Why SAT, ACT Matter Beyond College Admissions

The novel coronavirus pandemic has prompted notable changes to standardized testing for college admissions. This year, hundreds of colleges made the submission of exam scores optional, whereas others have decided to phase out the ACT or SAT testing requirement altogether within the next few years.

In 2021, SAT and ACT exam centers may extend fewer test dates, which could mean a more competitive registration process. Furthermore, the ACT is planning to offer a remote testing option.

Despite these changes, standardized college admissions exams still hold certain benefits. Some are obvious, such as helping applicants gain entrance to a college or university. Others, such as these four advantages, may be less evident to students:

-- Qualification for scholarships.

-- College credit.

-- Preparation for college-level courses and exams.

-- Endurance training.

Qualification for Scholarships

One of the best-known score-dependent scholarships is the National Merit Scholarship Program. This $2,500 scholarship is awarded to high school students based on their PSAT/NMSQT score.

[Read: How the Coronavirus Is Pushing Colleges to Go Test-Optional.]

However, that is not the only scholarship students can win on the basis of a standardized exam result. Certain colleges and universities offer financial assistance for competitive ACT or SAT scores. For instance, the University of Missouri's Mizzou Scholars Award -- a renewable scholarship of $10,000 per year -- requires a minimum ACT score of 33 or a minimum SAT score of 1450, among other criteria.

Speak with your schools to determine what scholarships might be available based on your standardized test scores. You can also search for awards by ACT and SAT score on Scholarships.com. Conducting thorough research and completing an appropriate study plan for any standardized exams you take can ultimately lessen the financial burden of college.

College Credit

In addition to popular academic course options like Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and dual enrollment -- in which a student enrolls in college courses and earns college credit while still in high school -- it is also possible to earn college credits with a standardized test score.

The College-Level Examination Program, or CLEP, is one example. CLEP offers a way for students who have gained relevant skills outside the classroom to objectively verify their knowledge. A student who has completed an internship in the business sector, for instance, may find it worthwhile to sit for the Principles of Marketing exam and get college credit based on his or her score.

[READ: Some High Schoolers May Benefit From Taking CLEP Exams.]

Students who are interested in this path may also want to consider UExcel exams, which similarly allow you to earn credit without completing a course first. Exam options range widely, from Introduction to Music to Workplace Communication With Computers, so speak with your prospective colleges to see if they accept this credential.

Preparation for College-Level Courses and Exams

Students will take exams throughout their college careers. While the nature of these tests may change at the university level, the content on AP, IB, CLEP and UExcel exams, as well as on the ACT and SAT, is intended to give high school students foundational knowledge for college courses.

For example, the SAT's optional essay requires students to conduct rhetorical analysis, a skill that students can and will apply in many majors, like English, political science and linguistics.

[Read: What to Know About the Optional SAT Essay.]

Practicing with ACT and SAT reading passages can also partially prepare students for college-level English and social science courses by exposing them to advanced vocabulary and training them to search for main ideas in dense texts.

Finally, knowledge of fundamental ACT and SAT math concepts, such as probability, averages and area, will be put to good use in college-level math and science classes.

Endurance Training

The ACT and SAT are long assessments, with each lasting approximately three hours. Except for occasional short breaks, students are expected to work through each assessment without interruptions. For this reason, the ACT and SAT are often imagined as long-haul challenges or "marathons" that require students to advance at a consistent and sustained pace.

Few other experiences train students to work under pressure for such extensive periods, yet this skill is essential in college and beyond. For instance, certain graduate admissions exams, like the GRE, LSAT and MCAT, all take longer than three consecutive hours to complete.

But it does not stop there. During internships and in the workplace, people must also concentrate on tasks for several hours before having a break. Standardized tests like the ACT and SAT give students a chance to start developing this skill early.

Students studying for the ACT, SAT and other standardized tests can take away transferable skills from their studies that will help later in life. Use standardized exams as opportunities to bolster and review the skill sets you have learned. Such tests can also build focus, study habits and academic stamina that will help you adjust to the difficulties of college.