Applying to college usually means writing some essays, asking for letters of recommendation, and submitting your transcripts. But what about the ACT and SAT? Is the ACT required for college? The answer is, not necessarily!
In this guide, we explain what test-optional colleges are and give you the complete list of 1,000+ colleges that don't require ACT scores from applicants. We also offer a few tips for what to do with these ACT-optional college lists.
Note: for a list of schools temporarily not requiring test scores due to COVID-19, read this article instead. Otherwise, read on to see which schools are always test-optional, test-flexible, and test-blind.
Is the ACT Required for College? Not Necessarily
First off, is the ACT required for college in the United States? Or not?
Though most four-year colleges and universities in the United States require ACT or SAT scores for admission, many do not. Colleges that don't require ACT scores are known as "test-optional" schools. This means that you do not have to send in any ACT/SAT scores with your application but may if you want to. In the end, it's your choice whether you submit test scores or not.
A test-optional policy gives you more control over how you present yourself in your college applications. For example, if you didn't do particularly well on the ACT, then you could choose not to submit your scores, thereby preventing them from negatively impacting your chances of getting in.
But not all colleges have the same exact test-optional policy. Below, we look at the various policies schools have regarding optional ACT scores.
With this policy, ACT and SAT scores are entirely optional, meaning you can choose whether to send them in. In other words, you get to decide how you want to present yourself to colleges.
For instance, if your ACT scores are on the lower end, you might withhold them and instead focus on strengthening other parts of your application, such as your personal statement. This way your low scores won't count against you in the admissions process.
Here are some examples of popular ACT-optional colleges:
A test-flexible school is a little different from a purely test-optional school. At these schools, you still need to send in test scores; however, you can submit scores from other tests in place of the ACT/SAT. Usually these can be scores from SAT Subject Tests, AP tests, IB tests, and other school-administered exams.
Popular test-flexible schools include the following:
Class Rank/GPA Substitution
Some schools, primarily large state universities, will waive the ACT/SAT score requirement only if you meet a certain class rank and/or GPA minimum. You'll also be automatically admitted to that school! But if you do not meet these requirements, you'll have to send in your ACT/SAT scores like everyone else.
Requirements vary depending on the university, but typically you'll need a class rank in at least the top 10% and/or at least a 3.5 unweighted GPA.
Here are some popular schools that offer this substitution policy:
- University of Texas at Austin
- University of Texas at Dallas
- Texas A&M University
- Washington State University
The last type of test-optional policy is test blind. With this policy, you are not supposed to submit any ACT/SAT scores. So if you decided to include ACT scores in your application, they would not be considered in the admissions process—even if you got a perfect score!
"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. … We are test-blind because we found through our own internal research that in addition to being biased, these standardized tests are poor predictors of success at Hampshire."
As you can see, this is one of the strictest test-optional policies out there—this school really, really doesn't want to see your ACT scores!
Now that we've gone over the four different kinds of test-optional policies, let's take a look at some of the best colleges and universities that don't require ACT scores.
350+ Top-Tier Colleges That Don't Require ACT Scores
Below are 350+ top-tier colleges that don't require ACT scores for admission. Some schools are purely test optional, whereas others are test flexible or offer applicants guaranteed admission if they meet a certain minimum class rank and/or GPA requirement.
For these lists, we're defining "top-tier" as any school ranked within the top 250 spots on its respective US News 2020 ranking list. US News sorts schools into several categories, such as National Liberal Arts Colleges, National Universities, Regional Universities North, etc. We kept these categorizations and sorted the schools alphabetically within them.
Skim these lists to see whether there are any ACT-optional colleges that interest you. If you're looking for a particular school, use ctrl + f on your keyboard to search for it.
