You likely know that many colleges and universities throughout the United States require applicants to submit their scores from one of two major standardized tests: the SAT and the ACT. As of this writing, the majority of schools require a standardized test score.
However, not all colleges require the SAT or ACT as part of their application process. Instead, a sizable minority of schools are what we might call “test-optional,” which means that while prospective students can submit standardized test scores as part of their application to these schools, their candidacy will receive full consideration even without these scores.
Below, you can find answers to some common questions about test-optional schools, as well as a complete list of schools that do not require any standardized tests.
We get this question all the time. Do colleges actually mean it when they say that they’re test-optional, or would they secretly prefer that applicants submit their test scores after all? Are you at a disadvantage if you don’t submit your scores?
The answer: test-optional means test-optional, truly. As Whitney Soule, Dean of Admissions at Bowdoin, told Inside Higher Ed, she and other admissions officers at the test-optional liberal arts college “don’t wonder what’s missing” in an application without test scores because the rest of the application provides plenty of information.
So, if you do not feel that your scores offer a fair reflection of your abilities, don’t submit them to test-optional schools—and don’t worry that you’re making a mistake by not doing so!
That is something of a complicated question! For many years, American universities used two factors to select applicants: class rank and SAT scores (or ACT scores in the Midwest). Those two numbers determined who went where. Now, of course, colleges review applications much more holistically. They look at your grades and scores, but they also want to know about your extracurricular activities, your community service, your essays, and more.
During that transition, some colleges opted to keep standardized tests as part of their holistic review process. These colleges feel that the score, while not all-determining, provides them useful information. However, other schools found that test scores were not a good predictor of student success at the undergraduate level. As a result, they dropped the requirement.
There’s a lot more that can be said about the pros and cons of standardized testing, but at the end of the day, it’s only one factor in an application. And for a growing number of schools, it’s not a factor they think is important to a student’s overall success.
Great question! Below, you can find a complete list of test-optional schools in the United States. Regular applicants can apply to these schools without taking a single standardized test.
Be aware, however, that there can be exceptions to test-optional policies. If you are an international student with a first language other than English, a homeschooled student, or another type of nontraditional applicant, some of these schools may still ask you to submit certain standardized tests. Be sure to read the policies at your schools carefully if you fall into any of these categories.
Additionally, note that this list does not include schools that will be test-optional only for the upcoming application cycle, as a result of the spread of COVID-19. You can check this page for a complete and up-to-date list of those schools.
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