Colleges That Don’t Require SAT or ACT

test optional header image
August 28, 2023
6 min read


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/4/22

Since their popularity in the 1930s and 1960s, respectively, the SAT and ACT have been standard rites of passage for aspiring college students. But, this changed within the last couple of years, as over a thousand schools adopted a test-optional policy. To learn more about colleges that don’t require SAT or ACT scores for admission, read on! 

In the past, college admissions have largely been numbers games. Students required competitive GPAs and standardized test scores to get into their dream colleges. Their SAT/ACT scores, in particular, were used to determine their preparedness for college.

In recent years, as colleges have realized single scores do not represent students’ full potential on their own, they have become test-optional.

In an attempt to create more equitable and accessible applications that attract a more diverse pool, many colleges no longer consider standardized test scores in their admissions process. 

Ultimately, the choice to submit these scores is left to each student, and none will be disadvantaged. If you’re dreading writing these exams or simply feel they cannot accurately capture your academic excellence, read on to find out the top colleges that don’t require SAT or ACT scores!

Top Colleges That Don’t Require the SAT or ACT

The top college giants, such as Harvard, are notorious for their rigorous admission standards. With past admitted applicants having a median SAT score of 1510 and a median ACT score of 34, these numbers alone can be enough to scare students away from the application. 

But here's the good news! Many of these top colleges have embraced a test-optional approach, so you won't have to miss out on a top-notch education just because you don't have the right standardized scores! Here are 15 of the highest-ranking test-optional schools:

Princeton University

The best college in the nation is test-optional! Princeton University, located in Princeton, New Jersey, is renowned for its academic excellence, historic prestige, and vibrant campus community. Princeton offers a comprehensive range of undergraduate and graduate programs across various disciplines. 

The university is known for its rigorous academics, world-class faculty, and commitment to research and innovation. It is also regarded as a highly selective university, with a low acceptance rate of 5.8%! With its test-optional policy, however, admission to this esteemed university should be less intimidating!

Princeton campus

Harvard University

As one of the world's most prestigious universities, Harvard offers a wide array of undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs to its prospective students. The university boasts an exceptional faculty composed of leading scholars, researchers, and industry experts who foster a stimulating intellectual environment. 

Harvard's commitment to innovation and cutting-edge research is reflected in its state-of-the-art facilities and extensive resources, which very few students are granted access to each year. In fact, with an acceptance rate of 3.4%, Harvard aims to admit only the brightest students! Its test-optional policy will be in place until at least 2026.

Harvard campus

Yale University

As one of the Ivy League schools, it should come as no surprise that Yale has a low acceptance rate of 4.4%. However, considering this school’s extensive resources, including the Yale University Library, which is the largest in the world, it may come as a surprise that Yale does not require the SAT or ACT for admission.

While Yale encourages applicants that have written the SAT or ACT to still submit their scores if they are below their medians, those who do not submit scores will still be fairly assessed. Keep in mind if you do choose to forfeit writing one of these exams, greater weight will be placed on the rest of your application.

Yale campus

The University of Chicago 

The University of Chicago, located in the bustling city of Chicago, is widely recognized for its rigorous academics, intellectual curiosity, and lively campus culture. It offers students a challenging academic environment and ample research opportunities.

This university is also committed to academic freedom and expression, which fosters a stimulating community that values rigorous debate and the exploration of unconventional ideas! 

Despite its extensive admissions standards and a selective acceptance rate of 5%, the University of Chicago implemented a test-optional policy to accommodate students that feel the SAT/ACT cannot fully capture their potential. 

Chicago sculpture

Johns Hopkins University

Known for its world-class academics and cutting-edge research, Johns Hopkins is a hot spot for students eager to make their mark. With top-ranked programs in fields like medicine, public health, engineering, and more, Johns Hopkins offers a diverse range of opportunities for all of their students.

While they have high expectations of their students, which only about 8% of applicants actually meet, they recognize that greatness can’t be captured by a single score. Due to this, and the continued impact COVID-19 has on the availability and access to standardized testing, Johns Hopkins remains test-optional until 2026

med student

University of Pennsylvania 

UPenn is not your ordinary Ivy League institution—it's a tight-knit community bursting with energy and creativity. With its commitment to diversity, you'll meet students from all walks of life, bringing their unique perspectives and passions to the table.

