Beyond the Board Scores: 10 Colleges That Don’t Require SAT and ACT Tests



Every year, thousands and thousands of high school seniors squeeze into small, tightly packed classrooms just as the sun is coming up. These tired, nervous students are there for something that almost every student dreads; they are there to take the SAT or ACT. These standardized tests have long been a pinnacle of the American university system, often making or breaking a student’s chances of being accepted by the college of their choice.

In recent years, though, we have seen many colleges dropping SAT/ACT scores from their entrance requirements, so submission of SAT/ACT scores becomes optional for applicants. If you’re one of the students who does not test well, or simply doesn’t want to take either of these tests, you’re in luck. Many great colleges around the country have joined the growing test-optional movement. There are too many of these colleges to list, but here are some noteworthy ones.

1. Bates College

Located in Waterville, Maine, Bates College is a highly selective, co-ed liberal arts college. Bates adopted its test-optional policy in 1984. Although it is noted for a stellar liberal arts curriculum, Bates’s most popular majors seem to be the social sciences, biological and medical sciences, and psychology.  It is also known for its rhetoric program. If you are interested in any science-related field, this may be a school worth considering.

2. Bowdoin College

Bowdoin College is a liberal arts college located in Brunswick, Maine, not far from Bates College.  Bowdoin is even more selective than its rival Bates. It chose to be test-optional in 1969. Bowdoin is a renowned liberal arts colleges in the country, consistently ranked alongside institutions like Williams College and Amherst College for academic excellence. The most popular majors seem to be government and political science, as well as general economics. Bowdoin students seem quite content, as the college boasts an average retention rate of 97% among freshmen.

3. Bryn Mawr College

If you’re looking for an all-women’s college, you may be in luck. Many of the highly regarded women-only colleges seem to be test-optional. Bryn Mawr is located in the town bearing its name in Pennsylvania. It is a member of both the Seven Sister Colleges and the Tri-College Consortium, which also features Haverford and Swarthmore. General psychology, general biology, and mathematics are the college’s most popular majors, although general English literature isn’t far behind.

4. College of the Holy Cross

Contrary to what its name might suggest, College of the Holy Cross, located in Worcester, Massachusetts, isn’t just a school for religious studies. It boasts a highly regarded liberal arts curriculum with many popular majors, including the social sciences, psychology, and English language and literature. Strictly an undergraduate institution, Holy Cross boasts an excellent track record for students enrolled in top graduate programs, as well as Division I athletics. While it joined the test-optional movement in 2006, the school already had “a highly personalized admissions process that already de-emphasizes standardized test scores,” according to Rev. Michael C. McFarland, S.J., then-president of Holy Cross.

5. George Washington University

One of the most recent additions to the rankings of test-optional colleges is George Washington University, located in Washington, DC. With over 25,000 undergraduate students, this university is by far the largest institution on this list. George Washington just adopted a test-optional policy in August 2015.  There are many highly regarded schools within the university, so students have many, many different majors to choose from; some of the most popular majors are the social sciences, business, management, and marketing.

6. Pitzer College

Pitzer College, located in Claremont, California, is the only West Coast college to make this list. Pitzer College is a member of the Claremont Colleges, and boasts a highly regarded liberal arts curriculum and a beautiful, sunlit campus. Pitzer joined the test-optional movement in 2003, which has led to the following:  

  • 58 percent increase in diversity;
  • 8 percent increase in GPA; and
  • 39 percent increase in applicants with a 10 percent increase in retention.

In addition, Pitzer has also doubled its number of students from low-income families and backgrounds. It’s most popular majors are political science and government, and general psychology.

7. Smith College

Smith Collegelocated in Northampton, Massachusetts, is a member of the Seven Sisters Colleges, and is an all-women’s institution. It is also a member of the Five College Consortium, which allows students to take courses at four other colleges: Amherst College, The University of Massachusetts – Amherst, Hampshire College, and Mount Holyoke College. Known for highly regarded academics, Smith’s most popular majors include general economics, general political science, and biology/biological science.

8. Wake Forest University

Wake Forest, located in Winston-on-Salem, North Carolina, is the only institution from the South on this list.  It adopted a test-optional policy in 2008. Wake Forest made clear its feeling on the issue on its website: “we’re very glad we made the move.” It’s not hard to see why.  After it made the move to drop testing requirements from applications, Wake Forest saw an increase of 54 percent in ethnic diversity among undergraduates, from 2008 to the fall of 2015.  Wake Forest explains its reasoning for its policy:  “For the record, it’s not that we think standardized tests are evil. We just think that the measure of your intelligence and potential requires a deeper dive.” Wake Forest also features Division I athletics and a renowned basketball program.

9. Wesleyan University

Located in Middletown, Connecticut, Wesleyan University is a top-ranked and a highly selective liberal arts institution. Given their 2014 move to drop all standardized test requirements, it is hardly surprising that admission to Wesleyan has become so competitive. A member of the Little Three, along with Williams College and Amherst College, Wesleyan features a highly renowned liberal arts curriculum with very light general education requirements. The most popular majors are psychology, general economics, and general political science and government.

10. Worcester Polytechnic Institute

In 2007, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, located in Worcester, Massachusetts became the only nationally ranked science and engineering university to join the test-optional movement. WPI urges students to take advantage of the Flex Path option, which gives applicants an option to submit samples of their work, such as independent projects, portfolios or inventions. Students seem to be responding well to this new program, as the school’s average freshmen retention rate is an impressive 96%. The most popular majors are mechanical engineering, bioengineering, and biomedical engineering.


Of course, these are just a small sample of excellent colleges and universities that have joined the test-optional movement. Many others also make SAT/ACT scores optional, including Bard College, Bennington College, Connecticut College, Franklin & Marshall College, Lawrence University, St. Lawrence University, and Union College.

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