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Colleges That Don’t Require SAT Or ACT In The US


College admissions are not a one-size-fits-all process for higher education institutions across the US. Each school has its own intricate formula to determine which students to welcome into the fold. One increasingly emerging differentiator is how schools weigh SAT and ACT scores in their consideration of candidates. Standardized test scores were once universally considered the most important admissions factor, but there are now over 1,000 accredited universities and colleges that don’t require SAT or ACT results as part of the admission process.

Test scores were initially intended to allow for unbiased, standardized comparison of students across the country — but over time have put prospective college students that suffer from test anxiety, or don’t have the means or access to testing, at a severe disadvantage. In addition to barring many talented students from continuing their education, this has reduced ethnic and economic diversity among college student populations across the country.

As such, a growing number of schools are changing their approach and either de-emphasizing or eliminating the need for students to disclose test scores through test-optional or test-flexible policies. Tracking down schools that don’t require SAT or ACT scores and knowing your application options can be tricky, so read on for our guide to the process and some colleges to consider to get you started!

What Is The SAT/ACT And Why Is It Sometimes Required?

The SAT and ACT are entrance exams used by many higher education institutions to gauge students’ academic aptitude and make admissions decisions. The most marked difference between the two exams is that the SAT is two sections and administered by The College Board, whereas the ACT has four sections and is administered by ACT, Inc.

Colleges have long considered these exam results in a great indicator of a students’ readiness for college above GPAs, high school transcripts, and extracurriculars because the tests are standardized across the country. This allows for evaluation across a more level playing field.

Students studying in college
Photo by Alissa De Leva on Unsplash

12 Colleges That Don’t Require SAT Or ACT In The US

Whatever your reason for seeking a school with a more flexible approach to exam evaluation, here’s a list of some top schools that don’t require SAT or ACT scores across the US to get you started in your search:

1. Pitzer College

Pitzer, a small liberal arts college located just outside of Los Angeles, became a test-option college in 2003. Despite its alternative approach to admissions, Pitzer is considered both highly ranked and highly selective. Although Pitzer’s admissions office will still accept test scores for those who choose to send them, they instead focus on prospective students’ transcripts, extracurriculars, and overall reflection of Pitzer’s core values.

2. New York University

NYU is one of the more relatively rigid schools, but it has a considerably more flexible standardized testing policy than other research universities of its size and caliber. The internationally regarded institution in the heart of Manhattan does evaluate test scores but allows prospective students to substitute SAT/ACT scores for others like AP or IB results, or an IB diploma.

3. Hampshire College

Nestled just outside the gorgeous Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, Hampshire College is currently the only school in the US that has adopted a test-blind policy. This means that the school doesn’t require students to send test scores and it also rejects any scores that are sent in. According to the school’s website, “even if it’s a perfect score, it will not weigh into our assessment of the applicant.” The small liberal arts school instead prioritizes consistency in an applicant’s transcripts and extracurriculars, and heavily weighs personal essays as well.

4. Cornell College

Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa has recently adopted a test-optional policy, allowing applicants to send in a portfolio instead as part of a pilot program. Rather than scores, students can fill their portfolios with creative work like photography or creative writing to best demonstrate their skills outside of a score. Because Cornell is giving this process a trial run, the school could resume test result requirements at any time.

5. University of the People

University of the People is an accredited online university that is dedicated to providing access to higher education for all those around the world who want it. To that end, not only does UoPeople not require students to submit SAT or ACT scores, but all of its courses are completely tuition-free. Its degree programs range from bachelor’s degrees to master’s degrees. Its online setup means students can pursue a degree at a time and place that works best for their unique situation.

6. George Washington University

Situated in the nation’s capital, George Washington University is one of few private research universities that extends a test-optional policy to applicants. Known for strong academics, a roster of nationally competitive Division I sports teams, and convenient access to DC internships, GW hosts a student body of over 26,000. Its test-optional policy has been in place since 2015, with an emphasis on evaluating how students perform in class over their performance on one four-hour test.

7. Montana State University

Montana State’s proximity to Yellowstone National Park is an outdoorsy student’s dream, made all the more appealing by its extremely flexible admissions policy. While standardized test scores are optional, the school minimally requires that prospective students rank in the upper half of their graduating class or maintain a high school GPA of 2.5.

8. Colorado College

Colorado College’s test-optional policy isn’t the only unique aspect of its approach to academics. The Colorado Springs-based school of just over 2,000 undergrads follows what it calls a “block plan,” meaning students take one class only for three and a half weeks before moving onto the next one.

