Not all admissions processes are created equal. One major point of difference among colleges these days is how admissions officers consider your SAT scores. More and more schools are de-emphasizing SAT scores as part of your application with test-optional and test-flexible policies. Some colleges has even eliminated SAT scores completely!
There are now more than 1,000 accredited, bachelor-degree granting institutions that have changed their approaches to standardized test scores. Keep in mind that the majority of colleges, especially the more prestigious schools, do still require (and strongly consider) SAT scores.
Let's take a look at the different score policies and the schools that no longer require applicants to submit their SAT scores for admission.
Schools Temporarily Going Test Optional Due to COVID-19
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 SAT exams were canceled across the United States. To accommodate this, some schools have instituted a temporary test optional policy for students who are applying to college during the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 admissions cycles.
For a list of schools that are temporarily test optional, check out this article.
What Is Test Optional?
A test-optional policy leaves the decision up to you as to whether or not you want to send SAT scores to a school. In other 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 the rest of your application, you can be purposeful 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 full list of colleges that do not require SAT scores.
What Is Test Flexible?
While a test-flexible policy requires you to send test scores, it might allow for different options in place of the SAT. For example, some schools might waive their test requirements if you meet a minimum GPA or are applying to a specific program, while others might let you send AP scores or IB scores in lieu of SAT scores.
The rationale is that these scores can demonstrate subject mastery and therefore reveal your own particular academic interests and motivations.
NYU's test-flexible policy, for example, 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
- Certain international qualifications that shows you completed your secondary education."
Because the specifics of test-flexible policies can vary from school to school, you should check with your colleges of interest to make sure you're fulfilling the application requirements. This info should be available on each school's website, but if not, definitely call and speak to an admissions officer directly.
You'll not only get the info you need but also demonstrate your interest and a proactive approach to the college, which could ultimately help you stand out from other applicants.
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 full list below.
What Is Test Blind?
Currently, 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.
Here's 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:
- Catholic University of America
- Northern Illinois University
- Northern Michigan University
- The University of California system of schools (but they will develop their own standardized admissions test in the future)
As you can see, schools have different approaches to SAT scores and how much they weigh into your application (if at all).
Below, we've compiled a comprehensive list of all schools not requiring the SAT, as well as a list of top-tier test-optional and test-flexible colleges.
When applying to college, make sure to explore all the different policies for standardized tests.
Top-Tier Schools That De-emphasize the SAT
In this section, we've listed 320+ top-tier liberal arts colleges and 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.
By top tier, we mean any school ranked among the top 250 on the US News lists for best liberal arts colleges, best national universities, best regional universities, or best regional colleges. All schools are numbered according to their ranking and region.
Take a look and see if any schools you're interested in are on these lists! Since they are quite long, you can also search directly for a school of interest with the ctrl + F function on your keyboard.
