In the continuing cultural shift where an SAT or ACT score is no longer required as part of a college application, many families remain skeptical about just how “optional” is test optional admissions. Many believe that submitting an SAT or ACT score will be an “edge” in the race for a seemingly elusive acceptance letter, over those who opt out of submitting a score.
In actuality, students are empowered to choose whether or not an SAT or ACT score will add useful information to their application or not. Admissions officers practicing test-optional admissions will consider whatever information is submitted, without questioning if a standardized test score is not included.
Yet, in considering whether or not to take an SAT or ACT, especially given the shift to a digital SAT, start with the facts:
- At this time, Spring 2023, the University of California (UC) and California State Universities (CSU) are permanently test-free—not requiring an SAT or ACT score, nor using the scores for admissions.
- In the Ivy League:
- Harvard University will remain test optional through Fall 2026 admissions. Thus, the current Class of 2026 high school freshmen will have the option to or not to submit an SAT or ACT score.
- Columbia University officials announced a permanent test-optional policy in March 2023.
- Cornell University will continue practicing test optional admissions through Fall 2025, affecting the current high school sophomores.
- Brown University, Dartmouth College, Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, Yale University extended test optional admissions policies through Fall 2024 admissions (affecting the current high school Class of 2024).
- As of January 2023, the NCAA permanently dropped the requirement of an SAT or ACT score for Division I and Division 2 (D1 & D2) student athletic recruitment, although individual D1 and D2 colleges may still require an SAT or ACT for scholarship determination. (Note: each Division III college sets its own policy regarding the requirement of an SAT or ACT score for student athletic recruits.)
However, some public and private universities have reinstated requirements for standardized tests, which include:
- Select public universities, which include: Purdue University, University of Tennessee Knoxville, Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), and University of Georgia.
- Some private universities: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Georgetown.
Additionally, knowing the difference between test optional, test flexible, test blind, and test free admissions policies can be helpful in determining whether a student will (or will not) submit an SAT or ACT score with their application.
- With test optional policies, students have the choice to submit an SAT or ACT.
- Under test flexible policies, admissions officers “prefer” students to submit an SAT or ACT score, yet will consider any applicant, regardless if an SAT or ACT score is included.
- Test-blind and test free admissions policies are similar, in that admissions officers will NOT consider any SAT or ACT scores in their evaluations. However, with test free policies, admissions officers make clear that students are not expected to have taken an SAT or ACT.
Many universities, both public and private, continue to set test-optional policies one year at a time, so students should check the admissions websites for the latest information. In addition, FairTest maintains an updated database of universities practicing test-optional admissions policies.
Lastly, in considering whether to take the SAT or ACT, many university admissions officers have adjusted merit scholarship determination according to their test-optional policy. Thus, students are often still considered for merit aid without needing to submit an SAT or ACT score.
Please note, as each university sets their own merit aid policy, students should check with the admissions and financial aid offices of each university for the most up-to-date information to know if SAT or ACT scores are required for scholarship consideration.
A proud UC San Diego and Harvard University alumna, Jill Yoshikawa EdM is a dedicated educator, tirelessly studying the nuances of college admissions and education to advise a diversity of clients who seek the greatest value in education.