August 24th, 2009
More than 800 colleges in the USAT do not require SAT or ACT scores. Most of these institutions are technical or religious schools or schools that have open admissions policies. But there are about two dozen selective liberal arts colleges, including Smith and Bowdoin, for whom the submission of test scores is optional.
Not requiring tests can make a school appear more selective because it generates more applicants. Typically, when schools switch to a test-optional policy, they experience a 10-20% increase in applications. With more applicants to choose from, schools can reject more students and seem choosier. As it turns out, many of those applicants will typically have lower SAT or ACT scores. Students who opt not to report scores statistically score 100 to 150 points lower than students who do divulge test results. Since about 25-50% of applicants’ scores go unreported to these colleges, the average scores of admitted students are raised by 25-75 points, a fact that makes the school seem more competitive to applicants.
Here’s an example of how that works: Before Mount Holyoke went test-optional in 2001, its middle 50% SAT range (a frequently cited test barometer) was 1170-1360. A few years later, with roughly 70 percent of freshmen submitting scores, the range jumped to 1230-1420, an increase of 60 points on both ends.
The end result is that a school that does not require the SAT or ACT can appear more of an academic heavy-weight on paper than it actually is. Families should also be aware that many test-optional schools do require submission of scores to qualify for merit scholarships. So, when considering the test-optional schools, make sure you do your homework before you apply!
Test Optional Schools:
American — for Early Decision only *
College of the Holy Cross
Franklin & Marshall
Gustavus Adolphus *
Hobart & William Smith *
Lake Forest *
* Test scores are required for merit scholarships.