Students worry about admission, scholarships as college entrance exams continue to cancel

Posted at 6:06 PM, Apr 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-21 18:06:40-04

TAMPA, Fla. -- Canceled college entrance exam dates amid the coronavirus crisis have Florida parents wondering what it means for school admissions and college scholarships.

Parents aren’t the only ones worried, but high school students, too.

“I was kind of banking on these last attempts to fully qualify for Bright Futures, but I wasn’t given the opportunity to based on the circumstances,” said Tampa area senior Gio Rivera.

Rivera is referring to the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program. Qualifying students can receive awards to cover up to 100 percent of tuition and applicable fees. A student must also be a Florida resident and enroll at an eligible Florida institution. In order to get Bright Futures Scholarship, students must meet certain GPA, service hours and college entrance exam requirements.

Rivera hoped to take upcoming tests to boost his score and qualify for a scholarship, but some of those test dates have been canceled.

“He’s done really well in school, he has a 4.5 GPA, he’s done all his hours,” said Rivera’s mom, Heidy. “He’s really been working hard at it and we were trying to get scheduled for the ACT and SAT again. Unfortunately, this happened and this got canceled, which means now he might not qualify for it.”

The College Board, the organization behind the SAT, canceled its May and June test dates due to the health crisis. Right now, the ACT says it will offer tests in June and July as CDC and local guidelines allow. According to the Bright Futures Student Handbook, all eligibility requirements must be met by high school graduation, but scores from ACT and SAT tests taken through June 30 will be accepted for evaluation.

“This year admissions is going to be about the story, not just the stats,” said Neha Gupta, founder of College Shortcuts.

College Shortcuts helps students with mentoring, test prep, and tutoring. Gupta says in terms of scholarships, it may be a wait-and-see game, but she advises seniors who’ve not decided where they’re going to college yet to act sooner rather than later.

For high school juniors starting the college admissions process, Gupta says don’t let test cancellations create stress.

“Even if colleges are going to be going test optional and not look at the score, there’s so many other ways to stand out in the admissions process from the essays to the resumes, how you package yourself and your passion, showing really who you are,” said Gupta.

The ACT says it will introduce an at-home option through remote proctoring starting later this year. The College Board will provide a digital SAT for at-home use if schools do not reopen in the fall.

While still preparing to take a future test, Gio and Heidy Rivera hope the Florida Department of Education looks at the COVID-19 situation and adjusts its scholarship requirements.

“I’m very hopeful for the future and I know that things will work out,” said Heidy. “Hopefully the state will take care of what they need to take care of, the department of education, and help these kids make it through.”

“There’s plenty of kids who work hard in school, and they do well in school, their whole goal is to be successful at the next level of education," said Gio. "To not be allotted scholarship funds to take themselves to another level when it comes to school, it would be sad.”

The Florida Department of Education Office of Student Financial Assistance said in a statement on it’s website: “The Department is aware of the cancellation of standardized test dates due to the impact of COVID-19 and social distancing measures. The impact of these measures on initial eligibility requirements are being evaluated. Once a decision has been made, official notification will be sent.”

We reached out to the Department Tuesday again about any changes. A spokesperson said a plan isn’t finalized yet.