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Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
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Cal State Schools Go Test-Blind: What This Means for Students

What’s Covered:


Across the country, colleges and universities have been shifting away from emphasizing the SAT and ACT in the admissions process. Highly selective institutions like Bowdoin College had long been test-optional, and in light of the pandemic, many additional schools have adopted similar policies, most of which are still in place.


Now, California State University, the largest four-year public university system in the U.S., has announced that it will no longer use standardized tests in the undergraduate admissions process, in a unanimous Board of Trustees vote. 


“This decision aligns with the California State University’s continued efforts to level the playing field and provide greater access to a high-quality college degree for students from all backgrounds,” said Acting CSU Chancellor Steve Relyea. “In essence, we are eliminating our reliance on a high-stress, high-stakes test that has shown negligible benefit and providing our applicants with greater opportunities to demonstrate their drive, talents, and potential for college success.”


Cal State’s New SAT/ACT Policy


Effectively, this means that CSU and its 23 campuses will employ a test-blind policy in its admissions process. Even if students submit their scores, the adcom will not use them as an evaluative measure. This is in contrast to test-optional policies, which a majority of colleges and universities are currently using; under test-optional policies, the institution does not require test scores for admission but will consider them if applicants do submit them.


CSU does say that SAT or ACT scores can be used to determine course placement if the student is admitted. 


Why the Cal State Schools Went Test-Blind


CSU had already employed a similar policy during the 2021–22 and 2022–23 academic years because of COVID-19. Now, the university system is extending the policy, citing its efforts to promote equity for students from all backgrounds. CSU had long been questioning the place of standardized testing in admissions even before the pandemic. 


Earlier this year, CSU’s Admission Advisory Council (AAC) recommended that the system discontinue the use of the SAT and ACT in admissions, saying that they “provide negligible additional value to the CSU admission process.”


What Students Should Do


1. Take the SAT or ACT anyway.


Cal State is test-blind, but most other colleges and universities are not. You don’t want to restrict yourself to only applying to schools within the CSU system, so it’s in your best interest to take the SAT or ACT. Even if you apply to test-optional schools, you will still get a boost from submitting strong scores. Plus, your scores could help you with placement if you do attend a CSU campus.


2. Add more Safety and Target schools to your list outside of the Cal State schools.


Now that Cal State is no longer considering standardized test scores, its admissions process will be more holistic. If you have strong test scores, but the rest of your application is weaker (such as your extracurriculars), Cal State schools that may have been considered Safeties or Targets before could now be Targets or Reaches. If your test scores are weaker, but the rest of your application is stronger, the test-blind policy could actually boost your chances.


If you have strong test scores, consider also applying to other schools on the West Coast. While tuition rates may not be as affordable, there are some private and public universities that offer merit scholarships, financial aid, or tuition reciprocity.


For example, Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles is private, but offers merit scholarships of up to full tuition. You may also consider schools in the Western Undergraduate Exchange Program, a regional tuition-reciprocity agreement system that enables students within one of 15 western states to receive reduced tuition rates. Many of these schools standardized test scores or are test-optional. Examples include the University of New Mexico (test-optional), Mayville State University, North Dakota State University (test-optional), Western Oregon University, and Montana State University. 


What Are Your Chances of Acceptance at Cal State Schools?


Wondering whether you’ll get into a Cal State school? CollegeVine’s free chancing engine will evaluate your chances of admission using factors outside of standardized test scores, including GPA, course rigor, and extracurriculars. You can also use it to find new Safety and Target schools, as well as receive tips to improve your profile.

Short Bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket, and Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.