20 Best Colleges that Don’t Require SAT or ACT

There are many reasons a college may not require students to There are many reasons a college may not require students to submit SAT scores. Sometimes it’s to improve accessibility. Maybe standardized tests don’t fit well with the college’s philosophy of evaluation. The variety of motivations for colleges that don’t require standardized test scores makes this ranking eclectic. Here you will find top research universities, liberal arts colleges, and public universities. Many of these have quite exacting admissions standards, even though test scores aren’t required. Most favor traditional educational models. Some may expand to allow students to earn their degree online after being forced into it by COVID-19. The ranking also includes public and private colleges that accept a high percentage of applicants. We ranked these colleges and universities against each other. To do this we had to find factors we could use to evaluate them shared by all the candidate schools.

Methodology for Choosing Colleges that Do Not Require SAT Scores

We settled on three factors: tuition, graduation rate, and student to faculty ratio. Tuition, because our site is all about “great college deals”. Graduation rate, because it’s an indicator of how good a college is at helping all students be successful. Student to faculty ratio, because individual attention and access to professors is important. The ranking does not reflect the sheer quality of these colleges and universities. For that, there are plenty of rankings out there. This ranking will have great options for you no matter where you fall on the academic spectrum. Are you a high achiever whose SAT scores don’t reflect your academic capabilities? We’ve got incredible options for you in this ranking. If your grades are low and you need a school that can help you achieve your full potential, we’ve got great options for you.

Author’s Note: Due to COVID-19 most colleges and universities in the U.S. did not require SAT scores in 2020-2021. This article features colleges that did not require test scores before the pandemic. Some schools, like California State University, may transition to a test optional model in the future. Most universities in the top ten, like Harvard University and Stanford University have not made any moves to make test optional practice permanent.

Reviewing the Best Colleges that Don’t Require SAT Scores

#1. Hamilton College

Hamilton University Square Logo-Top 20 Colleges that Don't Require College Board Test Scores


Score: 100
Website

Hamilton College may not require standardized test scores, but it’s still selective. Hamilton only accepts 14% of applicants. Hamilton College offers 44 majors and 57 total areas of study. These include majors in the humanities, languages, mathematics, and sciences. Most liberal arts schools offer a much wider range of majors than people think.

  • Tuition: $59,970
  • U.S. News Ranking: National Liberal Arts #13
  • Graduation Rate: 93%
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $715,000

#2. Bowdoin College

Bowdoin Square Logo-Top 20 Colleges that Don't Require College Board Tests


Score: 97.52
Website

“If you give smart, kind, young people access to the best education on earth, they will use it to create good in the world.” This is the philosophy of Bowdoin College. While this small college doesn’t require standardized test scores, it only admits 9% of applicants. The need-blind admission process means the school does not factor financial need into admissions. They want students who are a good fit for the school regardless of wealth. Bowdoin has 39 undergraduate majors and many more minors and concentrations.

  • Tuition: $58,332
  • U.S. News Ranking: National Liberal Arts #6
  • Graduation Rate: 95%
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $636,000

#3. University of Chicago

University of Chicago Square Logo-Top 20 Colleges Not Requiring SAT Scores


Score: 97.31
Website

The University of Chicago is one of the top universities in the United States. The school is one of the only test optional universities among the top ten. The University of Chicago is technically the most expensive school in this ranking. Prospective students should know that the University of Chicago only admits 6% of applicants. However, the university will meet 100% of your family’s demonstrated financial need if you get in. This aid comes in the form of grants, not loans. This dramatically cuts down on student debt for graduates.

  • Tuition: $60,963
  • U.S. News Ranking: National Universities #6
  • Graduation Rate: 95%
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $635,000

#4. Wake Forest University

Wake Forest University Square Logo-Top 20 Colleges Not Requiring SAT Scores


Score: 96.18
Website

Wake Forest University is a private research university with the motto “For Humanity.” 30% of applicants gain admission to the school. The undergraduate student body numbers around 5,200. While Wake Forest used to be a Baptist university. Prospective students should know it has since transitioned to a nonsectarian model. Wake Forest is ranked #27 among national universities by U.S. News and World Report. Wake Forest offers 45 undergraduate degree programs in several areas of study.

