug Use and Health, which revealed that suicidal thoughts have been the most prevalent among young adults, specifically ages 18-25.
Researchers and psychologists have been conducting hundreds of studies in order to pinpoint the cause of this public health crisis. Although most studies have not been able to find a conclusive single cause and contribute to the decline of mental health for various reasons, those studies also mainly point to the rise of social media and the excessive use of technology for this mental health decline.
Studies have found that the use of smartphones and laptops leads to less amount of sleep, both because teenagers are spending too much time on these addictive devices and the blue light from screens that disrupt sleep patterns. Moreover, the omniscient presence in teenagers’ lives lessens face-to-face interactions with family and friends. Both of these factors have shown to increase already present stress from other factors and contribute to mental disorders such as depression and bipolar (also known as manic-depressive) disorder, which are the two leading disorders contributing to suicide among teens.
On top of these pre-existing issues, the COVID-19 pandemic that resulted in the world implementing various lockdowns has not been kind to the teenage population either. A research study conducted about the effects of the lockdown explained the plunge of mental health among school and college-going students and emphasized the factors that led to this:
“The home confinement of children and adolescents is associated with uncertainty and anxiety which is attributable to disruption in their education, physical activities and opportunities for socialization. Absence of structured setting of the school for a long duration result in disruption in routine, boredom and lack of innovative ideas for engaging in various academic and extracurricular activities.”
The pandemic only increased the stress that teenagers already had and disrupted a regular routine that, the study predicts, will have psychological effects later on in their lives as well.
A student from North, who would like to remain anonymous, was asked about their own experiences with their mental health struggles over the spring/summer lockdown of 2020. The student claimed that the lockdown had a negative impact on their mental health, mostly due to a decrease in daily face-to-face social interactions with friends. The student commented on this reduced social life:
“Not seeing people in general or going out was incredibly tough for me because there was nothing to look forward to.”
The student also both proceeded to explain that this decline in mental health negatively impacted their school worth ethic in general. The student explained that “school life slowly went into downward spiral.”
Although the terrific death rate of this pandemic is still important to concentrate on, the decline of mental health and increase in stress also deserves attention since this even impacts our own school.
So, what is being done about this serious public health crisis plaguing kids and adults alike? Many organizations have been created to help and spread awareness of this growing issue. One such organization is the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). AFSP shares real stories of suicide survivors provides a crisis lifeline and raises money in order to educate and push for suicide prevention programs in schools. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is another organization that aims to raise awareness for the suicide pandemic and is also the biggest suicide crisis call center in the United States, providing support for anyone in distress.
Schools and colleges are also implementing suicide prevention programs and mental health programs that aim to detect early signs of suicide and help students suffering from serious psychological disorders and self-harm. Our own state has the Safe2Something program, its main objective being to help those who might be in a crisis by recognizing certain signs. Our school also has the CARES program, which is also designed so that students can recognize warning signs from their peers and help them by reporting to trusted adults.
The topic of mental health has been one that holds much stigma and still, to some extent, is an uncomfortable topic to discuss today. However, spreading awareness about this pandemic and effects of this on teenagers is important in decreasing the rates of psychological illnesses and rates of suicide, both of which have been on the rise for decades now. The only way to prevent more casualties that these mental health diseases cause is to be educated on the topic of mental health, spread awareness, and join and support organizations advocating for suicide prevention. And even if you are not able to do these things, even having a bit more awareness for the people around you can save a life.
If you or someone you know is in need of help, please contact any of the hotlines below:
National Hopeline Network: 1-800-784-2433
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
The Trevor Project: 1-866-4-U-TREVOR