Complete Guide to Test Optional Colleges 2021-2022

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In the past year, guidance on submitting standardized test scores to universities has changed dramatically. You may have heard that some schools have become “test-optional” or “test blind.” In this post, we’ll give you all the latest information on what that means, which schools have become test-optional, whether you should report your scores for the SAT or ACT, and how this changes your strategy for applying to college.

 

Is the ACT/SAT Required for the Class of 2022?

 

As you may know by now, many schools have become “test-optional” or “test blind” for Class of 2022 admissions. Test-optional policies mean that you are not required to submit a test score, but, if you do, admissions officers will look at them and may use the score to help determine admission. On the other hand, a “test blind” school will not look at any standardized test scores at all. To learn more about this, read our post on  “test optional” vs. “test blind” policies.

 

List of Top Colleges That Are Test-Optional 2021-2022

 

School Name

Location

Acceptance Rate

Test-Optional?

Princeton University

Princeton, NJ

5.80%

Yes

Harvard University

Cambridge, MA

4.60%

Yes

Columbia University

New York, NY

5.40%

Yes

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, MA

6.70%

Yes

Yale University

New Haven, CT

6.10%

Yes

Stanford University

Stanford, CA

4.30%

Yes

University of Chicago

Chicago, IL

6.20%

Yes

University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA

7.70%

Yes

California Institute of Technology

Pasadena, CA

6.40%

Yes*

Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, MD

11.20%

Yes

Northwestern University

Evanston, IL

9.10%

Yes

Duke University

Durham, NC

7.60%

Yes

Dartmouth College

Hanover, NH

7.90%

Yes

Brown University

Providence, RI

7.10%

Yes

Vanderbilt University

Nashville, TN

9.10%

Yes

Rice University

Houston, TX

8.70%

Yes

Washington University in St. Louis

St. Louis, MO

13.90%

Yes

Cornell University

Ithaca, NY

10.90%

Yes

University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame, IN

15.80%

Yes

University of California, Los Angeles

Los Angeles, CA

12.30%

Yes*

Emory University

Atlanta, GA

15.60%

Yes

University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, CA

16.30%

Yes* 

University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA

11.40%

Yes

Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh, PA

15.40%

Yes

University of Virginia

Charlottesville, VA

23.90%

Yes

University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, NC

22.60%

Yes

Wake Forest University

Winston-Salem, NC

29.60%

Yes

New York University

New York, NY

16.20%

Yes

Tufts University

Medford, MA

15.00%

Yes

University of California, Santa Barbara

Santa Barabara, CA

29.60%

Yes*

University of Rochester

Rochester, NY

30%

Yes

Boston College

Newton, MA

27.20%

Yes

University of California, Irvine

Irvine, CA

26.50%

Yes*

University of California, San Diego

San Diego, CA

31.50%

Yes*

University of California, Davis

Davis, CA

38.90%

Yes*

William & Mary

Williamsburg, VA

37.70%

Yes

Tulane University

New Orleans, LA

12.90%

Yes

Boston University

Boston, MA

18.90%

Yes

Brandeis University

Waltham, MA

29.90%

Yes

Case Western Reserve University

Cleveland, OH

27.40%

Yes

University of Texas at Austin

Austin, TX

31.80%

Yes

University of Wisconsin, Madison

Madison, WI

54.40%

Yes

University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign

Champaign, IL

59%

Yes

Lehigh University 

Bethlehem, PA

32.10%

Yes

Northeastern University

Boston, MA

18.10%

Yes

 

*These schools are completely test-blind

 

Below are the testing policies for the top Liberal Arts Colleges:

 

School Name

Location

Acceptance Rate

Test-Optional?

Williams College

Williamstown, MA

12.60%

Yes

Amherst College

Amherst, MA

11.30%

Yes

Swarthmore College

Swarthmore, PA

8.90%

Yes

Pomona College

Claremont, CA

7.40%

Yes

Wellesley College

Wellesley, MA

21.60%

Yes

Bowdoin College

Brunswick, ME

9.10%

Yes

Claremont McKenna College

Claremont, CA

10.30%

Yes

Carleton College

Northfield, MN

19.10%

Yes

Hamilton College

Clinton, NY

16.40%

Yes

Middlebury College

Middlebury, VT

15.40%

Yes

Washington and Lee University

Lexington, VA

18.60%

Yes

Grinnell College

Grinnell, IA

23%

Yes

Vassar College

Poughkeepsie, NY

23.70%

Yes

Colby College

Waterville, ME

9.70%

Yes

Davidson College

Davidson, NC

18.10%

Yes

Haverford College

Haverford, PA

16%

Yes

Smith College

Northampton, MA

32.50%

Yes

Colgate University

Hamilton, NY

22.60%

Yes

 

How Will Test-Optional Policies Impact Acceptance Rates?