  • Tuition: $59,770
  • U.S. News Ranking: National Universities #28
  • Graduation Rate: 88%
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $693,000

#5. Texas A&M University

Texas A&M University Square Logo-Top 20 Colleges Not Requiring SAT or ACT Scores


Score: 91.72
Website

Texas A&M University is one of the only test optional colleges among the top public colleges in the country. It’s also one of the more accessible colleges featured in this ranking with a 63% acceptance rate. TAMU has over 57,000 undergraduate students, 10,000 graduate students, and 5,000 doctoral students. Prospective students can choose from 93 distinct majors across 25 fields of study.

  • Tuition: $40,087
  • U.S. News Ranking: National Universities #68
  • Graduation Rate: 82%
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $638,000

#6. Bates College

Bates College Square Logo-Top 20 Colleges Not Requiring SAT Scores


Score: 91.42
Website

Bates College, located in Lewiston, Maine, has been in operation for more than 150 years. It’s a small college where prospective students can expect a cozy atmosphere. Bates College offers 35 majors for students to choose from. Areas of study include biology, languages, music, philosophy, physics, and religious studies. While the college doesn’t require SAT or ACT scores, the acceptance rate is 12%. Finding other ways to show your academic ability is key to a successful application.

  • Tuition: $59,062
  • U.S. News Ranking: National Liberal Arts #25
  • Graduation Rate: 91%
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $562,000

#7. The George Washington University

George Washington University-Square Logo-Top 20 Colleges Not Requiring SAT Scores


Score: 91.00
Website

George Washington University, est. 1821, has been the top university in Washington D.C. ever since. The University is close to many centers of federal government power and influence. This makes it a favorite choice for those who want to get involved in politics on the federal level. This might be why GWU has more graduate students than undergraduate students. The undergraduate acceptance rate at George Washington University is 32%.

  • Tuition: $59,870
  • U.S. News Ranking: National Universities #63
  • Graduation Rate: 82%
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $683,000

#8. Wesleyan University

Wesleyan University Square Logo-Top 20 Colleges not Requiring SAT or ACT Scores


Score: 89.60
Website

Wesleyan University is a liberal arts college. Founded by the Methodist Episcopal Church, Wesleyan is now a secular university. Wesleyan’s standards are strict, despite not requiring standardized test scores. Like many such small colleges, Wesleyan looks beyond standardized test scores. Only 16% of applicants are accepted. Wesleyan University offers 45 majors, 29 minors, and 3 certificates.

  • Tuition: $61,749
  • U.S. News Ranking: National Liberal Arts #17
  • Graduation Rate: 92%
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $512,000

#9. University of Rochester

University of Rochester Square Logo-Top 20 Colleges that Don't Require SAT or ACT Scores


Score: 89.49
Website

The University of Rochester is a highly ranked private research university. The school was established in 1850 in upstate New York. The undergraduate student population is around 6,700, with 5,000 graduate students. 77% of undergraduate students take part in research. The University of Rochester has 7 schools and over 200 academic programs including majors and minors.

  • Tuition: $59,344
  • U.S. News Ranking: National Universities #34
  • Graduation Rate: 87%
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $565,000

#10. Trinity College

Trinity College Square Logo


Score: 86.9
Website

Trinity College is a test optional liberal arts college, not requiring SAT or ACT scores. It is the second-oldest college in Connecticut after Yale. Trinity is most focused on undergraduate education with over 2,000 undergraduate students and 41 graduate students. The gorgeous New England campus sits on 100 acres in and around the city of Hartford.

  • Tuition: $61,370
  • U.S. News Ranking: National Liberal Arts #46
  • Graduation Rate: 83%
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $565,000

#11. Union College

Union College Square Logo


Score: 85.93
Website

Established in 1795, Union College is a small college located in upstate New York. It was once considered one of the “big four” colleges in the U.S. along with Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. Union College offers ABET-accredited undergraduate degrees in engineering. This is a rare thing among liberal arts schools. Prospective students interested in travel will be happy to know that 60% of students at Union study abroad.