|Agnes Scott College||GA|
|Bryn Mawr College||PA|
|College of the Atlantic||ME|
|College of Idaho||ID|
|College of the Holy Cross||MA|
|Franklin and Marshall College||PA|
|Gustavus Adolphus College||MN|
|Hamilton College "Test Flexible"||NY|
|Hobart and William Smith Colleges||NY|
|Lake Forest College||IL|
|Lewis & Clark College||OR|
|Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts||MA|
|Middlebury College "Test Flexible"||VT|
|Mount Holyoke College||MA|
|Ohio Wesleyan University||OH|
|Sarah Lawrence College||NY|
|Sewanee – University of the South||TN|
|St. Anselm College||NH|
|St. Lawrence University||NY|
|St. John's College||MD|
|St. John's College||NM|
|St. Mary's College||IN|
|St. Michael's College||VT|
|Sweet Briar College||VA|
|University of Puget Sound||WA|
|Warren Wilson College||NC|
|Washington & Jefferson College||PA|
|Arizona State University||AZ|
|Azusa Pacific University||CA|
|Ball State University||IN|
|California State University, Fresno||CA|
|Drexel University "Test Flexible"||PA|
|George Mason University||VA|
|George Washington University||DC|
|Indiana University Bloomington||IN|
|Kansas State University||KS|
|Maryville University of St. Louis||MO|
|Mississippi State University||MS|
|Montclair State University||NJ|
|New York University "Test Flexible"||NY|
|Sacred Heart University||CT|
|Seattle Pacific University||WA|
|St. John's University||NY|
|Texas A&M University "Top 10%"||TX|
|Texas Tech University "Top 10%"||TX|
|The Catholic University of America||DC|
|The Sage Colleges||NY|
|University of Arizona||AZ|
|University of Chicago||IL|
|University of Delaware||DE|
|University of Denver||CO|
|University of Hartford||CT|
|University of Houston "Top 10%"||TX|
|University of LaVerne||CA|
|University of Massachusetts Boston||MA|
|University of Massachusetts Dartmouth||MA|
|University of Massachusetts Lowell||MA|
|University of Mississippi||MS|
|University of Nevada, Reno||NV|
|University of New England||MA|
|University of New Hampshire||NH|
|University of Rochester||NY|
|University of San Francisco||CA|
|University of St. Joseph||CT|
|University of Texas at Austin "Top 6%"||TX|
|University of Texas at Dallas "Top 10%"||TX|
|Virginia Commonwealth University||VA|
|Wake Forest University||NC|
|Washington State University "Top 10%"||WA|
|Western New England University||MA|
|Worcester Polytechnic Institute||MA|
|Albertus Magnus College||CT|
|Bay Path University||MA|
|Bridgewater State University||MA|
|College of Saint Rose||NY|
|Delaware Valley University||PA|
|Eastern Connecticut State University||CT|
|Fairleigh Dickinson University||NJ|
|Fitchburg State University||MA|
|Framingham State University||MA|
|Johnson & Wales University||RI|
|La Salle University||PA|
|Lebanon Valley College||PA|
|Le Moyne College||NY|
|Loyola University Maryland||MD|
|Millersville University of Pennsylvania||PA|
|Mount St. Mary's University||MD|
|Notre Dame of Maryland University||MD|
|Point Park University||PA|
|Plymouth State University||NH|
|Roberts Wesleyan College||NY|
|Roger Williams University||RI|
|Saint Joseph's University||PA|
|Saint Peter's University||NJ|
|Salem State University||MA|
|Salve Regina University||RI|
|Seton Hill University||PA|
|Southern New Hampshire University||NH|
|University of Scranton||PA|
|University of New Haven||CT|
|Vermont Technical College||VT|
|Wentworth Institute of Technology||MA|
|William Paterson University||NJ|
|Worcester State University||MA|
|Arkansas Tech University||AR|
|Christopher Newport University||VA|
|Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University||FL|
|James Madison University||VA|
|Mississippi University for Women||MS|
|Queens University of Charlotte||NC|
|Saint Leo University||FL|
|St. Thomas University||FL|
|University of Holy Cross||LA|
|University of Mary Washington||VA|
|Virginia State University||VA|
|Columbia College Chicago||IL|
|Dakota State University||SD|
|Emporia State University||KS|
|Lake Erie College||OH|
|MidAmerica Nazarene University||KS|
|Nebraska Wesleyan University||NE|
|Northern State University||SD|
|Northwest Missouri State University||MO|
|Ohio Dominican University||OH|
|Robert Morris University||IL|
|Siena Heights University||MI|
|Southeast Missouri State University||MO|
|St. Mary-of-the-Woods College||IN|
|University of Evansville||IN|
|University of Northwestern--St. Paul||MN|
|Wayne State College||NE|
|Western Illinois University||IL|
|William Jewell College||MO|
|Alaska Pacific University||AK|
|Cal Poly Pomona||CA|
|California State University, Bakersfield||CA|
|California State University, Channel Islands||CA|
|California State University, Chico||CA|
|California State University, Dominguez Hills||CA|
|California State University, Fullerton||CA|
|California State University, Long Beach||CA|
|California State University, Los Angeles||CA|
|California State University, Monterey Bay||CA|
|California State University, Northridge||CA|
|California State University, Sacramento||CA|
|California State University, San Bernardino||CA|
|California State University, San Marcos||CA|
|California State University, Stanislaus||CA|
|Dominican University of California||CA|
|Eastern Washington University||WA|
|Evergreen State College||WA|
|Hawaii Pacific University||HI|
|Humboldt State University||CA|
|La Sierra University||CA|
|Midwestern State University||TX|
|Northwest Nazarene University||ID|
|Oklahoma Wesleyan University||OK|
|Pacific Lutheran University||WA|
|San Jose State University||CA|
|Sonoma State University||CA|
|St. Edward's University||TX|
|St. Martin's University||WA|
|Tarleton State University||TX|
|Texas A&M International University "Top 10%"||TX|
|Texas A&M University – Texarkana||TX|
|University of Alaska Anchorage||AK|
|University of North Texas at Dallas||TX|
|University of St. Thomas||TX|
|University of Texas of the Permian Basin||TX|
|Walla Walla University||WA|
|Weber State University||UT|
|Western Oregon University||OR|
