What Is a Test Optional College?

Over 850 U.S. colleges are "test optional"—meaning they don't require test scores, at least from most students.

Would you prefer that colleges evaluate you based on your grades and accomplishments? But not on the results of a few hours spent filling in answer bubbles? If so, a test-optional college is worth considering.

What "Test Optional" Means

A test-optional admissions policy means some applicants can choose not to submit SAT or ACT scores. The rules vary from college to college. You can usually find a college's rules on its website.

  • Some test-optional colleges require scores if students are out of state or international, are declaring certain majors, or are applying for scholarships from the college.
  • Some colleges may determine your test-optional eligibility using an index calculated from your GPA and SAT or ACT scores.

Why Some Colleges Become Test Optional

Test-optional colleges have decided that factors other than test scores are stronger predictors of a student's potential to succeed in college. Admission staffs also know that test scores can be significantly improved through coaching, and that not all students have access to such help.

How Do These Schools Evaluate Applications?

Like almost all colleges, test-optional schools consider a student's high school academic record to be most important. Other factors that may be critical include writing samples, personal interviews, letters of recommendation, and evidence of commitment to service or work outside of school.

How to Find Out Which Colleges Are Test Optional

Go to fairtest.org to see a list maintained by The National Center for Fair and Open Testing. You'll see a number of well-known and selective colleges and universities on this list, such as Bates, Bowdoin, George Mason, and Mount Holyoke. In fact, entire university systems have gone test optional, such as the California State University and University of Texas systems.

What's Next?

  • Find out whether a college is test optional by looking up its College Profile with College Match. Each Profile provides detailed information about admission requirements, including whether test scores are required.
  • Learn about admission factors other than test scores that colleges typically consider important. See What Matters Most to Colleges.
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