  • Tuition: $61,659
  • U.S. News Ranking: National Liberal Arts #50
  • Graduation Rate: 82%
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $559,000

#12. Skidmore College

Skidmore College Square Logo


Score: 85.79
Website

Skidmore College is another private liberal arts college located in upstate New York. It’s also one of the more accessible liberal arts colleges. Skidmore’s acceptance rate is 32%, which is still fairly selective for a test optional college not requiring SAT or ACT scores. Skidmore’s 850 acre campus is home to 2,680 undergraduate students. Undergraduate study is the primary focus of the college, with only 4 graduate students in attendance.

  • Tuition: $60,152
  • U.S. News Ranking: National Liberal Arts #38
  • Graduation Rate: 88%
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $488,000

#13. American University

American University Square Logo-Top 20 Test Optional Colleges


Score: 81.38
Website

American University is a Washington D.C. private research university. The main campus of 90 acres houses over 8,500 undergraduate students. American offers 71 bachelor’s degrees, 87 master’s degrees, and 10 doctoral degrees. American University being a test optional school means some students submit test scores and some don’t. Last year 52% of students submitted SAT scores and 36% of students submitted ACT scores.

  • Tuition: $51,334
  • U.S. News Ranking: National Universities #79
  • Graduation Rate: 79%
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $495,000

#14. University of Iowa

Iowa University Square Logo-Top 20 Test Optional Colleges


Score: 80.87
Website

The University of Iowa is located in Iowa City, Iowa. It’s a large public research university with over 21,000 undergraduate students. Iowa university has over 500 student organizations and NCAA division I athletic teams. If you want a big, busy campus, this is one of your best choices among schools that don’t require SAT or ACT scores. Despite the university’s size, many students say that they found professors accessible and attentive. This means in some ways the University of Iowa may be the best of both worlds.

  • Tuition: $31,569
  • U.S. News Ranking: National Universities #83
  • Graduation Rate: 72%
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $472,000

#15. Smith College

Smith College Square Logo-Top 20 Colleges Test Optional Colleges


Score: 79.87
Website

Smith College is a private liberal arts women’s college in Northampton, Massachusetts. As such, Smith only admits students who identify as women. Smith admits 32% of applicants. All genders eligible for graduate programs at Smith. Smith offers 45 undergraduate majors. Majors include religion, physics, music, mathematics and statistics, economics, computer science, and biochemistry. Smith is ranked #11 among national liberal arts colleges by U.S. News and World Report.

  • Tuition: $56,114
  • U.S. News Ranking: National Liberal Arts #17
  • Graduation Rate: 89%
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $305,000

#16. Wofford College

Wofford College Square Logo-Top 20 Test Optional Colleges


Score: 77.69
Website

Wofford College is a small liberal arts college located in South Carolina. The campus is a federal arboretum, a sort of botanical garden featuring a large collection of trees. Wofford College has a 175 acre campus and 1,800 undergraduate students. The school is focused on undergraduate education. Wofford features a community-based learning model. This provides students with opportunities for career exploration and studying abroad.

  • Tuition: $49,550
  • U.S. News Ranking: National Liberal Arts #67
  • Graduation Rate: 85%
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $347,000

#17. Bryn Mawr College

Bryn Mawr College Square Logo-Top 20 Test Optional Colleges


Score: 76.00
Website

Bryn Mawr College is a private women’s liberal arts college that accepts 33% of applicants. Men are not accepted to the undergraduate programs at the university. They may apply for graduate programs. Bryn Mawr partners with Swarthmore College and Haverford College. This enables students to take classes at any of the three campuses. Some programs even require students to take classes at multiple campuses. The partnership with Haverford is so close, students can major in programs at Haverford that aren’t offered at Bryn Mawr.

  • Tuition: $56,320
  • U.S. News Ranking: National Liberal Arts #30
  • Graduation Rate: 84%
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $280,000

#18. Dickinson College

Dickinson College Square Logo-Top 20 Test Optional Colleges


Score: 75.55
Website

96% of Dickinson graduates are employed, in graduate school, in an internship, or in a fellowship a year after graduation. The med school acceptance rate for Dickinson graduates is 95%, and the acceptance rate to law school is 94%. Dickinson College accepts 52% of applicants. Dickinson offers more than 80 academic programs including majors, minors, and other programs.

