CHICAGO (CBS) — In about 48 hours, hundreds if not thousands of Illinois and Indiana high schooler students will take their ACT exams; if the college entrance tests go off without a hitch.
COVID-19 forced last-minute cancellations across the U.S. last weekend and earlier in the summer.
CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory takes us inside the frustrating and uncertain time for students trying to get into college.
Jackson George would love to spend all his free time working on his custom-painted shoe business. Instead, “I’ve been trying to study and just kind of keep my spirits up.”
Over and over this spring and summer, high school seniors have attempted to take their ACT exams.
“It was about two days before, and they canceled it,” Jackson said.
This young entrepreneur was ready, but rejected from three different exams, when testing sites suddenly closed because of COVID-19 complications.
“He had April, June, and July canceled,” said his mother, Laura.
She offered a unique perspective as Jackson’s mom, and the founder of a college consulting company.
“There’s always so much stress in the college application process,” Laura said.
She has 15 years of tutoring experience for college admissions tests, but has never seen this many issues with administering the ACT exam.
“I always thought that the ACT was a well-run organization. They were good about their communication,” she said.
Now a lack of communication is one of the top complaints on the “ACT Student” Facebook page.
Screenshots of long wait times or unanswered voicemails have been posted by parents who are frantic over cancelled tests, refund issues, and website glitches.
“It was a sick feeling that we had,“ said Donna Johns, whose daughter, Rachel, signed up for a testing location in Illinois, but was somehow assigned a spot in Kansas.
“It’s very strange, it’s 636 miles away from where I am,” Rachel told CBS 2 in August.
The issue was resolved days later.
ACT chief executive officer Janet Godwin spoke candidly in a recent Facebook Live interview about their struggles with administering the exam during the pandemic.
“I recognize that we’ve fallen short in many ways,” she said.
CBS learned of testing tweaks in a phone call with other leadership. We were told exams are not canceled last-minute by ACT, but by school districts hosting the tests.
Starting this month, ACT contracted with hotels like The Westin Chicago Lombard to create its own pop-up testing sites for areas with high cancellations.
Laura George said she’s encouraged by ACT improvements, but is still left calming clients and her son.
“I don’t know what to even think this time,” her son said.
As for communication issues ACT officials said 90 additional customer services agents just got hired and trained to answer the high amount of calls and emails received. The plan is to hire 60 more.