Why NCAA & SAT go digital

Why NCAA & SAT go digital

Interested stakeholders of the college recruiting process may have observed 2 announcements in the last couple of weeks:
On the one hand, the NCAA has just recently changed its policy with regards to their security set-up, requiring an extra layer of security when having student athletes log on.
On the other hand, the SAT has come out with an announcement, which means nothing else than Collegeboard is finally stepping up the game by planning to launch the digital SAT by Spring 2023 at the very earliest.

1 NCAA - Eligibility Center

Since April 29, 2022 students who have already had an NCAA account and tried to log on may have noticed that something was a little bit different.
Unless they paid careful attention to the latest news above the login area, which would have informed them of the changes with regards to the security systems in place, that was a surprising change to access their dashboard:

"Starting Friday, April 29, students will need to use multifactor authentication to log in to their NCAA Eligibility Center account."

This means that athletes and college coaches alike logging on to any of the NCAA's apps need to provide such an additional layer of security.
In plain terms, athletes cannot share their login data with parents, coaches or friends, unless they also provided the verification code which is sent in a second step every single time.
Not impossible, but it's just gotten a bit more complicated when an athlete tried to navigate through the various "School questions" or "Sports questions".

While we are unaware of the reasons of these changes, cyber security is super important and at the end of the day athletes' future (college eligibility) is at stake and you better don't have anyone messing around there without you knowing.

2 SAT - Digital SAT Test Format

Seeing athletes struggle when getting their academic test scores ready in the past, the announcement by the CollegeBoard has been a really positive one.

Duolingo was the pioneer, doing a great job in providing a proctored, digital test format (albeit due to the nature of the test, relevant for Internationals only). Next up (again, irrelevant for native English-speakers) and born in the middle of COVID to make sure all students are able to take the test, the TOEFL followed suite by offering a Home Edition of its test. While that was really positive for students in countries, which didn't see any tests whatsoever due to the generic health situation, we quickly went back and recommended people to take the test at a test center, due to the fact that the user experience was partly far from positive, with technical prerequisites often too large a roadblock.
Add to that the customer experience once something did go wrong, and all of a sudden a year has gone with no response from the staff and money thrown out of the window. But, they did provide a digital test format, kudos to that ;)

Obtaining an SAT result on the other hand has really proven a difficult undertaking in the last 2 years or so, with the result being that it's literally not been necessary to add that to an athlete's recruiting profile. Neither for the NCAA, which was ready to certify kids withouth receiving any SAT or ACT scores. Nor for college admissions offices, which adoped test-blind or test-optional policies, as a response to allow for a level playing field.
Many people - us included - must have been wondering why the SAT was unable to provide a digital test format. Many student athletes might have even felt that the lack of testing opportunities was a disadvantage to their chances in the college admissions process.

And now in 2022, finally, the CollegeBoard seems to have concrete plans of going digital as well:
In 2023, for Internationals. Domestic students still got to wait until its their turn in the Spring of 2024.
SAT and ACT have not really had their strengths in their digital set-up in general (think user experience) and while they may have had their reasons in the past, it's just hard to justify why people are required to pay a lot of money for a test format, which 

  • takes longer to score (than other academic tests)
  • costs more
  • descreased relevance for college admissions purposes

Here's what one of the students, testing the new digital format had to say about her experience:

"I am always practicing on my device, thus answering these questions felt more comfortable in the sense that I am more familiar with taking SAT questions on a device than on paper. Overall, it was a less stressful experience and I quite enjoyed it.”“The digital SAT was really efficient. I loved that I could go back to questions that I had flagged, since usually on paper I take extra time to find the questions I had missed.”

We will cover the new digital SAT test at a later stage, as there is still quite some time left before the planned changes are going into effect.
However, a shorter, digital test format and the prospect of using a calculator for the duration of the entire Math section are promising!
Make no mistake, your college entrance exams are still going to be extremely important for your future plans of getting accepted by your dream school. More on that in one of our older blog articles: "Do Academic Results Matter For College Coaches?"

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