John has done well in classes. He’s taken a rigorous curriculum to show colleges that he’s not afraid of academic challenges. He’s a well-rounded student who has demonstrated leadership and has had diverse experiences. But he didn’t do well (or as well as he had hoped) on his standardized tests.
Sound familiar? Does that describe you?
There are thousands of students out there who will be excellent candidates for top colleges but are just not good test-takers. Luckily for them, there are hundreds of colleges that de-emphasize standardized tests. Why? Perhaps a college feels that a student’s performance on a three-hour exam is not nearly as important as four years of grades and extracurricular involvement. Or a college places more emphasis on an applicant’s character and letters of recommendation. Or a college just doesn’t feel that test scores predict very well how students will fare academically.
Here is our top ten list of colleges that don’t require the SAT or ACT (in no particular order).
- American University. Situated in the heart of the nation’s capital, American is known for strengths across the board, from the liberal arts to business, communications and international service. Students are politically active and there are more than 100 AU study abroad programs offered.
- Mt. Holyoke College and Smith College. We couldn’t just limit our list to our ten favorite colleges – so we’re including both Mt. Holyoke and Smith colleges. These two neighboring schools in central Massachusetts are top-ranking women’s liberal arts colleges. Smith is unique among women’s colleges for offering a BS in engineering science, while Mt. Holyoke is known for its student diversity – nearly 20% of students are international.
- Wake Forest University. Wake Forest, in North Carolina, is a major research university with the feel of a smaller liberal arts college. There are only 4,500 undergraduate students, but the university includes medical, law, divinity and business schools.
- Sarah Lawrence College. At Sarah Lawrence, in Bronxville, New York, students work closely with faculty members as their advisers for all four years. SLC is also known for offering one of the best writing programs for poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction.
- Berklee College of Music. Berklee, in Boston, considers itself the world’s premier learning lab of contemporary music. Berklee offers both performance and non-performance majors in music and the music business, and its alumni have collected nearly 200 Grammy Awards.
- Colorado College. Colorado College, in Colorado Springs, is one of only a few colleges to offer a Block Plan: students take just one course at a time. Students fully immerse themselves into that subject and take eight courses per year. Colorado College is also non-traditional with standardized tests – it offers many options for applicants to submit SAT Subject Test scores, AP scores, or IB scores instead of SAT or ACT scores.
- Fairfield University. Fairfield, a Jesuit and Catholic university founded in 1942, prepares its students for leadership and service through intellectual inquiry, the pursuit of social justice and development of the mind, body and spirit. Fairfield enrolls approximately 4,000 undergraduates and offers a comprehensive core curriculum with 35 undergraduate majors in six schools.
- University of Arizona. The University of Arizona in Tucson is a public institution founded in 1885 with a total undergraduate enrollment of approximately 30,000. U of A offers 100 majors in 15 colleges and is particularly known for its programs in business, science and engineering.
- Lewis & Clark College. Lewis & Clark, in Portland, Oregon, considers itself a private college with a public conscience – committed to original research, interdisciplinary academic learning and community engagement. The college enrolls nearly 2,000 students and has a particular focus on the environment and sustainability.
- Union College. Located in Schenectady, New York, and founded in 1795, Union offers its 2,000-plus students a liberal arts education that emphasizes experiential learning through research, study abroad and community engagement. Union offers three trimesters; students take three classes each trimester.
Here’s a full list of colleges that don’t emphasize tests. Some colleges recommend but do not require certain tests; some colleges exempt applicants who meet GPA or class rank requirements; and others only use SAT or ACT scores for placement purposes. Always visit colleges’ websites to see their testing requirements.
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