|National Liberal Arts Colleges|
|5. Bowdoin College (ME)||5. Middlebury College (VT)||11. Smith College (MA)|
|16. Hamilton College (NY)||18. Colby College (ME)||18. Wesleyan University (CT)|
|22. University of California (CA)||22. Bates College (ME)||27. Colorado College (CO) "Test Flexible"|
|27. Bryn Mawr (PA)||30. Mount Holyoke College (MA)||33. Scripps College (CA)|
|35. College of the Holy Cross (MA)||36. Bucknell University (PA)||36. Franklin and Marshall College (PA)|
|39. Union College (NY)||41. Pitzer College (CA)||41. Skidmore College (NY)|
|43. Denison University (OH)||43. Whitman College (WA)||46. Connecticut College (CT)|
|49. Trinity College (CT)||49. Gettysburg College (PA)||49. Sewanee--University of the South (TN)|
|46. Agnes Scott College (GA)||51. Dickinson College (PA)||51. Furman University (SC)|
|56. Bard College (NY)||56. DePauw University (IN)||58. Lawrence University (WI)|
|56. Saint Lawrence University (NY)||61. Saint John's College (MD)||62. St. Olaf College (MN)|
|65. Kalamazoo College (MI)||69. Beloit College (WI)||68. Hobart and William Smith Colleges (NY)|
|68. Knox College (IL)||68. Lewis and Clark (OR)||72. Saint John's College (NM)|
|76. Lewis and Clark (OR)||72. University of Puget Sound (WA)||72. Wofford College (MA)|
|76. Allegheny College (PA)||76. Transylvania University (KY)||76. Willamette University (OR)|
|79. Indiana University (IN)||81. Cornell College (IA)||81. Earlham College (IN)|
|81. Muhlenberg College (PA)||86. Juniata College (PA)||86. Wheaton College (MA)|
|90. Gustavus Adolphus (MN)||90. Ursinus College (PA)||90. Southwestern University (TX)|
|95. Augustana College (IL)||95. Bennington College (VT)||95. College of the Atlantic (ME)|
|95. Ohio Wesleyan University (OH)||95. St. Anselm College (NH)||95. St. Mary's College (IN)|
|103. Austin College (TX)||103. Lake Forest College (IL)||103. Washington & Jefferson College (PA)|
|108. Linfield College (OR)||108. Washington College (MD)||108. Whitter College (CA)|
|113. Elizabethtown College (PA)||113. Hanover College (IN)||116. Drew University (NJ)|
|116. Goucher College (MD)||116. Marlboro College (VT)||116. St. Michael's College (VT)|
|120. Ripon College (WI)||121. McDaniel College (MD)||124. Stonehill College (MA)|
|127. Presbyterian College (SC)||127. Sweet Briar College (VA)||131. Birmingham-Southern College (AL)|
|131. College of Idaho (ID)||131. Lycoming College (PA)||132. Salem College (NC)|
|135. Roanoke College (VA)||135. Siena College (NY)||135. Simpson College (IA)|
|135. Susquehanna University (PA)||143. Alma College (MI)||143. Houghton College (NY)|
|143. Illinois College (IL)||143. Warren Wilson College (NC)||155. Doane University (NB)|
|155. Elmira College (NY)||155. Hiram College (OH)||155. William Jewell College (MO)|
|162. Northland College (WI)||168. Guilford College (NC)||168. Wittenberg University (OH)|
|172. Purchase College—SUNY (NY)||185. Ohio University (OH)|
|3. University of Chicago (IL)||27. Wake Forest University (NC)||30. New York University (NY) "Test Flexible"|
|33. University of Rochester (NY) "Test Flexible)||34. Brandeis University (MA)||49. Univ. of Texas – Austin (TX) "Top 8%"|
|49. Worcester Polytechnic Institute (MA)||63. George Washington University (DC)||66. Clark University (MA)|
|66. Texas A&M University (TX) "Top 10%"||78. American University (DC)||81. Marquette University (WI)|
|89. University of Delaware (DE)||91. University of San Diego (CA)||96. University of Denver (CO)|
|96. University of San Francisco (CA)||102. Drexel University (PA) "Test Flexible"||104. University of Oregon (OR)|
|106. Temple University (PA)||106. University of Arizona (AZ)||106. University of New Hampshire|
|115. Arizona State University (AZ)||119. DePaul University (IL)New School (NY)||119. Duquesne University (PA)|
|129. The Catholic University of America (DC)||129. Univ. Texas—Dallas (TX) "Top 10%"||132. University of Dayton (OH)|
|136. George Mason University (VA)||140. Hofstra University (NY)||140. Washington State University (WA) "Top 10%"|
|147. Kansas State University (KS)||152. University of Mississippi (MS)||152. St. John's University (NY)|
|153. Thomas Jefferson University (PA)||157. University of Massachusetts—Lowell (MA)||157. Virginia Commonwealth University (VA)|
|165. New School (NY)||169. Montclair State University (NJ)||171. Ball State University (MA)|
|171. Rowan University (NJ)||171. University of Houston (TX) "Top 10%"||177. Pace University (NY)|
|177. Maryville University of Saint Louis (MO)||177. Mississippi State University (MS)||183. Immaculata University (PA)|
|183. Lesley University (MA)||187. Texas Tech University (TX) "Top 10%"||191. University of Massachusetts—Boston (MA)|
|194. University of Hartford (CT)||197. Illinois State University (IL)||201. University of Nevada—Reno (NV)|
|205. Azusa Pacific University (CA)||205. California State University—Fresno (CA)||215. Old Dominion University (VA)|
|215. University of Alaska—Fairbanks (AK)||215. University of Massachusetts—Dartmouth (MA)||218. University of New Mexico (NM)|
|221. California State University—Fullerton (CA)||221. University of Texas—Arlington (TX)||226. South Dakota State University (SD)|
|226. University of South Dakota (SD)|
The majority of college applicants are high school seniors, and most of the college application advice out there is aimed at them. But what do you do if you don't fall into this narrow category? Our eBook on how to prepare for and apply to college as a nontraditional student will walk you through everything you need to know, from the coursework you should have under your belt to how to get letters of recommendation when you're not a high school senior.
