One reason for this year’s increased SAT participation is the continued growth of SAT School Day, including in West Virginia, which administered its first statewide SAT in spring 2018. Nationwide, almost 960,000 students in the class of 2019 took part in SAT School Day, up from about 778,000 in the class of 2018.
School Day expands access to the SAT and simplifies the test-taking experience. Students take the test at their own school, during a regular school day, usually at no cost to them. And according to a growing body of research, including a study on universal testing in Michigan and a similar study in Virginia, when students have greater access to college entrance exams like the SAT, more of them go to college.
SAT School Day can be implemented by individual schools or more broadly across entire districts or states. In 2018-19, 10 states (Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and West Virginia) and the District of Columbia administered the SAT at no cost to students. That’s in addition to more than 200 school districts nationwide.
Expanding Access to More Underrepresented Students
SAT School Day students are much more diverse than students who take the SAT on a weekend. This is likely because School Day eliminates many of the barriers associated with weekend test administrations. These barriers include:
- Family responsibilities
- Lack of transportation
- Low awareness of fee waiver availability
Compared to students who take the SAT only on a weekend, students who take the SAT on a school day are more likely to belong to groups that are underrepresented on college campuses. They're more likely to:
- Attend high-poverty public schools
- Have parents without high school diplomas or college degrees
- Identify as an underrepresented minority
The following table shows the percentages of underrepresented students in the class of 2019 who took the SAT on a school day compared to those who took it only on the weekend.
When students have access to the SAT, they have access to more information about college. SAT test takers can choose to sign up for the free Student Search Service, which starts a conversation with colleges about how to apply for admission and financial aid—information that many students may not otherwise have.
In addition, many scholarship programs use Student Search Service to identify potential candidates who may meet eligibility requirements.
Universal Testing and College Enrollment
When every student in a school, district, or state has the opportunity to take the SAT, students who may never have otherwise taken a college entrance exam take the SAT and get on the road to college. This includes students who have the necessary skills to succeed in college but don’t think they can get in or afford it.
In her review of the latest research on school day testing, economist Susan Dynarski writes that universal testing "opens the door to more effective, targeted efforts to draw talented, disadvantaged students into college" and has a modest but clear impact on college attendance, especially at four-year colleges.