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Test Optional Colleges

Mon, Mar 11, 2013 @ 04:47 PM

Some Students Opt Out of Standardized Tests When Applying to Colleges

Test Optional CollegesStandardized testing is one part of the admissions preparation process that students find to be particularly daunting. The SAT and ACT require a considerable amount of preparation time, and while a goal score is achievable through tutoring, practice tests, and a well crafted test strategy, some students find these exams wear heavily on their minds.  

Recently, the value of “hard factors” like a student’s GPA, grades, and test scores have been the topic of discussion in admissions, most notably whether or not admissions officers even consider GPAs important. Along with standardized test scores, most colleges do consider the GPA to be a very important part of an application, but schools may also consider course rigor and individual schools’ course offerings in the process to create a more holistic review.  

While the discussion over the importance of GPAs is fairly new, the debate over whether or not standardized test scores should be important in admissions decisions has been going on for decades. The SAT and the ACT are still considered crucial factors in the admissions decisions of most universities across the country, but over 800 schools have reduced the importance placed on applicants’ test scores or have given applicants the option of withholding test scores altogether. The list of test optional schools grows every year, and debates about whether standardized tests are a valuable factor in college admissions have sparked the College Board, the company that administers the SATs, to make changes to the test for 2014.  

Proponents of standardized tests argue that these exams are reliable and objective in not only measuring students’ knowledge of high school material, but also how successful students will be in college. Opponents of standardized testing believe that by emphasizing standardized tests in admissions, schools fail to perform a true “holistic review” and consider all the “soft” characteristics of an applicant such as personal background, essay content, and extra curricular activities.    

This will be the second redesign the SAT has undergone since 2005, and it is meant to refocus the test towards knowledge and skills needed in college, such as writing evidence-based essays rather than personal narratives. Proposed changes will reflect the College Board’s efforts to make the SAT a more comprehensive and successful measure of college applicants’ abilities. Previous changes to the test added a writing section, longer testing time, and a highest possible score of 2400 rather than 1600. The ACT has not announced any plans to change their structure or content of its test.  

For students who feel less confident in submitting their standardized test scores to colleges, test optional schools are an excellent option. Additionally, some schools allow students to omit test scores if they have obtained a certain GPA or class rank, live in-state, or have scored well on IB exams, AP exams, or SAT Subject Tests.  

Here’s a list of just a few schools from across the country that are test optional or test lenient!  


American University, Washington D.C.

Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY

Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME

Clark University, Worcester, MA

Connecticut College, New London, CT

DePaul University, Chicago, IL

George Mason University, Fairfax, VA

Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT

Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA

The New School, New York, NY

Rollins College, Winter Park, FL

Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY

Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC  


For a complete list of test optional schools, visit the FairTest website.


Written by IvyWise

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