|Regional Universities North|
|1. Fairfield University (CT)||2. Providence College (RI)||5. Loyola University (MD)|
|6. Emerson College (MA)||6. University of Scranton (PA)||8. Marist College (NY)|
|9. Ithaca College (NY)||10. Bryant University (RI)||12. Saint Joseph's University (PA)|
|13. Quinnipiac University (CT)||17. Le Moyne College (NY)||24. Lebanon Valley College (PA)|
|25. Endicott College (MA)||28. Assumption College (MA)||28. Salve Regina Universtiy (RI)|
|28. Springfield College (MA)||32. Mount Aloysius College (PA)||35. La Salle Universtiy (PA)|
|35. Nazareth College (NY)||35. Rider University (NJ)||35. Sacred Heart University (CT)|
|35. Stockton University (NJ)||43. Hood College (MD)||43. Roger Williams University (RI)|
|43. Wagner College (NY)||50. Merrimack (MA)||50. Seton Hill University (PA)|
|55. DeSales University (PA)||55. King's College (PA)||55. University of Saint Joseph (CT)|
|62. Chatham University (PA)||62. Fairleigh Dickinson University (NJ)||62. Wentworth Institute of Technology (MA)|
|68. Mercyhurst University (PA)||74. Eastern University (PA)||74. Johnson & Wales University (RI)|
|74. Norwich University (VT)||74. University of New England (ME)||81. Champlain College (VT)|
|81. Keene State University (NH)||81. Notre Dame of Maryland University (MD)||81. Saint Peter's University (NJ)|
|87. Salisbury University (MD)||87. SUNY Potsdam (NY)||90. Monroe College (NY)|
|93. Eastern Connecticut State University (CT)||93. Roberts Wesleyan University (NY)||93. The Sage College (NY)|
|93. William Paterson University (NJ)||93. University of New Haven (CT)||99. Albertus Magnus College (CT)|
|99. College of Saint Rose (NY)||99. Elms College (MA)||99. Manhattanville College (NY)|
|103. Millersville University of Pennsylvania (PA)||105. Bay Path University (MA)||105. Point Park University (PA)|
|112. Keuka College (NY)||112. Southern New Hampshire University (NH)||117. Bridgewater State University (MA)|
|120. Utica College (NY)||123. Framingham State University (MA)||126. Lasell College (MA)|
|126. Rosemont College (PA)||132. Cabrini University (PA)||132. Daemon College (NY)|
|132. Plymouth State University (NH)||137. Fitchburg State University (MA)|
|Regional Universities Midwest|
|1. Taylor University (IN)||1. Butler University (IN)||1. Creighton University (NE)|
|3. Drake University (IA)||7. University of Evansville (IL)||8. Xavier University (OH)|
|13. Baldwin-Wallace College (OH)||17. Nebraska Wesleyan (NB)||20. Augsburg University (MN)|
|20. Drury University (MO)||23. Rockhurst University (MO)||32. Robert Morris University (IL)|
|47. College of Saint Scholastica (MN)||58. Walsh University (OH)||65. McKendree University (IL)|
|86. Northwest Missouri State University (MO)||88. MidAmerica Nazarene University (KS)||90. Ohio Dominican University (OH)|
|90. Southeast Missouri State University (MO)||90. Wayne State College (NE)||94. Concordia University (MN)|
|94. Ferris State University (MI)||101. Northern State University (SD)||106. Emporia State University (KS)|
|115. Sienna Heights University (MI)||117. Indiana Tech (IN)||118. Dakota State University (SD)|
|Regional Universities South|
|2. Rollins College (FL)||5. Stetson University (FL)||6. James Madison University|
|10. Christopher Newport University (VA)||14. Asbury University (KY)||15. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (FL)|
|18 . Queens University of Charlotte (NC)||19. University of Mary Washington (VA)||27. Hampton University (VA)|
|46. Radford University (VA)||47. Brenau University (GA)||47. St. Leo University (FL)|
|52. Columbia College (SC)||56. Jacksonville University (FL)||56. Keiser University (FL)|
|58. Marymount University (VA)||58. Mississippi University for Women (MS)||71. King University (TN)|
|78. Pfeiffer University (NC)||78. Virginia State University (VA)||85. St. Thomas University (FL)|
