Test-Optional Colleges: The Ultimate Guide

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There’s so much new terminology that comes with applying to college! We’ve covered some of these terms — like rolling admission and early action — in previous posts.

But what about test-optional?

In this guide, we’ll tell you what it means when a school goes test-optional. We cover the benefits and drawbacks, discuss how you can decide whether or not to submit your test scores, and list the top 250 schools that no longer require ACT or SAT tests.

What is test-optional?

Test-optional schools don’t require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores.

Over one thousand schools have dropped testing requirements in favor of a more holistic approach to admissions. Some other schools (such as NYU) are now test-flexible, meaning that students can submit alternative exams (such as Advanced Placement tests) in place of the SAT.

If your test scores are high, you can still submit them to test-optional schools. They’ll take them into consideration. It simply means that if your scores are lower than average for that school, you can choose not to include them.

What are the benefits of test-optional?

You are more than just a test score.

Some people simply don’t test well. Whether it’s test anxiety or a type of intelligence that doesn’t translate to a high SAT score, there are many people whose scores don’t reflect their academic abilities. Going test-optional shifts the focus to other important factors, like extracurricular activities and overall academic performance.

Students with high GPAs and low test scores may benefit from not submitting the latter.

You want colleges to recognize your unique strengths and abilities. A low SAT score could distract from other areas in which you truly shine. Even if you write amazing essays or shine in your interview, some schools’ admissions processes are very formulaic; a low test score could move you down in their rankings and lose your spot.

Colleges and universities benefit from going test-optional too. Going test-optional attracts more applicants and results in a more diverse student body. It can even move them up in the rankings by inflating the school’s mean SAT scores.

What are the drawbacks of test-optional?

Many test-optional schools will require you to meet additional requirements in place of submitting test scores. This may include letters of recommendation, writing samples, or interviews. Depending on your perspective, this could be a benefit or a drawback!

Some schools also have minimum GPA requirements for test-optional applicants.

If you choose not to take the SAT test, your choice of schools becomes more limited. Many in-demand colleges still use test scores to help them sort through the tens of thousands of applications they receive each year.

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Why are colleges going test-optional post-COVID?

Over the past year, many planned sessions for the ACT and SAT tests were postponed… and then canceled altogether. Because so many students were unable to take these exams in time, many colleges and universities no longer require them.

Should I take the SAT/ACT?

Yes, take it if you can. Many schools do still require exam scores.

Even if all of the schools you plan to apply to are test-optional, it’s better to leave your options open. A high SAT score could give you an edge over the other applicants to test-optional schools.

We recommend at least giving it a try — you might surprise yourself!

If you need extra help, our private tutors are here for you.

While we’re on the subject, did you know that SAT subject tests have been cancelled?

Should I go test-optional?

Start by researching the range of scores for each school that you want to apply to. If your scores are below their average for accepted applicants, consider omitting yours.

Do you shine in a particular area? Make sure to emphasize that!

Research the admissions process for each school to see which areas carry the most weight for them, and tailor your application accordingly.

What’s the difference between test-optional vs test-blind?

While test-optional schools will still take high SAT and ACT scores into account, test-blind schools will not consider them at all.

Hampshire College has been test-blind since they opened their doors in 1970.

“Tests aren’t part of Hampshire’s pedagogy,” says the dean of admissions, “so why would we use a test to determine which students would thrive here? Students’ high school academic records, their history of civic engagement, their letters of recommendation from mentors, and their ability to represent themselves through their essays trump anything the SAT could tell us.”

The Top 250 Test-Optional Schools

We’ve included lists of the top test-optional universities and liberal arts colleges to give you an idea of just how many wonderful schools have dropped their testing requirements.

These lists are ordered according to the most recent U.S. News and World Report rankings for your convenience — but rankings aren’t everything! The best university for you might not make the top fifty. There are so many other factors to consider.

You can find the complete list (over 1,350 schools!) on the FairTest website.

