The Best Test-Optional Colleges

student researching test optional colleges in the US
Updated:
January 22, 2024
6 min read
Expert Reviewed
Contents

”Mary

Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 1/22/24

What colleges are test-optional? Below we’ll go through the top 15 test-optional colleges, so you know where you can apply with confidence.

 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, a lot of standardized test facilities were forced to close, making it difficult for students to find spots to take the required tests for college applications. As a result, many colleges adopted a test-optional policy, allowing students to be considered for admission without needing to take the SAT or ACT

Some of the top schools in the US have decided to extend their test-optional policies. To help you identify these schools, we have compiled a list of the best test-optional colleges.

Top 20 Test-Optional Colleges in 2024

Here’s our list of the top test-optional colleges. Your admission isn't just about ACT or SAT scores—find the right fit for you beyond the test scores.

1. Dartmouth College

Location: Hanover, New Hampshire

Tuition: $63,684

Dartmouth College tries to take a holistic approach to its selection process, which is why it is considered one of the best test optional colleges. Though they can choose to do so, Dartmouth applicants do not have to submit their scores.

Remaining test-optional allows Dartmouth to take a holistic approach when looking at applicants. The admissions committee takes everything from grades to extracurricular activities into consideration when determining who will be accepted.

2. Brown University

Location: Providence, Rhode Island

Tuition: $65,656

Brown University has also decided to continue its test-optional policy. Brown emphasizes the importance of looking at everything each student has to offer rather than basing their decisions on test scores. They want to look at the entirety of the student and not just their ability to take a standardized test.

Though Brown has decided to make reporting test scores optional, they do still accept test scores and will look at them if submitted by the student. That being said, Brown reports that they do not put test scores above any of their other requirements, and if you choose not to report your test scores, you will not be penalized in any way.

3. Columbia University

Location: Manhattan, New York City

Tuition: $68,400

Columbia University decided to become test-optional when the pandemic struck in 2020 and recently announced that this change would be permanent. Students applying to Columbia no longer have to take the SAT or ACT.

Columbia University adopted this policy to further emphasize the value of a holistic approach and reduce the barrier of standardized testing. 

Though you are allowed to report test scores, Columbia University has become one of the best test-optional colleges by not making it mandatory.

4. Cornell University

Location: Ithaca, New York

Tuition: 

  • Endowed Colleges: $65,204
  • State Contract Colleges (Non-NY Residents): $65,204
  • State Contract Colleges (NY Residents): $43,888 

Cornell University has extended its test-optional policy for first-year applicants applying for admission in the fall of 2024. 

Since April 2020, submitting SAT or ACT scores has not been a requirement. Notably, three colleges—Agriculture and Life Sciences, Architecture, Art, and Planning, and the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business—do not consider test scores in their admission process. 

The other five colleges, including Arts & Sciences, Engineering, Human Ecology, Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy, and the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, offer the option to submit SAT and/or ACT scores, but it's not mandatory. 

This extension takes into account ongoing COVID-19 risks during in-person testing globally. Cornell is also embarking on a two-year experimental review for future admission testing policies, collaborating with other institutions. 

5. Emory University

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

Tuition: $59,920

Emory University has extended its test-optional policy for first-year and transfer students enrolling in Fall 2024. This means applicants can choose whether to submit standardized test scores, and there's no need to justify the decision. 

The policy applies to all entry points and decision plans, and students who choose to submit scores can do so through self-reporting or official channels. 

Emory values a holistic review process, considering factors like coursework, extracurricular activities, and personal statements. For those unable to take exams, no disadvantage will occur, and Emory remains committed to fostering equity, access, and diversity in its student community while focusing on each student's full potential.

6. New York University

Location: Manhattan, New York City 

Tuition: 

  • On/Off Campus Student Tuition: $60,438
  • Commuter Student Tuition: $60,438

New York University has made it optional to report your test scores for both the fall of 2023 and 2024. 

