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For many high school students applying to college, taking the SAT or ACT feels like the most important day (or days) of their lives: their scores will determine the colleges to which they are likely to be accepted, altering the trajectory of their lives for the following four years and beyond.

However, many college applicants are unaware that there are many American colleges and universities that do not require the SAT/ACT. These schools feel that there are better or equally valid ways to test a student’s aptitude for college work aside from the two ubiquitous tests. The policies are also intended to create more equitable ground for admissions, moving away from biases that standardized test scores may create.

There are two types of schools that allow students to forego submitting SAT/ACT scores: “Test Optional” schools and “Test Flexible” schools.

“Test Optional” (TO): Test Optional schools allow students to forego submitting test scores entirely. These schools take a more holistic approach to reading applications, feeling that other components of the application (such as grades, extracurricular activities, and essays) are enough to determine a student’s eligibility for admission.

Some Test Optional schools include: Bowdoin College, Bates College, Wake Forest University, Smith College, College of the Holy Cross, Bryn Mawr College, Wesleyan University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Franklin & Marshall College, Mount Holyoke College, Pitzer College, Skidmore College, St. Lawrence College, and George Washington University.

“Test Flexible” (TF): Test Flexible schools allow students to submit other test scores in place of SAT/ACT scores. Examples of these can be AP test scores or SAT II Subject Test scores. Policies for TF schools vary in regards to which test scores they will accept in place of the SAT/ACT. For example:

New York University: If a student does not wish to submit an ACT/SAT score to NYU, they may submit three AP exam scores, three SAT II subject test scores, three high-level IB exam scores, or a completion of the IB diploma.

Colorado College: Colorado College allows students to submit scores from a wide range of tests, requiring that each student submit scores from both a quantitative and a verbal category.

Colby College: Students can submit scores from two SAT II subject tests in lieu of an SAT/ACT score.

Some other schools with TF admissions policies include: Hamilton College, Middlebury College, Bard College, and Brandeis University.

While there are a sizable number of U.S. schools that allow students to forego taking the SAT/ACT, we still recommend that students try their hand at one or both of the tests. Even if a student has his or her heart set on a TO or TF school, test scores can still add another layer of substance to an application, and will expand the student’s college options.