Spring exam dates were canceled because of the pandemic, often with little notice, and the College Board, which produces the SAT, abandoned plans for an online, at-home option. When the board added a September test date for the first time in decades, more than 334,000 students registered to take it on Saturday.
But again, many were thwarted; four out of 10 testing centers, mostly in the Northeast and California, remained closed on Saturday, a decision that the College Board said is made by local administrators, based on conditions in their communities. (The rival ACT has faced similar disruptions; more than 500 of its roughly 1,700 testing centers were closed for its Sept. 19 testing date because of the coronavirus or West Coast wildfires.)
To try to avoid that risk, some determined test takers traveled many miles from home. Ava Pallotta, 16, a high school senior in New Rochelle, N.Y., had registered for the March and June test dates, but both were canceled. So for this weekend, she picked a spot in Albany, about two hours away, and drove there Friday night to sleep at her grandmother’s place.
“I can’t give myself a break,” said Ava, “because I’ve been so concerned about this deadline that keeps getting pushed back.”
Although testing centers in New York City and other major metro areas are often packed, those in suburban and rural areas generally have spots available for those willing and able to travel. The College Board said less than 10 percent of its testing sites across the country were full on Saturday.
That’s how I wound up at Sleepy Hollow High School, which drew students from New York City and across its suburbs, along with locals. (I didn’t register for the test until the last possible day, and did so at a site far from my home in Brooklyn that still had vacancies, to avoid taking a spot from a student that wanted it.)
Others have gone much farther. Christopher Rim, a college admissions consultant, said some of the students that he works with from the New York area flew to test sites in Arizona, Montana and Florida this weekend, but some still had their exams canceled. The student who flew to Arizona learned about it on Saturday, when she arrived at the testing site, he said.