|91. University of Charleston (WV)||100. Lynn Univeristy (FL)||102. Arkansas Tech (AR)|
|Regional Universities West|
8. Whitworth University (WA)
23. Pacific Lutheran University (WA)
25. Dominican University of California
26. California State Univ.—Long Beach (CA)
28. California State Polytechnic—Pomona (CA)
28. University of Saint Thomas (TX)
33. San Jose State University (CA)
34. California State Univ.—Monterey Bay (CA)
35. Evergreen State College (WA)
41. California State Univ.—Chico (CA)
41. Hardin-Simmons University (TX)
44. Walla Walla University (WA)
48. California State Univ.—Stanislaus (CA)
52. California State Univ.—Los Angeles (CA)
52. Northwest Nazarene University (ID)
54. California State Univ.—San Bernardino (CA)
54. Humboldt State University (CA)
54. La Sierra University (CA)
59. Texas A&M Int'l Univ. (TX) "Top 10%"
59. Woodbury University (CA)
63. Western Oregon University (OR)
64. Alaska Pacific University (AK)
64. Sonoma State University (CA)
69. California State Univ.—Sacramento (CA)
69. Hawaii Pacific University (HI)
73. California State Univ.—Channel Islands (CA)
73. California State Univ.—Northridge (CA)
75. Stephen F. Austin University (TX) "Top 10%"
77. Eastern Washington University (WA)
81. University of Alaska—Anchorage (AK)
81. University of Texas—Tyler (TX)
81. West Texas A&M University (TX)
85. California State Univ.—San Marcos (CA)
85. Oklahoma Wesleyan University (OK)
88. California State Univ.--Dominguez Hills (CA)
88. University of Texas—Permian Basin (TX)
91. Prescott College (AZ)
94. California State Univ.—Bakersfield (CA)
94. Midwestern State University (TX)
|Regional Colleges North|
|7. Colby-Sawyer College (NH)||9. University of Maine—Farmington (ME)||11. Cazenovia College (NY)|
|12. Pennsylvania College of Technology (PA)||14. Paul Smith College (NY)||16. Unity College (ME)|
|16. Wilson College (PA)||18. SUNY College of Technology—Delhi (NY)||19. Vermont Technical College (VT)|
|22. Concordia College (NY)||23. Dean College (MA)||25. Southern Vermont College (VT)|
|26. University of Valley Forge (PA)||29. Keystone College (PA)||31. University of Maine—Presque Isle (ME)|
|34. University of Maine—Fort Kent (ME)|
|Regional Colleges Midwest|
|4. Augustana University (SD)||26. Manchester University (IN)||30. Dunwoody College of Technology (MN)|
|36. University of Minnesota—Crookston (MN)||44. Ottawa University (KS)||48. Olivet College (MI)|
|52. Dickinson State University (ND)||56. Midland University (NB)||58. Grace Christian University (MI)|
|Regional Colleges South|
|1. High Point University (SC)||2. Flagler College (FL)||3. University of the Ozarks (AR)|
|4. Catawba College (NC)||13. Welch College (TN)||18. Belmont Abbey College (NC)|
|20. Florida Memorial University (FL)||22. University of the Holy Cross (LA)||27. Lees-McRae College (NC)|
|33. South Florida State College (FL)||34. Bennett College (NC)||40. Brevard College (NC)|
|45. Point University (GA)||52. Everglades University (FL)||52. Georgia Gwinnett College (GA)|
|55. Warner University (FL)||55. Pensacola State College (FL)||56. Eastern Kentucky University (KY)|
|Regional Colleges West|
|1. Carroll College (MT)||3. California State Univ.-- Maritime (CA)||5. Oregon Institute of Technology (OR)|
|15. Marymount California University (CA)||17. East Texas Baptist University (TX)||21. University of Hawaii--Oahu (HI)|
|22. Cogswell College (CA)||24. Southwestern Christian University (OK)||26. Dixie State University (UT)|
You might notice that national liberal arts colleges are more likely to have test-optional policies than national research universities are. 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.
However, most prestigious universities (in the top 50) still require the SAT. This includes Ivy League schools like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton; and many other top private schools like Stanford and Duke.