9. Ithaca College

Since Ithaca College’s 1892 origins as a small conservatory, the liberal arts college has grown to an undergrad student population of 6,200 who study across five schools and over 120 majors. The Western New York school lets students choose whether to send standardized test scores for admission consideration rather than requiring them.

10. Smith College

One of the nation’s first and most prestigious all-women’s colleges, Smith is adamant about the importance of considering factors other than test scores in its applicants. The Western Massachusetts school states on its website, “We choose people, not statistical profiles.” While the school does keep the opportunity to submit test scores open and optional, admissions heavily encourages potential students to schedule an interview with the department.

11. Connecticut College

Another one of the schools that doesn’t require SAT or ACT scores to apply is Connecticut College. Located in New London, the school has an undergrad enrollment of 1,865 students. Despite the college’s lenient approach to test scores, 92% of Connecticut College’s undergraduate students ranked in the top 20% of their high school class. Instead, the college encourages hopeful students to share achievements or materials that are better representative of their academic success and potential.

12. University of Chicago

For students seeking a city college experience, the University of Chicago is situated in Chicago’s Hyde Park and surrounded by all of the bustling city life and culture Chicago has to offer. True to the private research university’s encouragement of its students to challenge conventional thinking, the institution has adopted a test-optional policy to empower applicants to craft their candidacy how they see fit.

Number 2 pencils on blank paper
Photo by David Pennington on Unsplash

Common FAQs

For a better understanding of the landscape as you evaluate your options, here’s our guide to some key terms and issues:

1. What Is Test-Optional?

A test-optional policy leaves the decision of whether or not to send SAT/ACT scores to a school up to the applicant. This gives prospective students the power to decide whether their test scores are an accurate representation of their academic ability and potential, and allows them to have more choice in crafting an application that better demonstrates their strengths and attributes.

2. Why Are More Colleges Becoming Test-Optional?

More and more liberal arts colleges, and some larger research universities, are adopting the position that test scores are only one limiting component of a student’s application and don’t demonstrate the full scope of one’s academic potential. Though some detractors remain, schools that don’t require SAT or ACT scores have claimed the new policies have led to more diverse student populations by attracting low-income and minority students who are either not able to take the test, or students who suffer from standardized testing anxiety but are strong students otherwise.

3. What Is Test-Flexible?

Test-flexible means the admissions office does require some level of test scores but are open to different options in place of the SAT/ACT. Some schools go as far as to waive any test score requirements so long as students meet a minimum GPA or are applying to a specific program, while others will accept others like AP or SAT Subject Test scores instead.

4. What Is Test-Blind?

A school with a test-blind policy means the school outright doesn’t want students to supply test scores at all. As mentioned earlier, Hampshire College in Amherst, MA is the only school in the US currently with a test-blind policy.

5. Top-Tier Schools That De-Emphasize the SAT

The list of schools provided in this article is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to top-tier institutions that have loosened their admissions policy on SAT/ACT scores.

Whether test-optional or test-flexible, here are some additional schools that have de-emphasized the SAT and are ranked among some of the top schools in the country:

  • Bates College
  • Hofstra University
  • Wake Forest University
  • Middlebury College
  • Drexel University
  • American University
  • University of Texas – Austin
  • Gettysburg College

SAT Score Vs. GPA For Admissions

There is an ongoing debate among education experts over whether SAT/ACT scores should be given more consideration than a student’s high school GPA. Some college admissions offices say they believe the GPA packs more of a punch as it measures a student’s efforts, focus, and consistency over four years, versus the SAT score which is determined by a student’s performance in a matter of hours.

Those same college admissions offices, however, are actually giving serious consideration to SAT scores behind the scenes. Although it’s true that the GPA is the only numerical value that can reveal a student’s hard work, self-discipline, and intellectual growth over time, it only measures a student’s standing within their own school as opposed to the nationally standardized comparison that the SAT/ACT score offers. The GPA also can reflect teacher bias or grade inflation, where the SAT and ACT are administered and evaluated by a neutral, credible third party.

While the GPA is still an important indicator of a student’s academic potential in the college admissions process, the SAT/ACT scores still tends to trump all at colleges that require test scores.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, a great education can be found in many places and it’s important to choose a school that not only recognizes your unique potential but offers a college experience best-suited for you.

If attending a traditional college campus isn’t for you, there are plenty of online options that can provide a fruitful educational experience. At the University of the People, our priority is making sure education is accessible to all students — not only do we not require SAT/ACT scores, but our courses are completely tuition-free. On top of that, pursuing a degree online allows you to engage in your studies whenever and from wherever you want!