Top Colleges That Don’t Require SATs

Taking tests can be a source of anxiety for many people, causing them to freeze when they think of applying to colleges. Are you one of those people who fear following your dream because of test anxiety? You don’t have to be afraid. Many colleges do not require the SAT. We look at some colleges that do not require the SAT you can consider for your academic career.

What is the SAT?

The first step in getting over your fear of the SAT is to understand what the test is and why colleges require the test. The SAT is the Scholastic Aptitude Test. Colleges and universities use SAT results to consider students during the admissions process. An organization called the College Board administers the SAT. Not all colleges require the SAT and may give you a choice between taking the SAT or the ACT (American College Testing), a test the American College Testing organization administers. Students usually take the SAT in the winter of their junior year of high school, giving students time to take the test again if they don’t pass in time for applying to college.

Is There Another Way?

Yes, there are alternatives to the SAT. Several colleges are dropping the SAT or modifying its use to better reflect student talents and academic strengths. Dropping or modifying the SAT comes from a debate about how accurately the SAT measures students’ academic and intellectual abilities. Some in higher education debate whether the test is too narrow about the skills it assesses. Others point to test anxiety in creating lower test scores that do not reflect student accomplishments and skills. Furthermore, there are the questions of whether the SAT is relevant to how students perform with school work. Some point to the income and racial discrepancies in SAT scores from lower funded school districts. Finally, the COVID pandemic has caused some schools to change their SAT policies for a limited time.

Test-Optional SAT Alternatives

Finding colleges that do not require the SAT can save you time and money. Your SAT alternatives are optional, flexible, test-blind and limited time. A test-optional policy allows you to send your SAT scores to a school. The schools that don’t require SAT scores are SAT-optional schools. For these schools, you can decide if taking and sending SAT scores will help you enter the school. Universities will have either limited time or permanent test-optional SAT scores. Some examples:

  • Cornell University is test-optional through the high school class of 2024
  • Harvard University is test-optional through the high school class of 2026. 
  • Princeton, Columbia, Yale, and CalTech are all test-optional through 2023.

Some permanent test-optional universities and colleges include:

  • Brandeis University
  • Bryn Mawr College
  • Mount Holyoke College

SAT Flexible Schools

Schools that don’t require SAT scores are often flexible schools that require you to send test scores but allow different options such as waiving test scores if you meet a minimum grade point average (GPA), while other schools may allow you to send Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) scores. Universities such as the University of Washington, Cornell University and Yale University are SAT-flexible schools that accept scores such as Advanced Placement.

SAT Test-Blind Policies

Colleges that have test-blind policies do not require you to send SAT scores. When you are looking for colleges that do not require the SAT, these may be permanent or for a limited time. Some high-ranking universities and colleges that are test-blind are the Universities of California and California State Universities statewide system. For students in California and those wanting to study in California, these state schools no longer require the SAT and the ACT.

The college admissions office of these schools put more emphasis on GPA and extracurriculars rather than test scores instead of the SAT. Admissions essays where students can express themselves are also part of the new admissions requirements for these schools and others foregoing the SAT as well as other tests. Online classes often forego the SAT, such as the University of the People, which doesn’t require any standardized test results.

COVID Pandemic SAT Exceptions

Colleges that don’t require test scores are temporarily allowing suspension of the SAT. Taking the SAT during the pandemic has become difficult. Testing sites have closed down or have limited hours, there is a shortage of proctors for the tests and many students are facing financial hardship due to the pandemic downturn in the economy With these difficulties in mind, colleges and universities such as have temporarily suspended the need for SAT testing and scores. Moreover, colleges and universities that have suspended testing are moving toward permanent suspension of the test due to the test being unnecessary. For some schools such as Yale, Princeton and Cornell, these schools are suspending the test for another year. Instead of SAT testing, Cornell will use other measures of student admissions, such as challenging courses and excellent grades.

What You Need Instead of the SAT?

Schools such as Cornell, when you are trying to find colleges that do not require the SAT have specific guidelines. The school advises students to pursue extracurricular and other challenging learning experiences. Results from another secondary, college-preparatory and university-qualifying tests are acceptable. For Yale, the school encourages those who have taken the ACT or SAT to include their scores, “even if those scores are below the middle 50% ranges …” Applicants without scores will have a greater emphasis on other parts of the application, such as high school transcripts, recommendation letters and essays. Princeton has announced it will consider similar aspects of a student’s application.

How Do I Find Out If The School Requires The Test?

Going to a university or college website or contacting the schools directly by email or phone is one way for you to find schools that don’t require SAT scores. As testing requirements change, it’s important to find current information about testing requirements before taking the SAT. Applying to a school can also be expensive, so knowing testing requirements is essential before you apply. There are also online places listing all of the schools that do not require it. One good place to check is the Test Score Optional List at FairTest.

What Is FairTest?

The National Center for Fair and Open Testing’s mission is to advance quality education and equal opportunity in education. The organization focuses on promoting fair, open and valid evaluations of students, teachers and schools. They work to end misuses and flaws in testing practices in K-12 testing, university admissions and employment tests. At the organization, they advocate for colleges that don’t require test scores. This includes listing more than 800 colleges. For students, they promote performance-based assessments with classroom and school-based evidence of student assessment. The National Education Association and other organizations support FairTest’s work and mission.

SAT Exceptions

For some specific colleges within universities, it’s essential to know if these disciplines require SAT. For example, Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Architecture, Art and Planning, SC Johnson College of Business – Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and its hotel administration college do not require SAT scores. Others such as its College of Arts & Sciences and its College of Engineering are SAT optional. Several universities have similar college requirements.

Can You Take the Test Regardless?

If you want to take the SAT anyway to colleges that don’t require test scores, you may do so. If you have a good SAT score it can only help enhance your college application. You must, however, balance the cost, time and effort of taking the test against what benefits you may not get from taking the test. A university or college that emphasizes extracurricular activities such as volunteer work, grades, essay strength or other criteria may not consider your SAT scores as part of the decision-making process. It’s important to know each college’s or university’s admission policies before you spend the money, time and effort to study for and take the SAT exams.

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