  • Tuition: $58,708
  • U.S. News Ranking: National Liberal Arts #50
  • Graduation Rate: 83%
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $319,000

#19. Pitzer College

Pitzer College Square Logo-Top 20 Test Optional Colleges


Score: 72.93
Website

Pitzer College is a small liberal arts college located in Claremont, CA. The student body is around 1,000 students. The Student to faculty ratio is 11:1. Prospective students can choose between 40+ fields of study. Pitzer was rated #1 for most politically active students. Also rated #5 for the most politically active student government. Both of these ratings by the Princeton Review in 2020. All students participate in service-learning courses before they graduate. Newsweek described Pitzer as one of the nation’s most service oriented schools.

  • Tuition: $57,978
  • U.S. News Ranking: National Liberal Arts #35
  • Graduation Rate: 85%
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $221,000

#20. Hofstra University

Hofstra University Square Logo-Top 20 Test Optional Colleges


Score: 71.15
Website

Hofstra is the largest university on Long Island with over 10,000 students. 68% of applicants are accepted to the university. Hofstra is ranked #162 among national universities by U.S. News and World Report. Hofstra offers over 100 dual degree programs. Dual degree programs allow students to combine bachelor’s with master’s degrees. Earning a dual degree is faster than earning each individual degree. Dual degree options include accounting, international business, journalism, labor studies, mathematics, and economics.

  • Tuition: $51,360
  • U.S. News Ranking: National Universities #162
  • Graduation Rate: 65%
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $513,000

————————————————————————-

Frequently Asked Questions

Why not include colleges that temporary suspended SAT submission requirements for COVID-19?

Most lists of test optional colleges include the schools that temporarily lifted requirements. It’s pretty easy to find that information if you’re looking for it. But that can actually make it harder for students who are more concerned with next year than this year. It’s unclear how many of those colleges might make those measures permanent. We wanted to create a resource for students who are making decisions for the 2021-2022 school year.

Why don’t these colleges and universities require standardized test scores?

There are many reasons why these colleges have decided to become test optional. Some want to make the school more accessible to a broader range of students. Some don’t believe that ACTs or SATs employ methods of fair and open testing. Some don’t believe standardized test scores accurately reflect a student’s ability. Others recognize inherent bias within the ACTs and SATs that makes it an unsuitable test for certain students. Students from certain regions, some socioeconomic backgrounds, and neurodiverse students for instance. Students can also score higher on the tests through the use of certain strategies. To learn these strategies students must have access to special tutoring services. Tutoring and other resources may not be available to all students. This creates a bias in the test in favor of wealthier students. It’s important to note that these colleges may still have certain test requirements for international students

Are colleges that don’t require standardized test scores good?

Whether universities require students to submit SAT or ACT scores doesn’t affect quality. This ranking contains many top liberal arts, public, and private research universities. It also includes lesser known colleges and universities that are affordable and accessible. The variation of quality among colleges that don’t require test scores is similar to the variation among all colleges.

What is the difference between a university, a research university, and a liberal arts university?

It’s in the goals of the universities in question, and the methods they use to achieve those goals. Liberal arts universities tend to use an interdisciplinary approach. First, this provides students with both the material required for their major. Second, it enables students to relate their major to other professions, and society. Research universities focus their efforts on research in many areas of specialty. They are a great opportunity for undergraduate students to engage in important research. Universities that don’t fall into these categories usually focus on professional training. They equip students to enter the workforce or to pursue an advanced degree in their area of interest.

How do I know which style of college or university that doesn’t require test scores is right for me?

Only you can determine which college or university is right for you. Maybe several in this ranking caught your attention. If that’s the case, the next step is to explore what they offer. But before that, it’s important to know what you want. Do you like the particular philosophy or approach of the college? Do you want to attend online or in person? What do you want to study? If you have multiple interests, which colleges have programs you could switch between? Come up with a ton of questions and talk to the admissions counselors at each school. Read about the college’s history and values. Check out the accomplishments of their graduates. See how the college is ranked regarding the specific programs you are interested in. Picking a college is an important choice. Take the time you need to determine which one will give you the experience and education you want.

Other articles of interest:

By Adam Birch

This concludes our list of the 20 best deals on colleges that don’t require SAT or ACT scores.