Riding the Test-Optional Wave


The term test-optional gets thrown around during college application season, but plenty of students don’t know exactly what it means or how to find out if a school offers the option. In 2015, forty-seven more schools went test optional, which means that they don’t require ACT or SAT scores from applicants, adding to the over 800 colleges and universities that already offer a test-optional application. Are some schools more likely to be test-optional? Liberal Arts colleges and plenty of large research universities have gone test-optional in recent years. Schools have cited research that giving students the option of not submitting test scores adds to student body diversity. Top-tier universities like Wesleyan University, George Washington University, Smith College and Wake Forest University, all have the option of not submitting scores.

How can you find out if schools on your list are test-optional? Check out the fairtest.org website, which has a comprehensive list of colleges and university that offer it: http://fairtest.org/university/optional, and confirm on each individual school’s website. You can also look at the admissions standards on a school’s website directly, or check with your assigned admissions counselor.

So why go test-optional? If your test scores don’t align with a school’s admissions standards, or if your project/GPA/essay might better reflect your application than your ACT/SAT score, you should consider the test-optional route. Some schools offer a portfolio option in lieu of a test score, which allows students to showcase creative work or other projects that might more accurately reflect their work in high school. Others pay more attention to the essay or extracurriculars as a result of offering the test-optional route, but don’t require anything extra.

While some schools offer the test-optional route to all applicants, others might require a high GPA or other additional items to eliminate the test score requirement. Schools like this include NYU, Portland State University and Middlebury College.


Check out some other perspectives on test-optional schools below:



Interested in applying test-optional but also want to make sure you have a strong overall application? Contact Hughes College Prep for more information and advice.