Universities that Don't Require Admission Tests

If you’re applying to college, you need to have a competitive ACT or SAT score, right? Well, not necessarily. There is a trend in higher education, currently known as test optional admission. Many colleges and universities have decided to make standardized test scores optional for admission to their undergraduate programs. So if you didn’t get the score you wanted on the ACT or SAT, or if standardized testing isn’t your thing, don’t worry.

There are plenty of great colleges that have become test optional for admission, but before you decide to blow off all of the ACT and SAT dates coming up, let’s make sure you’ve got all the facts.

Why Go Test Optional?
Many colleges and universities have decided to go test optional because they feel that there are other factors besides test scores that are better predictors of a student’s potential success in college. These other factors include your high school academic record, your GPA, and your extracurricular involvement. They also look at the types of classes you took in high school, so make sure that you take advantage of AP and other rigorous curriculum programs within your school. Many college admissions offices are beginning to lean this way because high test scores can often be misleading. Scores can be significantly increased through coaching and other methods of preparation, but many students do not have access to these types of resources. A higher score on the ACT or SAT does not outweigh a good grade in a rigorous high school course.

Which Schools are Test Optional?
There are a number of schools that you can apply to without a test score. Some schools have been test optional for a while now, like Lawrence University. They’ve been test optional since the 2006-2007 academic year. Steven Syverson, dean of admissions and financial aid at Lawrence, says, "The quality of a student’s high school curriculum and the performance within that curriculum are really the best predictors of academic success at Lawrence. [...] Critics contend that standardized tests (of all sorts) place pressure on high school teachers to ‘teach to the test’, rather than offering a more appropriate curriculum. In the case of the ACT and SAT, they also tend to disadvantage minorities, rural students, and those who are unable to afford the cost of test preparation services.”

Other schools are just beginning their test optional policies. DePaul University initiated a test optional alternative for freshman admission, which will be implemented through a four-year pilot program beginning with the 2012 freshman class. The objective of the test-optional approach is to encourage a wider range of high-achieving students to consider a four-year degree at DePaul, including very talented and promising students who may be disadvantaged by admission criteria that emphasize standardized tests.

If you are in the process of searching for schools to include in your list of possible univerisities to apply for, here’s a list of test optional colleges and universities you can check out.

Keep in Mind
Like almost everything in higher education, policies differ from school to school. Make sure you understand how the test optional policy works at each school you’re applying to. Some colleges will not accept or consider your test scores at all; others do require test scores under certain conditions. Some test optional schools require scores for out-of-state students, students in certain majors, international students, and those applying for scholarships. Others use scores for placement purposes or research studies. It all depends on the school, so be sure to check with the admissions office to make sure you’re clear on the school’s test optional policy.

Remember, taking the tests is still a good idea because most likely there will be schools out there you’ll want to get into that do require test scores for admission, or they will use the scores for certain reasons as previously mentioned. Either way, remember that there are many schools that don’t place the same value on your test scores as they do the quality of your work in high school.

Have a question? Let us know.
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