Preparing for College

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: 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.