You'll have access to exceptional resources and renowned faculty members who are at the forefront of their fields. This university is also ideally located in Philadelphia, offering a wealth of opportunities for internships, networking, and exploration!

Until at least the 2023-2024 application cycle, UPenn is test-optional, which may make it easier for you to make it into the 4.1% of applicants that are offered admission to this school. 

UPenn campus
Source: UPenn

Duke University

From their renowned programs in engineering, business, law, and the sciences to their strong liberal arts curriculum, there's something for everyone at Duke University!

If you’re interested in research, Duke’s students have access to cutting-edge facilities and opportunities to work alongside faculty on groundbreaking projects. To join the 6% of students that are granted access to these resources, you’ll have to submit several application materials, but not SAT or ACT scores!

Science student

Northwestern University

As another one of the highly reputable and selective colleges in the nation, Northwestern has an acceptance rate of 7%. However, if you’re able to make it into this 7%, prepare to be immersed in a thriving community of innovation, collaboration, and boundless opportunities. 

Northwestern is considered to be an academic powerhouse. From its renowned journalism and communication programs to its prestigious schools of engineering, business, and more, the university offers a diverse range of disciplines to explore. 

Its emphasis on interdisciplinary learning also allows students to connect ideas and perspectives across fields, allowing them to receive a well-rounded education.

Submission of your SAT or ACT scores to Northwestern will be optional until at least the 2023-2024 admission cycle.

Northwestern campus
Source: Northwestern University

Dartmouth College

Dartmouth college
Source: Dartmouth College

For students that enjoy that small-town feel, Dartmouth is nestled in the cozy town of Hanover, New Hampshire, offering students the comforts of a close-knit community and the resources of a large university. 

Dartmouth allows its undergraduate applicants to choose whether or not to submit their SAT or ACT scores, providing a more holistic approach when evaluating their qualifications for admission. 

Considering its 6% acceptance rate, this can be a relief for students as they can spend this extra time and effort honing the other parts of their application and maintaining a high GPA. 

Brown University 

Brown university
Source: Brown University 

At Brown, you'll find a community that celebrates diversity and encourages interdisciplinary learning. With the freedom to design your own academic path through their open curriculum, you can explore a range of subjects and tailor your education to your interests and goals. 

Brown embraces individuality and urges its students to forge their own paths. Part of this celebration of diversity and individuality is creating a fair admissions process, which is why Brown University is remaining test-optional for the 2023-2024 admissions cycle

Like the other schools mentioned, Brown is competitive, with an acceptance rate of 5%.

Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt campus
Source: Vanderbilt University

Another college that doesn’t require SAT or ACT scores is Vanderbilt. With an acceptance rate of 7%, students will be pleased to know they can skip writing either of these exams to get into this school!

Once you’ve gained admission to Vanderbilt, you can benefit from its robust academic programs, experienced faculty, and small class sizes that allow for personalized attention and meaningful interactions with your professors and peers. 

Beyond academics, Vanderbilt offers a rich and diverse array of extracurricular activities and a vibrant and inclusive school community.

Rice University

At Rice University, get ready to be part of a close-knit community that values curiosity, creativity, and diversity. Rice offers a range of programs across disciplines, including STEM fields, humanities, social sciences, and the arts. 

It is also located in the fourth-largest city in the United States, Houston, giving students access to unparalleled career opportunities and connections. Students that do not submit SAT or ACT scores with their application will still be given full consideration to join the 7.7% of applicants that are typically offered admission to Rice University.

Rice University city

Cornell University

What sets Cornell apart is its unique blend of academic rigor and interdisciplinary collaboration. With its Ivy League status and renowned professional schools, Cornell provides a well-rounded education that prepares students to make a difference in the world.

While Cornell’s acceptance rate of 7% may deter you from applying to this school, knowing you do not have to submit your SAT or ACT scores to be considered for admission may urge you to reconsider!

Cornell labels some of its schools as “score-free,” meaning scores are not accepted at all, and some as test-optional, meaning scores will only be reviewed if submitted.

Cornell building

Columbia University

With its iconic campus and spirited urban setting, Columbia offers a unique college experience that combines intellectual rigor with the energy of the Big Apple. At Columbia, you'll find a diverse and talented community of students and faculty who are passionate about making their mark on the world. 

