The Scoop on Test-Optional Colleges

Have you heard that some colleges are test-optional? Perhaps you did but weren’t sure what it meant. In this blog, we will cover the basics you need to know and common pitfalls to avoid.


Nice Knowing You, Standardized Testing

The country seems torn on whether standardized testing is a good idea. Some states implement assessments, such as the MCAS in Massachusetts, as a requirement for graduation. But, on the flip side, more colleges are backing away from standardized testing as a way to evaluate an admission candidate. The SAT or ACT used to be required by nearly all colleges in order to be admitted. However, there has been a huge shift over the last ten years or so to de-emphasize standardized test scores in the admission process. There are a lot of education experts who criticize the SAT and ACT for its unfairness to various groups of people. For this reason and more, some colleges have decided not to require these tests as part of the admission process. The list has grown to over 1,000 colleges. Are the SAT and ACT on their way out for good?


The Fine Print

It’s absolutely essential that you check the fine-print when you hear that a school is test-optional. The only sure place to confirm each school’s test-optional policy is on that school’s website, or by talking with a member of the admission staff. Some colleges may be mostly test-optional, but require test scores for certain programs. Or, a college may be test-flexible, meaning that they require something else, such as a certain GPA, in place of test scores. Still today, the majority of colleges require the SAT or ACT as part of the admission process, so don’t get too excited yet.


Pros and Cons

It’s important to know that most test-optional colleges will weigh an applicants grades and transcript higher if that applicant doesn’t submit test scores. That means, your grades and GPA will be more heavily scrutinized and  play a larger role in the admission decision. Students whose grades are sub-par may want to submit good SAT or ACT scores to add to their application. However, if your grades are good and you feel that your SAT or ACT score isn’t a good representation of your academic ability, at a test-optional college, you have the ability to refrain from sending the scores. Test-optional colleges DO NOT penalize a student for not sending in scores. However, the increased emphasis of grades is an important consideration.


Test-optional policies allow students to decide whether to send SAT or ACT scores, or not. There should be careful consideration and each scenario for each college should be discussed with your Campus Bound counselor. For a list of test-optional colleges, go to, but again, double-check with each college.

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