 

In the 2020 admissions cycle, test-optional policies reduced acceptance rates significantly. This is because more students applied to more selective colleges due to the fact that high test scores were not required. We believe that this trend will continue into the 2021-2022 cycle, and both top-tier colleges, as well as liberal arts colleges, will have lower acceptance rates. Additionally, students who applied “test-optional” last year were accepted at lower rates than those who applied with a test. It is important to note that the 2020 admissions cycle was the first year of widespread “test-optional” policies due to the Covid-19 pandemic, therefore, there is still more data needed to support this conclusion.

 

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Should You Still Take the ACT/SAT? 

 

Even though schools are starting to adopt “test blind” admissions policies (most notably, the UC system), you should still plan to take the ACT/SAT if you can. Some schools are still requiring it, and if it benefits your application, you should certainly send your scores to college admissions as it will help your chances. You just have to determine whether your score is strong enough to submit to colleges. Additionally, some college scholarship programs and honors colleges may still use test scores to determine award money or admittance to certain special programs.

 

Even if you take the ACT/SAT and don’t do well, you may choose not to submit your scores. There’s no harm in taking it as it can only benefit you if you get a high score.

 

Is Your Score Strong Enough?

 

Deciding whether to submit your score can be tricky because it should be done if it helps your application. How can you determine this? There are several factors you should consider when deciding, and below are some questions you should think about:

 

1. What is Your Score Percentile?

 

You should definitely submit your score if it is above the 50th percentile for accepted students. You should consider submitting if it is above the 25th percentile. However, scores aren’t everything and are only one singular data point in your admissions decision. You may have to consider other elements in your application to determine whether you should submit your scores.

 

2. How Strong is the Rest of Your Application? 

 

If you have a great GPA and fantastic essays, meaningful extracurricular activities, and a glowing letter of recommendation, you may consider not submitting so-so scores since the rest of your application is strong. However, if you are weaker in one area, you may consider submitting them.

 

Last year, the assumption was that students couldn’t take the exam if they applied test-optional. This year, with increased access to testing sites, the assumption will be that students got a bad score if they don’t submit. So, submitting an okay score is still better than nothing in a lot of cases.

 

3. How are Other Students in Your Area Choosing to Apply?

 

When making admissions decisions, officers don’t just compare you with other people in your high school. They also compare you to other applicants in your town or even state. If a majority of your classmates and other students in your area are taking the ACT/SAT, it may help to take it as well and submit your score. This is so that you don’t stand out negatively. 

 

4. What are Other Students Who Are Applying to the Same Major Doing? 

 

It may be helpful to determine whether other students applying with the same major are taking the ACT/SAT. If so, then you should plan on taking the tests. Generally, applicants in STEM, health, and business tend to apply with standardized tests.

 

5. Do You Have Hooks?

 

If you are a recruited athlete, a legacy student, or have a unique background that the college is trying to recruit, not having a test score will not impact you as much as a student without a “hook.”

 

Are you still unsure if you should submit your SAT/ACT scores? Check out free CollegeVine’s chancing calculator! Our calculator will automatically let you know whether you should submit your test scores and will automatically adjust based on the school you’re applying to. 

 

 

Should You Submit SAT Subject Test Scores?

 

Many schools within the U.S. are no longer considering SAT subject tests, and most schools will make a formal announcement before the end of the year. However, if you’re applying to an international university such as Cambridge or McGill, admissions officers may still consider your SAT subject test scores. 

 

Should You Take the ACT with Writing?

 

In the last few years, admissions officers have put less emphasis on the ACT and SAT. The writing portion of the ACT is not required. If you don’t have time to prep for it or if you don’t feel comfortable taking it, do not worry about it. It holds little value in admissions, and many schools are no longer considering it at all. 

 

Will Colleges Remain Test-Optional? 

 

It is likely that colleges will remain test-optional beyond the Covid-19 pandemic, as schools were already planning on phasing out standardized tests. Covid-19 just sped up the process. As more and more schools plan on permanently changing their guidelines, it is likely that these changes will become even more widespread and permanent.

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Short Bio
Juliette is a senior at Cornell University studying Industrial & Labor Relations. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, running, drinking coffee, and exploring different hiking trails in Ithaca.

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