Testing Out of State? How to Manage Changing Test Sites

At this point, pretty much every rising senior knows the feeling of having their SAT/ACT test site cancelled. Time and again since the spring, students have signed up for test dates, waited patiently for confirmation, and found out on late notice that the school where they were hoping to test had decided not to host. On the company side, SAT and ACT have not always been prompt about updating their lists of open test centers. On the school side, many schools have not made information available about whether they’re open or closed for tests, listing cancelled tests on their websites for weeks. One poor girl even drove to New York, stayed there overnight, and found out the morning of test day that her site was closed when she arrived.

Yet my students have surprised me with their resilience and determination. Almost no one has given up on their testing. Students want to take these tests. Despite the media threads declaring the SAT/ACT to be falling out of favor, so many students tried to sign up for ACT on the summer registration date that the website crashed for a week, and ACT needed to bring in a third-party company to manage the demand. Students have studied hard, and they want their chance to stand out.

Many students have adjusted to cancelled test sites by signing up for tests out-of-state. My students have travelled to Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, and Pennsylvania to find open test sites. That hasn’t even been at my urging: the students and parents made these decisions on their own. Why not? Athletes drive four or five hours for tournaments all the time; isn’t an SAT/ACT test of similar importance? 

So should you consider registering out-of-state if your test center is doubtful or closed? Maybe. There are a number of factors to consider. First, call your test center in MA directly to see if they’re hosting. You can’t trust that the College Board and ACT websites are up-to-date. Policies by site vary widely: Framingham has cancelled all August/September testing, Natick is still planning to host the August SAT, and Brookline is a “maybe” for the September ACT, awaiting state approval. Be proactive about trying to ensure a seat in MA, first.

But if you can’t – and if you are comfortable with the safety risk involved in travel – out-of-state testing could work. Search for more rural areas with low case counts; urban areas are more likely to start the year with remote schooling, anyway. Call potential schools to see if they a) hosted a June or July ACT and b) plan to host the SAT or ACT in August/September. Carefully examine state travel restrictions to make sure you won’t be forced to quarantine upon arrival. By strategically examining these factors, you increase your odds of landing a successful test date.

The July ACT proved to safe. 88,000 students took the test a month ago, and no stories of outbreaks have emerged. Everyone should consider their particular situation, of course, and if you don’t feel safe or family members don’t feel safe, then absolutely don’t go. But, there’s no evidence so far that SAT/ACT tests lead to outbreaks. 

If you need any advice on potential locations to test, please do not hesitate to contact us. We can’t know the policy for every school around the country, but we can pass along the intel we hear about test sites. We’re getting new information every day.

Enjoy these last two weeks of August and this finally milder weather.