The Top 200 Test-Optional National Universities

  1. Princeton University (NJ)
  2. Harvard College (MA)
  3. Columbia University (NY)
  4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MA)
  5. Yale University (CT)
  6. Stanford University (CA)
  7. University of Chicago (IL)
  8. University of Pennsylvania (PA)
  9. Northwestern University (IL)
  10. Duke University (NC)
  11. Johns Hopkins University (MD)
  12. California Institute of Technology (CA)
  13. Dartmouth College (NH)
  14. Brown University (RI)
  15. University of Notre Dame (IN)
  16. Vanderbilt University (TN)
  17. Cornell University (NY)
  18. Rice University (TX)
  19. Washington University (MO)
  20. University of California Los Angeles (CA)
  21. Emory University (GA)
  22. University of California Berkeley (CA)
  23. University of Southern California (CA)
  24. Georgetown University (DC)
  25. Carnegie Mellon University (PA)
  26. University of Michigan Ann Arbor (MI)
  27. Wake Forest University (NC)
  28. University of Virginia (VA)
  29. Georgia Institute of Technology (GA)
  30. New York University (NY)
  31. Tufts University (MA)
  32. University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (NC)
  33. University of Rochester (NY)
  34. University of California Santa Barbara (CA)
  35. University of California Irvine (CA)
  36. Boston College (MA)
  37. University of California San Diego (CA)
  38. University of California Davis (CA)
  39. Boston University (MA)
  40. Brandeis University (MA)
  41. Case Western Reserve (OH)
  42. College of William & Mary (VA)
  43. Northeastern University (MA)
  44. Tulane University (LA)
  45. University of Wisconsin – Madison (WI)
  46. Villanova University (PA)
  47. University of Illinois Urbana Champaign (IL)
  48. University of Texas Austin (TX)
  49. Lehigh University (PA)
  50. Pepperdine University (PA)
  51. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (NY)
  52. University of Georgia (GA)
  53. Ohio State University (OH)
  54. Santa Clara University (CA)
  55. Syracuse University (NY)
  56. Pennsylvania State University (PA)
  57. Purdue University (IN)
  58. University of Miami (FL)
  59. University of Pittsburgh (PA)
  60. Rutgers University-New Brunswick (NJ)
  61. University of Washington (WA)
  62. Loyola Marymount University (CA)
  63. Southern Methodist University (TX)
  64. University of Connecticut (CT)
  65. University of Maryland (MD)
  66. University of Massachusetts Amherst (MA)
  67. Worcester Polytechnic Institute (MA)
  68. Clemson University (SC)
  69. George Washington University (DC)
  70. Texas A&M University (TX)
  71. University of Minnesota Twin Cities (MN)
  72. Fordham University (NY)
  73. Stevens Institute of Technology (NJ)
  74. Virginia Tech (VA)
  75. American University (DC)
  76. Brigham Young University (UT)
  77. Binghamton University SUNY (NY)
  78. Baylor University (TX)
  79. Gonzaga University (WA)
  80. Indiana U.-Bloomington (IN)
  81. University at Buffalo SUNY (NY)
  82. Colorado School of Mines (CO)
  83. Elon University (NC)
  84. Marquette University (WI)
  85. Michigan State University (MI)
  86. North Carolina State University (NC)
  87. University of California Santa Cruz (CA)
  88. University of Iowa (IA)
  89. Clark University (MA)
  90. Miami University (OH)
  91. Stony Brook University SUNY (NY)
  92. University of California Riverside (CA)
  93. University of Delaware (DE)
  94. University of San Diego (CA)
  95. Drexel University (PA)
  96. New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJ)
  97. Saint Louis University (MO)
  98. Texas Christian University (TX)
  99. University of Denver (CO)
  100. University of San Francisco (CA)
  101. Yeshiva University (NY)
  102. Auburn University (AL)
  103. Creighton University (NE)
  104. Howard University (DC)
  105. Loyola University Chicago (IL)
  106. Rochester Institute of Technology (NY)
  107. Temple University (PA)
  108. University of California Merced (CA)
  109. University of Colorado (CO)
  110. University of Oregon (OR)
  111. University of South Carolina (SC)
  112. University of Tennessee (TN)
  113. University of Utah (UT)
  114. Arizona State University (AZ)
  115. Illinois Institute of Technology (IL)
  116. Potsdam University (NY)
  117. University of Arizona (AZ)
  118. Iowa State University (IA)
  119. University of Tulsa (OK)
  120. University of Vermont (VT)
  121. SUNY Col. Env.& Forestry (NY)
  122. Chapman University (CA)
  123. DePaul University (IL)
  124. Simmons University (MA)
  125. University of New Hampshire (NH)
  126. University of the Pacific (CA)
  127. Drake University (IA)
  128. University of Kansas (KS)
  129. Duquesne University (PA)
  130. Rutgers University – Newark (NJ)
  131. University of Illinois – Chicago (IL)
  132. University of Dayton (OH)
  133. University of Kentucky (KY
  134. University of LaVerne (CA)
  135. University of Oklahoma (OK)
  136. The Catholic University (DC)
  137. Oregon State University (OR)
  138. Seattle University (WA)
  139. Seton Hall University (NJ)
  140. University of Cincinnati (OH)
  141. University of Missouri (MO)
  142. University of Nebraska Lincoln (NE)
  143. University of St. Thomas (MN)
  144. Michigan Technology University (MI)
  145. Samford University (AL)
  146. San Diego State University (CA)
  147. University at Albany SUNY (NY)
  148. University of St. Joseph (CT)
  149. University of Texas Dallas (TX)
  150. George Mason University (VA)
  151. Mercer University (GA)
  152. New School (NY)
  153. Quinnipiac University (CT)
  154. Louisiana State University (LA)
  155. Thomas Jefferson University (PA)
  156. University of Alabama (AL)
  157. University of Arkansas (AR)
  158. Valparaiso University (IN)
  159. Hofstra University (NY)
  160. Kansas State University (KS)
  161. University of Mississippi (MS)
  162. Virginia Commonwealth University (VA)
  163. Adelphi University (NY)
  164. Belmont University (TN)
  165. Colorado State University Ft. Collins (CO)
  166. Montclair State University (NJ)
  167. Rowan University (NJ)
  168. Rutgers University Camden (NJ)
  169. St. John Fisher College (NY)
  170. University of Alabama Birmingham (AL)
  171. University of Hawaii Manoa (HI)
  172. University Maryland-Baltimore Co (MD)
  173. University of Rhode Island (RI)
  174. Washington State (WA)
  175. Gallaudet University (DC)
  176. Missouri Institute of Science & Technology (MO)
  177. St. John’s University (NY)
  178. University of Detroit Mercy (MI)
  179. University of Massachusetts Lowell (MA)
  180. University of Idaho (ID)
  181. Biola University (CA)
  182. Chatham University (PA)
  183. Ohio University (OH)
  184. Pacific University (OR)
  185. Union University (TN)
  186. University of Houston (TX)
  187. University of North Carolina Wilmington (NC)
  188. Ball State University (IN)
  189. Misericordia University (PA)
  190. Oklahoma State University (OK)
  191. Seattle Pacific University (WA)
  192. University of Louisville (KY)
  193. Bellarmine University (KY)
  194. Bethel University (MN)
  195. Illinois State University (IL)
  196. Towson University (MD)
  197. Edgewood University (WI)
  198. Maryville University of St. Louis (MO)
  199. Pace University (NY)
  200. Regis University (CO)

