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Test Optional Colleges-Colleges NOT Requiring SAT in 2024

Applying to college? We’ve got you. Here is the ultimate guide on SAT optional colleges beyond the 2024 academic year.

Tiah Shepherd

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Group of studnets in class SAT and ACT test

This article was update on January 9th, 2024

Usually, they’re high up on the agenda of most high school students who are approaching graduation and the start of a four-year college degree.

In the hopes of achieving the best possible score on your SAT and ACT, hours of tutoring, studying, practice — and if you’re anything like me — tears often go into preparing for them, so that you can attract the attention of admissions teams working at the nation’s most prestigious institutions.

But as far as standardized testing is concerned, things are set to change as schools and students move forward and out of a global pandemic.

This may be the start of a new wave of SAT-optional colleges sweeping its way across the country.

Table of Contents:

New SAT and ACT Test-Optional Policies

In light of the widespread disruption that COVID-19 has had on education throughout the U.S. and the entire world, an unprecedented number of schools have recently modified their testing policies.

As a result, 72% of colleges and universities have now adopted test-optional policies; in fact, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) has found that more than 1,570 schools will not require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores during the 2023 admissions cycle.

What’s more is that many will remain as SAT-optional colleges beyond this year’s round of admissions, including the University of California system.

On May 21, the leading public university system voted to phase out the SAT and ACT as an admissions requirement over the next four years — for those applying to the 10 schools who make up the consortium, submitting standardized tests will be optional through 2024.

Undoubtedly, this news has left millions of high school juniors and seniors breathing huge sighs of relief. After all, applying to college is stressful under any circumstances — I can certainly vouch for that.

But following a year of canceled proms, endless hours of Zoom classes, and constant uncertainty, it only seems fair to remove the added pressure of standardized testing from the equation.

For the most part, this has been done, with 85% of the 100 top liberal arts colleges ranked by U.S. News & World Report announcing that they will function as SAT/ACT test-optional colleges during the 2024 admissions cycle.

Yet, long before the coronavirus brought the word to a standstill, many have pushed to make testing requirements more flexible, or to remove them from the college admissions system altogether.

Acceptance into the nation’s most competitive schools often comes with the expectation of an equally competitive test score.

Why Do We Take The SAT/ACT?

Without it, many students — albeit, those with a long list of impressive skills, talents, and achievements to their name — find that their dream school is simply out of reach.

Indeed, I found myself in this exact situation after repeatedly earning the same test score, one that I was told wasn’t good enough to even get my application read by some of the selective colleges that I aspired to attend.

The very fact that so much — namely, a young person’s entire future — can ride on a single test raises questions about the way in which higher education in the U.S. operates.

It suggests that some kind of reform is needed, or is at least a possibility.

Indeed, while some schools or parents may be in the position to offer extra tutoring to students in preparation for the tests, many are not afforded this luxury.

In addition to this, simply sitting the SAT/ACT can be a financial hardship for students living in financial precarity or for those coming from low-income households.

Nowadays, the cost of standardized testing ranges anywhere from $50 to $70.

Therefore, as long as students’ access to test preparation and the test-taking itself remains unequal, should the SAT or ACT continue to play such an integral role in the college admissions process?

Especially when most of us will never even be asked about these scores beyond this period of our lives?

Of course, COVID-19 has only emphasized these disparities, as hours of in-person learning have been lost and the digital divide has widened.

Last March, as the pandemic entered its early stages and schools were forced to close across the nation, a staggering 16 million U.S. K-12 students lacked access to a working device, reliable high-speed internet, or both.

This left many students struggling to keep up with their school work — never mind the ability to perfect their SAT or ACT test score.

Furthermore, in a world where testing policies are relaxed, America’s most esteemed colleges can expect to receive not only more applications as a whole, but more applications from a greater range of students.

A New Way Of Applying

This has proven to be true in this year’s round of admissions; the 2020-2021 undergraduate application cycle witnessed a 36.3% spike in Ivy League applications, with the likes of Columbia University receiving 51% more applications.

Notably, applications to larger and more selective institutions from first-generation students rose by 20%, and with all eight Ivy League schools extending their test-optional policy to include 2022 admissions, supporters of test-optional policies are hopeful that an increasing number of first-generation low-income students and students of color will continue to apply to colleges they may otherwise never have considered.

In fact, research has shown that a student’s high school grade-point average is five times more likely to predict academic success than an ACT score.

Rather than demonstrating a student’s level or intelligence or how likely it is that an applicant will thrive at a top university, standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT often reveal more about an applicant’s background, namely their race, class, and income level.

Therefore, as much as the influx in SAT and ACT-optional colleges may be recent, trends observed during this year of college admissions alone suggest that more flexible testing policies can be incredibly beneficial for students and colleges alike.

With students expanding the scope of colleges they consider, schools will gain access to a wider pool of applicants, encouraging them to create diverse, well-rounded, and enriched student bodies that reflect the society around them.

Of course, as testing policies change, admissions teams will also have to modify their practices and approaches. Princeton’s dean of admissions, Karen Richardson, recently made a statement addressing the university’s new testing policies.

 

“While our policy has long been that SAT subject tests are recommended but not required, now seems the appropriate time to reiterate that applicants who do not submit subject tests will not be disadvantaged in our process,” Richardson explained. “SAT or ACT test scores are only one part of our holistic review.”

 

In other words, since students now have the choice of whether to submit their test scores and decide if their results accurately reflect their academic abilities, admissions teams will have to evaluate applicants in different ways, ways that will veer them toward the “holistic review” Richardson mentioned.

Above all, now is a time like never before for colleges to truly consider all of the attributes that a student has to offer; notably, those outside of a test-taking capacity.