Though students are allowed to submit their test scores, NYU makes it clear that those who do not will not be disadvantaged in any way. Students can choose which test scores to submit if they end up deciding this is what they want to do.

NYU will take either the test scores from the SAT or ACT, meaning the student even has a choice in which test to take and whether or not they submit their results. Students are able to concentrate their efforts when they have more options when it comes to test taking, which is an advantage for those applying to NYU.

7. Amherst College

Location: Amherst, Massachusetts

Tuition: $66,650

If you are applying to Amherst College, you will not have to submit your test scores. Though the admissions committee will look at your general test scores, you are not required to, and they will not accept test scores from the SAT subject tests.

Amherst College wants its future students to be able to decide what is best for them when it comes to submitting test scores or not, and places emphasis on students showing their academic achievements in other ways.

Amherst College also makes it clear that students can choose to either self-report their results or have their results officially sent to the school. If you do choose to submit your scores, they will also only look at your best results.

8. Michigan State University

Location: East Lansing, Michigan

Tuition: 

  • In-state first-year tuition: $16,051
  • Out-of-state first-year tuition: $43,435

Like Columbia, Michigan State University has decided to make its test-optional policy permanent. Test scores will not be required for admission or scholarships, meaning students applying for Michigan State University can concentrate on their other academic obligations.

When deciding on who to admit, MSU will be looking at academic courses, leadership experiences,  and letters of recommendation. They want to look at the student as a whole and not simply the score they got on a test. 

If you decide to submit your test scores, you can do so by self-reporting or providing the official results. Either way, test scores will be seen as something extra you can submit but will not be the deciding factor that gets you into Michigan State University.

9. Harvard University

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tuition: $54,269

One of the best test-optional colleges is Harvard University. For the classes of 2027-2030, Harvard allows applicants to apply without submitting standardized test scores. 

However, if you choose to submit them, you can use either the SAT or ACT, with or without the writing component. While Subject Tests are no longer offered and not required, you can still submit Subject Tests taken in the last 5 years. 

Harvard suggests that if you opt for Subject Tests, it's more helpful to choose just one mathematics test and, for non-native English speakers, a Subject Test in your first language may be less beneficial. This policy provides flexibility to applicants and reflects recent changes in the application process at Harvard.

10. University of Virginia

Location: Charlottesville, Virginia

Tuition: 

  • In state: 19,012
  • Out of state: 19,012 to 20,292 

The University of Virginia is another school that has gone test-optional since the outbreak of COVID-19. They will be test-optional for at least another two years, students will not have to submit test scores for the fall of 2024 and the fall of 2025.

The admissions committee will look at the whole student, which is why they have become test optional. That being said, they will still take your test scores if you choose to submit them.

Students are welcome to submit their test scores either through self-reporting or through the official testing website. The university emphasizes the idea of choice, saying that each student should have the choice to submit their test scores without penalty.

female student looking at phone and smiling

11. University of California

Location: Various campuses in California

Tuition: $14,436

The University of California (UC) made a significant change in 2020 by getting rid of its standardized test requirement. This means UC doesn't consider SAT or ACT scores for admissions or scholarships anymore. While you can still use test scores for minimum eligibility or course placement after getting in, they're not the main focus of admissions.

If you plan to use test scores for subject requirements or course placement, make sure to take your tests by December of your senior year. UC allows you to self-report ACT and/or SAT scores in your admission application, but you have to submit the application first without scores. 

After that, you can log in to report your scores. If you self-report a score, provide the official report when you get an admission offer from UC. This process shows UC's commitment to making admissions more inclusive and accessible.

12. Rice University

Location: Houston, Texas

Tuition: $57,210

Rice University has also made the switch to a permanent test-optional policy. This means that they will not look at test scores as one of their admission requirements anymore, placing more emphasis on the other requirements.

Rice likes to look at the whole student by looking at your overall grades, extracurricular activities, academic courses and letters of recommendation in order to decide who gets into their school.

This approach means that students hoping to attend Rice University no longer have to take the standardized test if they do not want to.

13. Northwestern University

Location: Evanston, Illinois

Tuition: $21,629

Northwestern University will continue to be test-optional through the fall of 2024. Students who are applying for the school are not required to submit their test scores, though they are allowed to submit them if they want to.

Northwestern University emphasizes the idea of giving the choice to the students applying to the school as to whether or not they submit their test scores. There are no penalties for not submitting your test scores and no advantages for submitting your test scores, meaning the student is free to choose what is best for them.

14. Duke University

Location: Durham, North Carolina

Tuition: $31,725.00

Duke University is another school that has decided to be test-optional. Students are not required to submit their test scores but can through self-reporting or through the official testing website.

Duke also no longer requires the SAT Subject Test to be taken. Students can submit their test scores if they choose, but this will not be considered when deciding which students will be admitted.

15. Princeton University

Location: Princeton, New Jersey

Tuition: $62,400

Princeton University has decided to extend its test-optional policy to the fall of 2025, giving the chance for students to gain acceptance without doing standardized tests. They will also not look at SAT Subject Test scores, meaning students can concentrate on their current courses rather than take these difficult tests.

Students can submit their test scores if they choose to, but Princeton will not place any advantage on applicants who do so. Princeton does its best to look at the whole student when deciding on acceptances.

They emphasize a student’s overall academic achievement, academic courses, extracurricular activities and letters of recommendation when deciding on students to admit. By doing this, Princeton has become one of the best test-optional colleges.

16. Rutgers University 

Location: Various campuses across New Jersey

Tuition: $13,674 - $32,436

Rutgers University, New Jersey, has test-optional and test-blind policies in place until 2025. For current high school students or those who graduated within the last two years with fewer than 12 college credits, submitting a standardized test score is optional. 

  • Camden campus: Test-optional
  • Newark campus: Test-blind
  • New Brunswick campus: Test-optional

Applicants to Camden and New Brunswick campuses can choose whether to include a test score, while Newark's admissions process does not consider standardized test scores. These policies aim to ensure a fair and inclusive admission process, acknowledging the diverse educational backgrounds of applicants.

17. Stanford University

Location: Stanford, California

Tuition: $82,308

Stanford University's test policy is clear: ACT or SAT scores are not necessary for full consideration. Both first-year and transfer students can apply without submitting these test scores, and their applications will not be disadvantaged. 

In the recent admission cycles from 2020 to 2023, Stanford accepted students who provided ACT or SAT scores as well as those who did not. This emphasizes Stanford's commitment to a holistic evaluation process that considers a variety of factors beyond standardized test scores.

18. Yale University

Location: New Haven, Connecticut

Tuition: $64,700

For fall 2024 admissions, Yale University is maintaining its test-optional policy. You can decide whether to submit ACT/SAT scores. A more permanent testing policy will be announced in the winter of 2024, influenced by recent data. 

If you have scores, even if they're below average, it's suggested to include them as they predict academic success. Without scores, emphasis shifts to transcripts, recommendations, and essays. Keep in mind that the Yale application consists of both required and optional essays

Competitive candidates, regardless of scores, demonstrate academic readiness, consistent success, and genuine intellectual curiosity.

19. Johns Hopkins University

Location: Baltimore, Maryland

Tuition: $62,840

Due to ongoing challenges with COVID-19 and testing, Johns Hopkins University is test-optional for the 2025-2026 application year. If you're applying for the classes entering in 2024, 2025, or 2026, you don't need to submit test scores for admission. Not submitting scores won't disadvantage you in the review process. 

Johns Hopkins focuses on your academic and personal journey. If you have test scores (SAT, ACT, etc.) that reflect your abilities, you can share them. They accept self-reported scores via the Common Application and Coalition on Scoir. 

If admitted and you choose to enroll, official score reports will be required. This helps make the admissions process fair and accessible, given the ongoing impact of COVID-19.

