Test Prep

What Does ACT or SAT Optional Mean?


A test optional college or university is one that does not require applicants to submit SAT and ACT scores as part of the admissions process.

Over the past dozen years, many colleges have tweaked their application processes to put less weight on SAT and ACT scores, or make submitting them entirely optional. There are now nearly 1,000 accredited test optional colleges and universities. The University of Chicago is the latest selective college (it has a seven percent acceptance rate) to go ACT and SAT optional.

How is Applying to Test Optional Colleges Different?

Schools that are test optional do not require standardized test scores as part of a complete application. Instead, you have the chance to decide for yourself if your scores accurately reflect your abilities and potential to excel in college.

Applying without test scores often requires submission of additional application materials or meeting a specific GPA requirement. In other cases, you can apply for admission without test scores, but you'll still need to submit them to be considered for merit-based financial aid.

You should research the admissions policies at your college of choice very carefully. FairTest.org is an excellent resource for students seeking more information about test-optional schools.

Why You Should Still Take the SAT or ACT

Even if you have your eye on a test optional college, I strongly recommend giving at least one test at try.

For one, “optional" doesn't mean that that colleges won't consider your test scores if you submit them. Without them, greater weight is given to other aspects of your application such as your transcript, essay, extracurriculars and letters of recommendation. If you're happy with your scores, go ahead and include with them your application.

Having a solid test score on hand will give you a wider array of options when it comes to colleges, and may be necessary for scholarship applications. Learn how better scores can earn you big awards.