It's important to know the SAT policies of schools long before you actually 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.
Comprehensive List of Schools That De-emphasize the SAT
Beyond the top schools above, we've also prepared a comprehensive document listing all schools that de-emphasize the SAT. Click the icon below to see the complete list!
What Should You Do With These Test-Optional Lists?
Now that you have a sense of all the schools with test-optional or text-flexible admissions policies, what should you do next? Consider these four tips for moving forward in the college application process.
#1: Do Your Own Fact Checking
Since admissions processes are complex and unique to each school, it falls on you to thoroughly explore the policies of all the colleges you're interested in.
As mentioned above, if you can't find a detailed explanation on the college's website, don't hesitate to call an admissions officer and ask directly. This is also a question you could bring to your college visits, as long as you answer it early enough to give yourself enough time for test prep.
#2: Take the SAT or ACT to Keep Your Options Open
Your college list is almost certainly going to change throughout junior and even senior year. Don't limit yourself prematurely by ruling out the SAT, as you'll want to keep your options open.
Think about it: you wouldn't want to fall in love with a 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 and prepping should begin at least by early junior year, and it's very unlikely that you'll have your college list finalized by then. As you plan out your schedule, visit our resources on when you should start prepping for the SAT and what the best test dates are for you.
#3: Consider Applying to Many Schools
On a similar note, it isn't wise to limit yourself to certain schools just so you can avoid taking the SAT. The fit of the college—from its academics and extracurricular opportunities to its campus and culture—are much more important factors in determining where you'll be spending the four years 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 useful to you throughout your academic and professional careers.
#4: Analyze the Strength of Your Application
If you're applying to colleges that do not require the SAT or that have test-flexible options, it'll help you to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses. Have you achieved (or will you be able to get) 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 in your benefit. By making an informed and intentional decision, you have the power to shape the story you tell to admissions officers.
Want to find out more about test-optional schools specifically? Check out our in-depth guide to see all 500+ test-optional schools, and get tips on whether to apply to them or not.
Even among universities that do require SAT scores, there's some variation in how they look at your scores. Check out the full list of colleges that superscore the SAT, and learn how this info could completely transform your approach to test prep.
Exploring your standardized testing options? Many colleges also superscore the ACT. Click here for the full list and for strategies on how to get your best ACT score.
Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points? We've written a guide about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:
Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!
Rebecca graduated with her Master's in Adolescent Counseling from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has years of teaching and college counseling experience and is passionate about helping students achieve their goals and improve their well-being. She graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University and scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT.