The Best Test-Optional Colleges

student researching test optional colleges in the US
August 28, 2023


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 05/07/23

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 test 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 extended their test-optional policies. To help you identify these schools, we have compiled a list of the best test-optional colleges.

Let’s get started!

Top 15 Test-Optional Colleges

Here’s our list of the top test-optional colleges.

1. Dartmouth College

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 for the 2023-2024 application cycles.

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

2. Brown University

Brown University has also decided to continue its test-optional policy for the 2023-2024 admission cycle. Brown emphasizes the importance at 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

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

Columbia University adopted this policy to further pmphasize the value of a holistic approach and reduce the barrier of standized 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

Cornell University is another school that has decided to extend its test-optional policy into the fall of 2024. 

Certain colleges at Cornell, like the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, will not even accept test scores for students looking to attend their school. This means that you do not have to spend time preparing for  the SAT or creating a study plan for the ACT. Instead, you can concentrate on securing a high GPA and doing well in your AP or IB exams.

The College of Arts and Science, however, allows you to submit test scores, but does not require it. With this test-optional policy, Cornell lets students decide for themselves, which can benefit those who might have difficulty with test-taking.

5. Emory University

Emory University does not require test scores to be submitted for students who are applying for entry in the fall of 2024. Emory will base their decisions on other factors, including the extracurriculars you participated in, the advanced classes you took, and your overall academic achievements.

Also, as a way of showing their commitment to their own test-optional policy, they do not require applicants to explain why they are not submitting test scores. This means that students should not feel pressured to submit their test scores despite them being a test-optional college.

Emory’s test-optional policy allows students to decide whether or not to submit strandardized test scores, recognizing that such scores do not always reflect a student’s academic potential or preparation. 

Emory encourages students to make the decision that is best for them and emphasizes that not submitting test scores will not be viewed as a disadvantage in the admissions process. This approach has made Emory one of the best test-optional schools, attracting a diverse pool of applicants and promoting a more holistic evaluation of candidates.

6. New York University

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

If you are applying to Amherst College for the fall of 2023 or 2024, 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 student 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

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

One of the best test-optional colleges is Harvard University. Harvard has suspended the need for students to submit their test scores, though students are encouraged to do so if their scores will give added benefit to their overall application.

Harvard also no longer requires SAT Subject Tests or the writing portion of either the SAT or ACT, which can make the whole process easier for students.

When students are able to simply concentrate on completing the regular SAT, they are more likely to have a higher score and thus prove their readiness for college. 

10. University of Virginia

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 2023 or the fall of 2024.

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.

11. University of California

Whether you’re interested in applying to UCLA, UC Berkeley, or UC Davis, you’ll be glad to know that the University of California’s family of schools has adopted a permanent “test blind” policy. They will not consider test scores when deciding on admissions or when awarding scholarships.

They also allow students to submit test scores but will only look at them if one of the other requirements is lacking. For example, if you have a slightly low GPA, but good test scores, then they might decide to accept you based on the combined information. For all other circumstances, they will not look at test scores.

12. Rice University

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

Northwestern University will continue to be test-optional through the fall of 2023 and 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 of submitting your test scores, meaning the student is free to choose what is best for them.

14. Duke University

Duke University is another school that has decided to be test-optional for the 2023 application cycle. 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

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.

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, with a good academic standing while also being 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.

In order 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 was having 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 2023?

Yes, colleges are still test optional for 2023.

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

Overall, there are 1,843 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. 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 in your decision and made the application process a little easier.

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