This school is regarded as an intellectual hub where students are encouraged to push boundaries and challenge the status quo. It offers a myriad of academic opportunities that cater to a wide range of interests. Columbia has an acceptance rate of 3.9% and continues to be test-optional until 2024.


University of Notre Dame

Lastly, among the hundreds of colleges that don’t require SAT or ACT scores is the University of Notre Dame. This school is known for its stunning campus, with its iconic Golden Dome, Gothic architecture, and sprawling green spaces. Notre Dame’s faith-based values permeate its academics, extracurriculars, and community. 

This school has an 11.9% acceptance rate. For the 2023-2024 application cycle, Notre Dame is test-optional.

University of Notre Damme
Source: University of Notre Dame

Other Schools That Don’t Require SAT or ACT Scores For Admission

We’ve listed the top-ranking colleges that don’t require SAT or ACT scores to prove you can even get into the Ivy Leagues without writing any standardized test! If you’re set on applying to a test-optional school, here are 25 more options for you!

School Test-Optional Policy Duration
University of California Until at least 2023-2024
Carnegie Mellon University Until at least 2024
Emory University Until at least 2024
New York University Until at least 2023-2024
University of Michigan Until at least 2024
University of Southern California Until at least 2023-2024
University of Virginia Until at least 2025
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Until at least 2024
Wake Forest University Indefinitely
Tufts University Until at least 2027
Boston College Until at least 2023-2024
University of Rochester Until at least 2023-2024
University of Texas at Austin Until at least 2023-2024
University of Wisconsin Until at least 2025
Boston University Until at least 2026
School Test-Optional Policy Duration
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Until at least 2023-2024
William & Mary University Indefinitely
Brandeis University Indefinitely
Case Western Reserve University Until at least 2024
Northeastern University Until at least 2023-2024
Tulane University Until at least 2023-2024
The Ohio State University Until at least 2025
Lehigh University Until at least 2023-2024
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Until at least 2024
Villanova University Until at least 2023-2024

Hopefully, seeing how many excellent universities don’t require the SAT or ACT can alleviate some of your stress and make the application process less daunting! Ensure you also keep updated with each of these schools in case their test-optional policies change during your admission cycle!

FAQs: Schools That Don’t Require SAT or ACT

For any lingering questions about colleges that don’t require SAT or ACT scores, read on to find your answers.

1. What Online Colleges Don’t Require SAT or ACT?

There are plenty of online colleges that don’t require SAT or ACT scores, but here are the top five universities that are test-optional and well-known for their online degrees:

All of these schools have extended their test-optional policies to at least the 2023-2024 admissions cycle!

2. Is the SAT Still Required for 2023?

While there are hundreds of colleges that don’t require SAT scores, there are still many that do. The SAT and ACT are still regarded as the best way to assess a student’s potential to succeed in college by certain colleges.

As such, it’s imperative you do your research and look into the application requirements for all of the schools you want to apply to. Even if the majority are test-optional, if just one isn’t, you’ll need to write the SAT!

3. Do Most Colleges Still Require SAT or ACT?

Most colleges are test-optional for the foreseeable future. There are far fewer colleges that require the SAT/ACT than those that do not!

4. Should I Still Submit My Test Scores If a School Is Test-Optional?

The decision to submit test scores is entirely up to you. If you believe your scores accurately represent your abilities and can strengthen your application, it may be beneficial to submit them. However, if you feel that your scores do not reflect your true potential or your application is strong without them, you do not need to submit them.

5. Will Not Submitting Test Scores Affect My Chances of Admission?

Test-optional schools evaluate applicants holistically, considering various aspects of their application. Not submitting test scores will not put you at a disadvantage.

Admissions committees will focus on other factors, such as your academic record, supplemental essays, personal statement, letters of recommendation, and extracurricular involvement, to assess your candidacy.

Final Thoughts

With so many colleges adopting test-optional policies, the admissions process is being redefined and placing greater emphasis on a student's character, achievements, and potential outside of just their academics.

Whether you choose to write one of these exams are not is ultimately up to you, but knowing you have the option can alleviate some of your stress and help you feel more in control during the nerve-wracking application process!

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