Ultimate Guide: Colleges Not Requiring SAT Scores

Jun 9, 2021

Colleges have different admissions processes, and not all admissions processes are created equal. One significant point of difference among colleges these days is how admissions officers consider your SAT scores. 

More and more schools are planning to reduce the importance of SAT scores as part of your application with test-optional and new test-flexible policies. One college has even eliminated SAT scores!

More than 1,000 accredited, bachelor-degree granting institutions have changed their methods to standardized test scores. Remember that most colleges, especially the more prestigious schools, still require (and strongly consider) SAT scores.

Let's go through different score policies and the schools that no longer require applicants to submit their SAT scores for admission.

Because of COVID-19 Schools Are Temporarily Going Test-Optional in 2020-2021

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 SAT exams were canceled across the United States. To support this, some schools have started a temporary test-optional policy for students.

Check out the list of schools temporarily test-optional. Check out this article. 

What Is Test-Optional?

With a test-optional policy, you have the authority to decide as to whether or not you want to send SAT scores to a school. In simple words, SAT-optional colleges do not require you to send your scores. Instead, you must decide whether or not your test results are an accurate representation of your academic ability and potential.

Just as with your remaining application, you can be profitable in crafting your candidacy to a test-optional college. This leaves you with more choice and control over how you can present your strengths to admissions officers.

 Some highly ranked SAT-optional schools include the following:

  • Bates College
  • Bowdoin College
  • Bryn Mawr College
  • The George Washington University
  • Hofstra University
  • Pitzer College
  • Sarah Lawrence College
  • Smith College (for US citizens/permanent residents)
  • University of Chicago
  • Wake Forest University
  • Wesleyan University (for students attending US/Canadian high schools)

Scroll down to see the complete list of colleges that do not require SAT scores.

What Is Test Flexible?

On the one hand, a test-flexible policy requiring you to send test scores might also allow for different options in place of the SAT. For example, some schools might ignore their test requirements if you meet a minimum GPA or are applying to a specific program, while others might let you send AP and IB scores instead of SAT scores.

The justification is that these scores can demonstrate subject ability and reveal your particular academic interests and motivations.

Check out NYU's test-flexible policy, and it states the following:

 "To be eligible for admission, you must submit one of the following:

  • SAT (essay test not required)
  • ACT (writing test not required)
  • Three SAT Subject Test scores
  • Three AP exam scores
  • International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma
  • Three IB higher-level exam scores if not an IB Diploma candidate
  • Specific international qualifications that show you completed your secondary education."

Because the details of test-flexible policies can differ from school to school, you should enquire with your colleges of choice to make sure you're fulfilling the application requirements. You can easily find this information available on each school's website, but if not, you can call and speak to an admissions officer directly.

You'll get not only the information you need but also show your interest and a proactive approach to the college, which could eventually help you stand out from other applicants.

List of some highly ranked test-flexible schools include the following:

  • Brandeis University (for US and Canada citizens/permanent residents)
  • Colby College
  • Colorado College
  • Hamilton College
  • Middlebury College
  • New York University (NYU)

You'll find more test-flexible schools on the complete list below.

What Is Test Blind?

Right now, there are only a few colleges that have test-blind policies. That means these colleges do not want you to send any test scores at all.

Check out how this policy looks for one test-blind school: Hampshire College in Amherst, MA.

 "Unlike 'test-optional institutions, we will not consider SAT/ACT scores regardless of the score. Even if it's a perfect score, it will not weigh into our assessment of an applicant."

 Other schools that are test blind include:

You must now know that schools have different approaches to SAT scores and how much they weigh into your application (if at all).

Below, I’ve organized a comprehensive list of all schools not requiring the SAT, as well as a list of top-tier test-optional and test-flexible colleges.

Top-Tier Schools De-emphasize the SAT/ACT

By top tier, we mean any school ranked among the top 250 on the US News lists for top liberal arts colleges, best national universities, world-class regional universities, or best regional colleges. All schools are numbered according to their ranking and region.

and If you see the list,andyou might notice that national liberal arts colleges are more likely to have test-optional policies than national research universities are. This is because, in recent years, liberal arts schools have increasingly taken the position that your test scores are only one component of your application and don't represent the sum of your academic potential.

Still, most prestigious schools (in the top 50) require the SAT. This includes Ivy League schools like Harvard, Princeton, and Yale; University of California system schools like UC Berkeley and UCLA; and many other top private schools like Stanford and Duke.

It's crucial to know the SAT policies of schools long before you apply since taking and prepping for the SAT can begin more than a year in advance of your deadlines.

Now that you're aware of these different policies, your first course of action is to start exploring.

Check out the list of top-tier liberal arts colleges.


Have a look at research universities that de-emphasize the SAT. Some of these schools are test flexible, some are test-optional, and others have guaranteed admission based on GPA or class rank.

Besides that, there is a complete list of all schools that de-emphasize the SAT. Check out here

What Should You Do With These Test-Optional Lists?

Now that you understand all the schools with test-optional or text-flexible admissions policies, what should you do next? Have a look at these four tips for moving forward in the college application process.

1: Explore All The Colleges

Since admissions processes are complicated for each school, everything falls on you to thoroughly explore the policies of all the colleges you're interested in.

As stated above, if you cannot find a detailed explanation on the college's website, don't delay calling an admissions officer and asking directly. This is also something you could bring to your college visits, as long as you answer it early enough to give yourself enough time for test prep.

2: Good Idea To Take SAT/ACT To Keep Your Options Open

Remember, your college list is going to change throughout junior and even senior year. Never limit yourself early by ruling out the SAT, as it’s always a good idea to keep your options open.

It won’t end up in your favor if you are interested in going to a particular college only to discover you don't have time to take the SAT or prep effectively for it and thus can't meet the school's admission requirements.

Planning should begin at least by early junior year, and it's very improbable that you'll have your college list concluded by then. Check out our article on SAT Test Dates: Ultimate Guide to Choose for the year 2021-2022

3: Don’t Forget To Apply to Many Schools

It is never wise to limit yourself to certain schools so that you can avoid taking the SAT. The more you prevent opportunities in life, the chances of your failure increases. Your college—from its academics and extracurricular opportunities to its campus and culture—are much more significant factors in deciding where you'll be spending the four years crucial of your life after high school.

Even if you feel anxious about the SAT, the skills of applied discipline and personal growth that you develop preparing for it will be helpful to you throughout your academic and professional careers.

4: Examine the Strength of Your Application

If you're applying to universities that do not need the SAT or have test-flexible options, it'll help you consider your strengths and weaknesses. Have you achieved or will you be able to secure a strong SAT score, or is your academic ability better represented through AP tests and IB exams? Will these scores strengthen your application, or do they not truly represent your skills and abilities? Where do you shine the brightest?

Though SAT-optional policies are yet another thing to think about as you apply, having that choice can ultimately only work to your benefit. By making an informed and intentional decision, you have the power to shape the story you tell to admissions officers.

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