20. University of Pennsylvania

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tuition: 

  • Living On Campus: $58,620
  • Living Off Campus: $58,620
  • Living With Family: $58,620

For the 2023-24 application cycle, the University of Pennsylvania is sticking with its test-optional policy. This means you don't have to submit SAT or ACT scores when applying. 

Whether you're a first-year student, a domestic or international applicant, homeschooled, transferring, or part of QuestBridge, the university is keeping things flexible. This approach reflects their commitment to recognizing the various educational backgrounds and experiences of applicants.

female student walking on college campus

How Do Test-Optional Colleges Evaluate Applications?

Most schools that are test-optional talk about the process of evaluating students as being holistic. What this means is that they look at the whole student rather than just particular numbers in order to decide if they should gain acceptance into the school.

What test-optional colleges are looking for is students who are well-rounded, have a good academic standing, and are also engaged in their community.

In order to show a good academic standing, it is recommended to take college courses that will show your readiness for college. Having academic courses on your record is a great way of showing your commitment to learning while also showing that you will likely succeed while in college.

To show good community engagement, students must have a variety of extracurricular activities that are both school and community-based. Having a variety of different extracurriculars will demonstrate your commitment to engaging in the world around you, which is a quality that schools look for.

Your commitment to community engagement can also be demonstrated through a letter of recommendation from someone within your community. For example, having a letter from a volunteer coordinator of an organization you volunteer for is a great way to show your involvement in your community.

By providing this information, you will be able to show your readiness for college and gain acceptance to one of the best test-optional schools without having to do the standardized tests.

FAQs: Test-Optional Colleges

Still have questions about the best test-optional colleges? Here are some of our most commonly asked questions.

 1. Why Are Colleges Becoming Test-Optional?

Colleges started to become test-optional during the COVID-19 pandemic as it was clear that not everyone had the appropriate amount of access to testing centers, making it very difficult for students to take the tests. 

Schools have also found that certain populations are disadvantaged when it comes to access to testing, which means that having test scores as a requirement for applying might make those same populations disadvantaged when it comes to admissions.

2. Are Test-Optional Colleges Really Test-Optional?

Yes, test-optional really does mean that the school is test-optional. Schools do not penalize students who do not submit their test scores and try to treat everyone fairly. 

3. Are Colleges Still Test Optional For 2024?

Yes, many colleges are still test optional for 2024.

4. How Many Colleges in the US Are Test-Optional?

Overall, there are around 1900 test-optional colleges in the US.

5. Should I Submit Test Scores If Optional?

You should do what you think will be best for your application. If your test scores are going to help show your academic readiness you can submit your scores.

6. Are There Any Differences Between Test-Optional and Test-Blind Colleges?

Yes, there are differences between test-optional and test-blind colleges. Test-optional colleges let applicants decide whether to submit standardized test scores, considering them if provided.

 In contrast, test-blind colleges do not use standardized test scores in the admissions process at all, focusing solely on other application components for a fair and consistent evaluation.

7. What Are The Test-Optional Colleges In Florida?

The test-optional colleges in Florida are:

  • Jacksonville University
  • Barry University
  • Nova Southeastern University
  • Southeastern University
  • Northwest Florida State University
  • Saint Leo University
  • Florida Polytechnic University
  • Stetson University
  • Lynn University
  • Palm Beach Atlantic University
  • Keiser University
  • Eckerd College
  • Ave Maria University
  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
  • Flagler College
  • Florida Southern College
  • University of Tampa
  • St. Thomas University
  • Atlantis University
  • Southeastern College

If you're considering applying to a college in Florida, be sure to do your research and see if any of these test-optional institutions are a good fit for you.

Final Thoughts

By going through the best test-optional colleges, you should have a good idea of where you can apply if you want a choice when it comes to submitting your test scores. Hopefully, this guide has helped you make your decision and made the application process a little easier. 

If you need extra support, check out our free tool. It allows you to easily compare different universities based on your preferences, making the process of choosing the right college even more straightforward. Best of luck! 

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