BHS Students face long travels, location changes, to take SAT


With a low availability of SAT exam spots in the Bay Area, many Berkeley High School students must take their SAT exam at far away testing locations. This can be a burden to students financially and in regards to transportation. 

Magnolia Hougan, a BHS junior, shared that she took her SAT exam in Los Angeles because there were no available spots in SAT test centers of close proximity. 

“When I signed up (for the SAT exam), I had to pick a location. I went on (the website) in December and there was nothing within 200 miles that had any available things for the test date that I chose. So I ended up signing up for LA, because it would be the same thing of (having) to go and either drive for four hours or to take a flight and then stay in a hotel overnight because it starts at 7:45 (a.m.) so you can’t get up at 2 a.m. and drive,” Hougan said. 

Despite many colleges being test-optional or test blind, there are still a significant number of students who choose to take standardized tests. Lachlan Mossman, a junior at BHS, shared that he chose to take the SAT exam this spring to prepare for college and to be able to expand his choices for the colleges he can apply to. 

“(I chose to take the SAT) to be prepared when I apply to colleges,” Mossman said. “It’s a way to show my level of academic skill in case I decide to go to a college that needs to see that, just like preparation to keep my options open for which colleges I can go to.”

Mossman, who initially was signed up to take the SAT at El Cerrito High School, took the SAT at the South San Francisco Conference Center because El Cerrito canceled the exam and moved students to different testing locations. To arrive on time at a further away test center, Mossman began his commute at 6:45 a.m..

During the COVID-19 lockdown, many U.S. colleges revised their requirements for standardized testing making the SAT exam optional for college entrance. On Tuesday, March 5, 2024, Brown University announced reinstating standardized testing for first-year admissions, making it the third Ivy League university to do so. This will require that students applying to the university in the following year take either the SAT or ACT exam and submit their scores. Alongside these developments comes the question of the relevancy of standardized tests, as more colleges may choose to reintroduce standardized testing as a requirement for college admissions. 

BHS college counselor Joanne Dumbrigue shared her outlook on the relevance of SAT exams for high school students.

“I think it is (relevant) per student and their skills and abilities and where they think they might be applying. Because you can take it and not end up having to apply to a school that requires (the) SAT … I didn’t see a lot of students who took the SAT, this senior class, but I’m hearing a lot more junior students are going to take it. As I’ve met with all the students, they’re leaving the area to be able to take it, so it could change again for sophomores and then change for freshmen,” Dumbrigue said.  

Yasmin Navarro, a BHS college counselor and SAT coordinator, agreed and emphasized how the lack of availability of test locations correlates to students wanting to be eligible for highly selective schools.

“From the emails I’m getting, it must be pretty darn hard to find a (test) spot,” Navarro said. “And I empathize. I think it’s just difficult to find a spot for the amount of students that want to be eligible for these highly selective schools; there is a big squeeze right now. So it’s like people really want those highly selective schools, but they forget about the rest of the thousands (of schools).”

Navarro added how she hopes that the SAT exam would become more accessible to students so that they can take it with more ease. 

“We want students to have the opportunity to practice with these exams. I would prefer if it wasn’t as high stakes, meaning like, I have to travel to LA and my plan is to get on time and all these things in order for me to take this test,” Navarro said.