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26 August 2023

4 minutes read

Top US Universities That Don’t Require SAT or ACT in 2023

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The SAT and ACT scores have been a crucial part of the college admission process for decades. Students spend months, sometimes even years, preparing for these exams, believing their scores will make or break their college applications.

However, in recent years, there has been a significant shift towards colleges and universities that do not require SAT or ACT scores for admission. This movement has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which made it difficult for many students to take the exams.

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The Test-Optional Movement

Historical Context of Test-Optional Movement

The roots of the test-optional movement can be traced back to the early 1970s when Bowdoin College in Maine decided not to require SAT scores from its applicants.

This was a revolutionary move at the time as standardized tests like the SAT and ACT were considered essential components of the college admissions process.

Over the years, a few more colleges and universities followed suit, but the movement didn’t gain significant momentum until the early 2000s.

During this period, a growing body of research started to question the predictive validity of standardized tests, and more institutions began to adopt test-optional policies.

Despite this progress, the majority of colleges and universities continued to require SAT or ACT scores until the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, which forced many institutions to reconsider their admissions requirements due to the logistical challenges posed by the pandemic. 

Reasons for Adoption of Test-Optional Policies

There are several reasons why colleges and universities have been adopting test-optional policies. First and foremost is the growing body of research suggesting that high school GPA is a better predictor of college success than standardized test scores.

Another important reason is the desire to increase diversity on campus. Standardized test scores often correlate with socio-economic status, and by making these tests optional, colleges hope to level the playing field for all applicants.

Additionally, there is a growing recognition of the stress and anxiety associated with standardized testing, and many institutions want to adopt a more holistic approach to admissions that takes into account the whole person, not just their test scores.

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Lastly, the logistical challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic have forced many colleges and universities to reconsider their admissions requirements, leading to a surge in test-optional policies. 

Impact of COVID-19 on Test-Optional Movement

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the test-optional movement. With testing centers closed or operating at reduced capacity, and the added stress and uncertainty caused by the pandemic, many colleges and universities decided to make SAT and ACT scores optional for the 2021 and 2022 admissions cycles.

This move was applauded by many students and educators as it reduced stress and made the application process more accessible to all students.

Additionally, it provided an opportunity for institutions to evaluate the impact of going test-optional on their applicant pool and admitted students.

As a result of this experiment, many colleges and universities have decided to make their test-optional policies permanent, while others have extended them for a few more years.

This has led to a significant increase in the number of test-optional colleges and universities, making it easier for students to apply without submitting SAT or ACT scores. 

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Benefits of Test-Optional Colleges

Reduced Stress

One of the most significant advantages of test-optional colleges is the reduction in stress for students. Preparing for the SAT or ACT can be incredibly stressful, and not having to worry about these exams can alleviate a lot of anxiety.

Greater Diversity

Test-optional colleges often see a more diverse applicant pool. This includes students from various socio-economic backgrounds, ethnicities, and geographical locations.


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List of Top US Universities That Don’t Require SAT or ACT in 2023

Serial NumberUniversity NameLocationRanking (QS)Admission Policy
1University of ChicagoChicago, IL9Test-optional for domestic applicants
2New York University (NYU)New York, NY27Test-optional for all applicants
3George Washington UniversityWashington, D.C.166Test-optional for all applicants
4Wake Forest UniversityWinston-Salem, NC398Test-optional for all applicants
5University of California, Santa CruzSanta Cruz, CA492Test-blind for all applicants
6American UniversityWashington, D.C.651Test-optional for all applicants
7DePaul UniversityChicago, IL801-1000Test-optional for all applicants
8Colorado State UniversityFort Collins, CO801-1000Test-optional for all applicants
9University of OregonEugene, OR801-1000Test-optional for all applicants
10University of ArizonaTucson, AZ801-1000Test-optional for all applicants

Factors to Consider While Applying to Test-Optional Colleges


Your GPA is still a crucial factor in the admission process. Make sure to maintain a high GPA throughout high school.

Extracurricular Activities

Being involved in extracurricular activities can demonstrate your passion and leadership skills.


Strong letters of recommendation can make a significant difference in your application.

Myths About Test-Optional Colleges

Less Competitive

Some students believe that test-optional colleges are less competitive. However, this is not true. Many top-ranked universities have adopted test-optional policies.

Only for Certain Programs

Another common myth is that test-optional policies only apply to certain programs or majors. However, most colleges that have adopted this policy apply it to all programs.

How to Apply to Test-Optional Colleges

Step 1: Research Colleges and Their Policies:

  1. Research colleges and understand their test-optional policies.
  2. Differentiate between completely test-optional and test-flexible colleges.
  3. Review specific guidelines for international students or specific programs.
  4. Check the colleges’ websites or contact admissions offices for accurate information.

Step 2: Understand the Implications:

  1. Comprehend the impact of not submitting test scores.
  2. Recognize whether test scores are used for scholarships or course placement.
  3. Be aware of additional requirements like graded papers or extra recommendations.

Step 3: Consider Your Strengths:

  1. Evaluate your own strengths and test scores accurately.
  2. Determine if strong test scores should be submitted.
  3. Assess other strong application components such as GPA or extracurriculars.
  4. Analyze the applicant pool and the competitiveness of your scores.

Step 4: Prepare Other Components of Your Application:

  1. Concentrate on non-test components like transcripts, letters of recommendation, essays, and activities.
  2. Request letters of recommendation well in advance.
  3. Dedicate time to crafting well-written, thoughtful essays.
  4. Highlight extracurricular achievements that demonstrate your potential.

Step 5: Apply:

  1. Apply to colleges once you’ve completed the necessary steps.
  2. Carefully review application requirements and deadlines for each college.
  3. Consider a balanced mix of reach, match, and safety schools.
  4. Submit your applications and await admission decisions.


The shift towards test-optional colleges and universities is a welcome change for many students. It reduces stress, promotes diversity, and allows students to be evaluated based on a broader range of criteria. If you are considering applying to colleges in 2023, it is worth considering test-optional institutions.

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Are test-optional colleges less competitive?

No, many top-ranked universities have adopted test-optional policies.

Do I need to submit SAT or ACT scores to test-optional colleges?

No, it is optional. However, if you believe your scores accurately represent your abilities, you can choose to submit them.

Will not submitting my SAT or ACT scores negatively impact my application?

No, colleges with test-optional policies evaluate applicants based on various criteria, such as GPA, extracurricular activities, and letters of recommendation.

Can I apply to any program at a test-optional college?

Yes, most test-optional colleges apply this policy to all programs.

Do test-optional colleges look at standardized test scores at all?

Some test-optional colleges will consider SAT or ACT scores if submitted, but it is not a requirement.

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