Just because you didn’t get great SAT or ACT scores, doesn’t mean you can’t still go to a great college or university. In fact, as of 2020 more than 1000 accredited, US colleges are test optional – and hundreds of those are considered “top tier” schools!

What’s more, every year the total number of test optional schools continues to increase as more and more colleges are jumping on the bandwagon.

So what schools are test optional and why are so many making the switch? Read on to find out.

What Schools Are SAT/ACT Optional?

Here’s a short list of some of the amazing US colleges and universities that have gone test optional.

  • Columbia University (New York, NY)
  • Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT)
  • Sarah Lawrence College (Bronxville, NY)
  • The New School (New York, NY)
  • University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ)
  • Bates College (Lewiston, ME)
  • George Washington University (Washington, DC)
  • Ithaca College (Ithaca, NY)
  • Rollins College (Winter Park, FL)
  • Denison University (Granville, OH)

Why Are Schools Going Test Optional?

With so many colleges joining the test optional ranks, you may be wondering why exactly they’re making the change.

According to George Washington University who went test optional in July 2015, it comes down to diversity and greater access. It’s a well-documented fact that students from lower income families consistently earn lower scores than those from more affluent families. It has also been noted that, on average, African-American and Latino students struggle with the SAT.

By removing the SAT and ACT requirement, schools are hoping to remove this obstacle and widen their admissions pool, giving all deserving students an equal chance.

However, many colleges who have gone test optional have recently come under fire by those who think their intentions are less altruistic. Critics claim that the real reasons involve higher college rankings, artificially inflated average test scores and increased selectivity.

Some recent studies have also brought attention to the fact that research, up-to-date, does not seem to indicate a significant increase in diversity on campuses. This, though, does not appear to be true for all test optional schools. Bates College, for instance, has seen tremendous changes directly related to their decision to go test optional.

One reason for this discrepancy, may be that other colleges have simply not been test optional long enough to see the dramatic change that Bates College did. Bill Hiss, the former head of admissions at Bates, acknowledged as much stating that even at Bates, the changes occurred steadily over 30 years – many test optional schools in the US made the transition as recently as 2004.

The bottom line? Going test optional may not be the solution for increasing diversity and ensuring that all previously underrepresented students have access to higher institutions of learning, but it’s certainly a step towards achieving that goal.

Should I Apply to a Test Optional School?

If you didn’t earn the scores you hoped on your SAT or ACT, you might want to consider applying to some test optional schools, especially if you think that lower grade will negatively affect your chances. That being said, if your dream school requires scores don’t rule it out simply because you didn’t meet the recommended average. There are plenty of other ways to shine on your college application, such as your transcript and your personal statement.

Also, it’s important to keep in mind that even colleges who list themselves as test optional sometimes require scores for purposes such as merit-based scholarships or class placement. Additionally, depending on your GPA, the program you are applying to, your location, or other criteria, you may have to take the SAT or ACT anyway.

Do your research and always check if a test is recommended by directly contacting the colleges and universities where you want to apply – even if you’ve been told it’s an SAT or ACT optional college.

And at the end of the day, make your final decision based on what’s right for you, whether that means applying to one of the many test optional colleges or not.

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