Universities that Don’t Require ACT or SAT
Traditionally, standardized tests like the ACT or SAT have played a significant role in college admissions. However, there has been a shift in this paradigm, with many institutions reevaluating the importance of these scores. The list of universities that don’t require the ACT or SAT has been growing, challenging the notion that these tests are the only indicators of a student’s potential to succeed in college.
These test-optional or test-blind schools aim to level the playing field, making higher education more accessible to all students, irrespective of their performance in standardized tests.
When considering these universities that don’t require the ACT or SAT, it’s crucial to understand how they assess candidates. These institutions tend to place a greater emphasis on other aspects of an application, such as grade point average (GPA), letters of recommendation, extracurricular activities, personal essays, and interviews.
They believe these components provide a holistic view of a student’s abilities and potential. In this guide, we will discuss why some universities have adopted this approach, what it means for prospective students, and the list of prominent universities where standardized test scores are not mandatory.
What Are the SAT and ACT, and Why Do Some Students Take Them?
The Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) and the American College Testing Program (ACT) are entrance exams used by many institutions of higher education to evaluate the academic ability of prospective students and to help determine admissions.
The most significant distinction between the two exams is that the SAT comprises two sections and is overseen by The College Board, while the ACT comprises four sections and is overseen by ACT, Inc. Because the exams are administered uniformly throughout the United States, colleges and universities have long regarded the results as a superior indicator of a student’s preparedness for college compared to GPAs, high school transcripts, and extracurricular activities. This allows for evaluation on a more standardized playing field.
- Score range: 1 to 36
- Consists of four parts: reading, mathematics, English, and science
- May include an essay component
- Total duration: two hours and fifty-five minutes, with an additional forty minutes if opting for the essay.
- Score range: 400 to 1600
- Sections include Reading, Writing and Language, and Mathematics
- Total duration: three hours”
How Do Test-Optional Colleges Work?
In the interest of getting the most important question out of the way first: If a college or university is test-optional, it means that you have the option of deciding whether or not to send in your SAT or ACT scores. If you do submit them, they will be evaluated as part of your application; however, if you don’t submit them, you will not be at a disadvantage in comparison to other applicants who did submit test scores.
What are the odds of that happening? If you choose not to send in your test scores, schools that do not require them will give more weight to the other aspects of your application (such as your grade point average, class rank, extracurricular activities, and so on) to compensate for the missing scores. For instance, an individual who provides test scores to an educational institution will have their application evaluated in, let’s say, six categories. In contrast, an individual who does not provide test scores will have their application evaluated in five categories, each of which will be worth a bit more than the six categories that will be used to evaluate the first student’s application.
Why Are Schools Switching to Policies That Allow Students to Opt Out of Testing?
Until recently, schools that did not require students to take standardized tests were uncommon. However, there has been a significant shift, with approximately 1,000 colleges in the United States no longer requiring applicants to take entrance exams. What factors contributed to this shift?
There are two primary reasons:
- Many colleges and universities no longer require the ACT or SAT because they don’t want weak test scores to hinder the acceptance of students who otherwise have strong applications. They aim to attract applicants from diverse backgrounds, especially given that research indicates students from affluent backgrounds consistently score higher on the SAT and ACT. By eliminating the test requirement, they ensure students from disadvantaged backgrounds aren’t further marginalized in the application process.
- The pandemic accelerated this trend. With many standardized tests being discontinued or postponed in 2020, several schools transitioned to test-optional policies. Many have retained this approach, although some only consider it a temporary measure.
As educational institutions prioritize diversity, it’s expected that more will adopt test-optional policies to give applicants the best possible opportunities.
At test-flexible colleges, not all applicants are required to submit SAT or ACT scores. Have an excellent grade point average? Certain test-flexible schools may exempt you from standardized test requirements. Some institutions may even waive these prerequisites for impressive AP scores or high SAT subject test scores.
Test-flexible colleges offer more control over your application than those mandating a test but less freedom than colleges without any test requirement. For specifics about a school’s policy, contact an admissions officer or visit the school’s admissions website. A proactive approach can highlight your application and help you decide which scores to submit.
Test-blind colleges do not consider applicants’ test scores at any point in the admissions process. Even if you submit your SAT or ACT scores, they will not influence the admission decision.
This policy differs from test-optional ones. In test-optional schools, you have the choice to submit scores. If you do, they adopt a “holistic admissions” approach, ensuring your test scores aren’t weighed more heavily than other application components like essays or recommendations.
Conversely, test-blind schools don’t allow score submission, and these scores play no role in admissions decisions.
Currently, test-optional policies are more prevalent than test-blind ones. However, understanding the distinction is vital since test-optional schools allow score submission, whereas test-blind ones do not.
What Colleges and Universities Don’t Require SAT or ACT Scores?
Below are some prestigious colleges and universities that have flexible or no standardized testing requirements for admission:
In 2003, Pitzer College, a notable liberal arts institution near Los Angeles, adopted a test-optional stance. Though the admissions office will accept scores from those who submit them, they prioritize academic transcripts, extracurricular involvement, and alignment with Pitzer’s principles.
New York University (NYU)
Despite its prominence, NYU has a flexible approach to standardized testing. While it evaluates test scores, it permits students to substitute SAT or ACT scores with results from programs like Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate.
Currently, Hampshire College stands unique with its test-blind policy. Located in Western Massachusetts, the college neither requires nor accepts standardized test scores. They emphasize achievements across transcripts, extracurriculars, and personal essays.
In a recent pilot, Iowa’s Cornell College introduced an option for applicants to submit portfolios instead of standardized tests. This lets students showcase their skills, such as in creative writing or photography.
George Washington University (GW)
Located in the U.S. capital, GW does not mandate standardized tests for admissions. This policy, in place since 2015, prioritizes classroom performance over a single test.
Montana State University
Near Yellowstone National Park, this university doesn’t demand standardized test scores. Applicants must either rank in the top half of their high school class or have a minimum GPA of 2.5.
Apart from its test-optional policy, Colorado College offers a unique “block plan,” allowing students to focus on one class for just over three weeks at a time.
From its origins as a music conservatory, Ithaca College has grown into a diverse liberal arts institution. It does not enforce standardized test submission but offers it as an option.
As the U.S.’s foremost all-women’s college, Smith College emphasizes holistic admissions. While it provides an option for test scores, interviews are encouraged.
Though Connecticut College doesn’t demand SAT or ACT scores, a significant portion of its first-year students come from the top 20% of their high school classes. The college values submissions that better represent potential academic success.
University of Chicago
Located in Hyde Park, amidst Chicago’s vibrant city life, the University of Chicago has adopted a test-optional policy, allowing students to craft their applications freely.
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