More Than 700 Colleges Test "Optional"

University Testing

As millions of high school students across the country frantically prepare to take the SAT and ACT, a new FairTest list demonstrates that much of the anxiety is unwarranted. Scores from neither test are necessary for many applicants at more than 700 four-year U.S. colleges and universities.


In fact, more than a quarter of the nation's accredited, bachelor-degree granting institutions admit substantial percentages of their first-year classes without using the SAT I or ACT. The count is based on a systematic review of the College Board's 2003 College Handbook and other guidebooks, information posted on college and university websites, and interviews with school officials.


The new FairTest "test score optional" list includes such highly selective institutions as Bates, Bowdoin, Connecticut, Dickinson, Franklin & Marshall, Mount Holyoke, and Pitzer colleges as well as others which are part of large public university systems in Arkansas, Nebraska, Texas, and other states. Religious, for-profit, and distance-education colleges were also counted.


Hundreds of schools on the list do not require any applicants to submit test scores; some require them only from students whose high school records do not meet minimum grade point average or class rank levels. Not included are two-year community and junior colleges, the majority of which do not require test scores, and the many four-year colleges that waive SAT or ACT requirements for transfer students and older applicants.


Colleges and universities eliminate test score requirements for many reasons. Many are concerned about the negative impact on race and gender equity that results from relying on test scores. Others recognize that high-priced coaching programs artificially boost the scores of students who can afford them. Most agree that scores from a three-hour exam add little of value to an applicant's portfolio. De-emphasizing standardized test scores is an excellent way to comply with the recent U.S. Supreme Court endorsement of 'holistic' admissions (see Examiner, Summer 2003).


o The full list of more than 700 accredited, bachelor degree-granting institutions which do not use the SAT I or ACT to make admissions decisions about substantial numbers of applicants is posted here. Printed copies may be obtained by sending a stamped, self-addressed, business-size envelope to FairTest, 15 Court Square, Suite 820, Boston, MA 02108. Please note that you want the "New Optional List."