Coronavirus has caused headaches for Thai students applying to university in the United States

The night before the March SAT test, a student of mine sent a message telling me the test was called off. Despite Thailand not having too many Covid-19 cases at the time, Collegeboard (U.S.-based creator of the SAT test) decided they did not want to risk spreading the virus.

My student, a smart, young lady from International School Bangkok (ISB), was understandably devastated. She has been prepping for the test for months and to have the test canceled was a major disappointment.

“I was prepping my mind so hard last night and I was so ready,” she said.

As her teacher, I could not help but feel bad for her. While she can still use the months of practice on a future test, the mental drain that comes from psyching yourself up is not easily recaptured.

Many students in Thailand choose to go study abroad for college. Popular English-speaking locations include the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and the United States.

Most schools in the US require some standardized test of sort. While there has been a trend to move away from this, you would still need to take a test to apply to the more well-known schools in America.

For many, it is either the SAT or ACT test.

Both the SAT and ACT tests are administered at specific dates throughout the school year (based on the western school calendar). In Thailand, there were only 4 SAT test dates this past year: October 5, December 7, March 14, May 2. That does not leave many opportunities. And while Collegeboard wisely added an August test date for this upcoming school year, it still does not leave room for error or under-preparation.

Students usually go through the rigorous process of prepping for the tests months before the administration date. No score is guaranteed to get you in or rejected from any school but there are score ranges that make you more competitive.

When the Covid-19 pandemic started, no sector could have predicted the wide-ranging effects it would have, let alone the education sector. Schools were immediately closed down. Classes were moved online or parents home-schooled their kids.

Like schools, the SAT and ACT have also postponed their test dates. The ACT test in April has been postponed to June while the SAT will not hold an international test date until later in August.

The lack of standardized tests has put many students in quite a bind. Most students are hoping to finish with testing by this school year so that they can concentrate on applications in the fall. Other students in their last year of high school who need test scores have also lost their chance. They won’t be able to apply to colleges still accepting applications and thus, they would not be able to attend schools in the United States

While the ramifications for no more standardized tests this year has yet to play out, there is another scenario that might make this moot – the postponement of college start dates in the fall. It may seem inconceivable at the moment that schools will not open in the fall, but we should remember that these are unprecedented times.

Many of us probably could not imagine that schools are closed now. Even in Thailand, the start of schools has moved from May to July. 

Despite the uncertainty, it is not all doom and gloom. Tests will start back up again. Students can stay sharp by practicing a bit every week. Resources like the Collegeboard website and Khan Academy provide good learning tools for these tests.

Many test-prep centers have also moved online so students can take advantage of that while they are home in quarantine. And as stated previously, the SAT even added an additional test for this fall. It will make things more difficult for students with everything that must be done for college applications, but at least the option is here.

Finally, it’s entirely possible that American colleges will see this as a unique year and waive the standardized test requirement for admissions in the upcoming year.


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