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Articles / Applying to College / SAT-Optional Colleges

Sept. 3, 2003

SAT-Optional Colleges

Question: Do you have a list of all the colleges that do not require SAT scores?

FairTest, a Massachusetts-based organization that is critical of the use of standardized testing in college admission decisions, maintains a list of SAT-optional institutions. You can find it at: http://www.fairtest.org/optstat.htm. Be sure to pay attention to the footnotes that follow the names of some places listed. These schools may ask for SAT II's instead of SAT I's (e.g., Union College in NY) or waive the SAT I requirements only for students with certain ranks or GPA's (e.g., Franklin and Marshall in PA).


As you peruse the list, you'll note that a growing number of colleges with good national reputations are on it (e.g., Bates and Bowdoin in Maine, Mount Holyoke and Wheaton in MA, Dickinson in PA).

Some colleges, too, that still require the SAT I have devalued its importance in the decision process. It can be hard, however, to get a real handle on how honest admission folks are being if you ask about the role of test scores. Most will be quick to assure you that course selection and grades count for far more. In fact, this is true--but, at many colleges and universities--so many applicants boast similar transcripts that standardized test results become an important tie-breaker. In such cases, a student whose SAT scores are below the middle range will probably need some sort of special "hook" to be admitted.

Thus, instead of asking admission staff members about the importance of the SAT at their school, ask instead if test scores have recently lost some status in the decision process. If the answer is "Yes," then a candidate with great grades and rank will probably still be well in the running, even if SAT scores don't quite measure up.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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