The Top 50 Test-Optional National Liberal Arts Colleges

  1. Williams College (MA)
  2. Amherst College (MA)
  3. Swarthmore College (PA)
  4. Wellesley College (MA)
  5. Pomona College (CA)
  6. Bowdoin College (ME)
  7. Carleton College (MN)
  8. Claremont McKenna College (CA)
  9. Middlebury College (VT)
  10. Washington and Lee University (VA)
  11. Colby College (ME)
  12. Haverford College (PA)
  13. Smith College (MA)
  14. Grinnell College (IA)
  15. Hamilton College (NY)
  16. Vassar College (NY)
  17. Colgate University (NY)
  18. Davidson College (NC)
  19. U.S. Naval Academy (MD)
  20. Wesleyan University (CT)
  21. Bates College (ME)
  22. U.S. Military Academy (NY)
  23. Harvey Mudd College (CA)
  24. University of Richmond (VA)
  25. Barnard College (NY)
  26. Macalester College (MN)
  27. Bryn Mawr College (PA)
  28. College of the Holy Cross (MA)
  29. Colorado College (CO)
  30. Kenyon College (OH)
  31. Soka University of America (CA)
  32. Mount Holyoke College (MA)
  33. Oberlin College (OH)
  34. Scripps College (CA)
  35. Bucknell University (PA)
  36. Pitzer College (CA)
  37. Franklin and Marshall Co. (PA)
  38. Lafayette College (PA)
  39. Occidental College (CA)
  40. Skidmore College (NY)
  41. Denison University (OH)
  42. Sewanee – University of the South (TN)
  43. Union College (NY)
  44. Berea College (KY)
  45. Connecticut College (CT)
  46. DePauw University (IN)
  47. Dickinson College (PA)
  48. Furman University (SC)
  49. Trinity College (CT)
  50. Whitman College (WA)

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