|West Texas A&M University||TX|
|Bard College at Simon's Rock||MA|
|CUNY New York City College of Tech||NY|
|Keene State College||NH|
|Mount Aloysius College||PA|
|Paul Smith's College||NY|
|Pennsylvania College of Technology||PA|
|St. Francis College||NY|
|University of Maine at Farmington||ME|
|University of Maine at Fort Kent||ME|
|University of Maine at Presque Isle||ME|
|University of Valley Forge||PA|
|Vermont Technical College||VT|
|Atlanta Metropolitan State College||GA|
|Belmont Abbey College||NC|
|Florida Memorial University||FL|
|Georgia Gwinnett College||GA|
|High Point University||NC|
|Pensacola State College||FL|
|South Florida State College||FL|
|University of the Ozarks||AR|
|Dickinson State University||ND|
|Dunwoody College of Technology||MN|
|University of Minnesota Crookston||MN|
|William Jewell College||MO|
|Dixie State University||UT|
|East Texas Baptist University||TX|
|Oregon Institute of Technology||OR|
|Southwestern Christian University||OK|
|University of Hawai'i – West O'ahu||HI|
You might have noticed that more liberal arts colleges are test optional compared with national research universities. In recent years, liberal arts colleges have begun to support the idea that test scores are only a single part of your application and therefore do not accurately represent the entirety of your academic potential and skills.
Nevertheless, the majority of prestigious colleges and universities still require ACT or SAT scores. Some examples include all Ivy League colleges, MIT, Stanford, Duke, and the entire University of California system. However, many of these schools are test-optional for students applying for fall 2021 admission, due to COVID-19.
As you research colleges, make sure to look up their ACT/SAT testing policies to see whether you'll need to submit any scores.
Full List of 1,000+ Schools That Don't Require ACT Scores
In total, there are more than 1,000 US-based schools that don't require ACT scores. Click the icon below to download the complete list!
What to Do With These Test-Optional Lists: 4 Tips
Now that you've seen a complete list of colleges that don't require ACT scores, what can you do with this knowledge? Here are four essential tips.
#1: Research Schools' Policies
Every college is different in terms of its standardized testing policies, so it's your responsibility to check the policy of each school you're applying to.
Although these lists can help, you should always make an effort to check college websites directly or call them and ask (if their websites are unclear about whether they require the ACT/SAT or not).
Remember that a college could change its testing policy for the new school year, so don't rely on out-of-date information to tell you what you need and don't need to submit with your application!
#2: Take the ACT/SAT to Keep Your Options Open
Even though you might prefer not to take the ACT, it's still a good idea to take it anyway—this will allow you to keep your college options open so that in case you fall in love with a school that requires ACT scores, you'll be good to go. After all, what if you absolutely adored a certain college only to realize it required ACT/SAT scores and now you have barely any time to study for the test?
We generally recommend taking your first ACT at the beginning of your junior year; this way you'll still have plenty of test dates left the rest of your junior year, that coming summer, and the fall of your senior year.
#3: Apply to Several Schools
In addition to taking the ACT, try not to limit yourself to colleges that don't require ACT scores just so you can avoid having to take the test.
The college as a whole—from the quality of its academics and faculty to its location and student life—will be far more important factors to consider as you try to figure out whether that school will be a good fit for you for the next four years of your life.
If you limit yourself to only ACT-optional schools, you're cutting out tons of high-quality private and public institutions that could very well be ideal matches for your educational goals.
#4: Put Together a Strong Application
Finally, make sure you're putting together your strongest college application possible, especially if you're applying to schools that don't require ACT scores. This means that you should have a great college essay, glowing letters of recommendation, and a solid GPA.
If you took the ACT anyway and got a high score on it, submitting that score would be a great idea. Only submit scores from other tests, such as SAT Subject Tests, AP exams, and/or IB tests, if you managed to get particularly impressive scores on them. (If you didn't and the tests aren't required for admission, it's totally fine not to submit your scores!)
Ultimately, the choice of submitting your ACT scores can work to your benefit, as long as you know what to include in your application to make you shine as brightly as possible.
Thinking of taking the SAT instead of the ACT? Then check out this full list of colleges that don't require the SAT. We've also got a list of 101 colleges and their average SAT scores.
What's a good ACT score for your colleges? Our expert step-by-step guide explains how you can set a personalized ACT goal score based on the schools you're applying to.
Is there a minimum ACT score you need to get into college? The truth is, it all depends on what colleges you're considering. Learn how to figure out what ACT score to aim for and what to do if all your schools are reaches.
Want to improve your ACT score by 4+ points? Download our free guide to the top 5 strategies you need in your prep to improve your ACT score dramatically.
Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!
Hannah received her MA in Japanese Studies from the University of Michigan and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California. From 2013 to 2015, she taught English in Japan via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.