Williams College, which was deemed the nation’s top liberal arts college by the U.S. News & World Report, declared itself an SAT and ACT-optional college for the next two years, and it seems as if many will continue to join this list — or even go one step further.

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Similar to that of the University of California system, Rhodes College in Tennessee has announced that it will remain test-optional for the next three years as part of a pilot program. Following this period, Rhodes College has said that it will reevaluate its testing requirements.

It goes without saying that test scores aren’t the only thing that universities look for during the admissions process; however, they have traditionally played a significant role in determining which applicants are above average and, therefore, should be offered a place at some of the country’s most renowned schools.

Not only does an exceptional test score showcase a candidate’s academic skills, but many argue that it demonstrates a willingness to prepare for a challenging test as well as an admirable commitment to making a university application the best that it can be.

With this in mind, mass shifts in testing policy across thousands of colleges have not been met without their critics, particularly when some policies are set to remain beyond the 2021 admissions cycle at several institutions.

To a certain extent, I can understand these concerns; the very fact that a universal test is required by colleges ensures some degree of fairness and transparency in the admissions process.

Brandon McCoy, the project manager of education policy at the Manhattan Institute has voiced concerns in keeping with this line of reasoning.

“Standardized tests are one of the closest approximations we have to a uniform metric,” said McCoy in a recent article.

Without the SAT or ACT,  questions inevitably arise as to how colleges will be able to single out candidates from others and guarantee that the admissions process has indeed been conducted fairly.

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Test-Optional Colleges

Below is a list of colleges that have announced that they will be test-optional during this year’s college admissions period and/or beyond the 2021 academic year.

  • Amherst College: Test-optional for Fall 2021, Fall 2022, Fall 2023.
  • Barnard College: Test-optional for Fall 2021, Fall 2022, Fall 2023.
  • Brown University: Test-optional for Fall 2021, Fall 2022.
  • Cornell University: Test-optional for Fall 2021, Fall 2022.
  • California Institute of Technology: Test-optional for Fall 2021, Fall 2022.
  • Claremont McKenna College: Test-optional for Fall 2021.
  • Cornell University: Test-optional for Fall 2021, Fall 2022.
  • Columbia University: Test-optional for Fall 2021, Fall 2022.
  • Dartmouth College: Test-optional for Fall 2021, Fall 2022.
  • Duke University: Test-optional for Fall 2021.
  • Emory University: Test-optional for Fall 2021, Fall 2022.
  • Georgetown University: Test-optional for Fall 2021.
  • Harvard University: Test-optional for Fall 2021, Fall 2022.
  • Johns Hopkins University: Test-optional for Fall 2021, Fall 2022.
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Test-optional for Fall 2021.
  • Middlebury College: Test-optional for Fall 2021, Fall 2022, Fall 2023.
  • Northwestern University: Test-optional for Fall 2021, Fall 2022.
  • Princeton University: Test-optional for Fall 2021, Fall 2022.
  • Pomona College: Test-optional for Fall 2021.
  • Rice University: Test-optional for Fall 2021, Fall 2022, Fall 2023.
  • Stanford University: Test-optional for Fall 2021, Fall 2022.
  • Swarthmore College: Test-optional for Fall 2021, Fall 2022.
  • Tufts University: Test-optional for Fall 2021, Fall 2022, Fall 2023.
  • University of Pennsylvania: Test-optional for Fall 2021, Fall 2022.
  • Vanderbilt University: Test-optional for Fall 2021, Fall 2022.
  • Washington University in St. Louis: Test-optional for Fall 2021, Fall 2022.
  • Williams College: Test-optional for Fall 2021, Fall 2022, Fall 2023.
  • University of California system: Test-optional until 2024
  • University of Notre Dame:  Test-optional for Fall 2021, Fall 2022, Fall 2023.
  • Yale University: Test-optional for Fall 2021, Fall 2022.

Regardless of whether these changes have been welcomed or not, stay-at-home orders have prompted the College Board and ACT, Inc. to cancel nationwide administrations of the SAT and ACT exams, leaving the future of standardized testing as we know it to be unclear.

Who knows whether these tests will still exist for college hopefuls in the next decade, or if an entirely new kind of exam will replace what was once the SAT and ACT.

In either case, with so many institutions now operating as SAT-optional colleges, it would seem as if nothing is off the table for college admissions in years to come.

Key Takeaways

  • More than 1,500 colleges and universities have announced that they will not require students to submit SAT/ ACT scores during the 2021 admissions cycle, largely because of the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Many colleges, including all eight Ivy League schools, will remain SAT-optional beyond this academic year as pilot programs are launched to explore the role of standardized testing in college admissions.
  • This may lead to entire changes in testing policies at schools such as Rhodes College and those who are part of the University of California system.
  • Standardized testing has previously been challenged over various concerns: The ACT/SAT are not true indicators of academic ability; access to and the outcomes of such tests vary depending on a number of external factors, such as a student’s financial circumstances; there is too much importance attributed to a single test and a single score; and certain groups of students are discouraged from applying to top-ranked universities and colleges because of these tests.
  • Some are opposed to test-policy reform, stressing that without the ACT/SAT, the college admissions process may lack fairness and become less transparent as schools may struggle to distinguish exceptional and deserving students from thousands of applicants.

Note: While a school may be test-optional, it is not necessarily test-blind. A test-blind school will not accept or consider test scores in its admissions process.

Meanwhile, a test-optional school may not require applicants to submit test scores, but unless explicitly stated, it will consider any test scores that are submitted to them.

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If you’re in the middle of writing your CommonApp essay and wondering what schools to consider, or if you’re simply thinking about applying to college, then check out this video.

It will provide you with a complete rundown of the latest college admissions trends so that you can go into the process in the best shape possible and with all the information you need.

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