Our Research

We considered several key factors to find the best test-optional colleges, including each school’s cost per credit, the number of credits required to graduate, and available delivery formats, such as online, on-campus, or a hybrid model.

Accreditation is one of the most important criteria we considered when reviewing the colleges on our list. To ensure our list only includes reputable schools with prestigious programs, we made sure to only include those accredited by trustworthy institutions such as the Higher Learning Commission, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Students who attend these schools will receive a quality education and can transfer college credits if they decide to switch schools.

We also looked at programs available at each institution, the institution’s reputation, and total enrollment. After reviewing these factors, we assigned each program an Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100.

  • 21 hours to write this article
  • 66 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 116 education programs we compared

The Top 45 Best Test-Optional Colleges

Best Test-Optional Colleges Badge
01
Intelligent Pick
Bowdoin College
01
Best in the South
Stetson University
01
Best Women's College
Smith College
01
Best Student-to-Faculty Ratio
Bates College
01
Best Christian College
Davidson College
01
Best in the West
Pitzer College
01
Best in the Northwest
Whitman College
01
Best in the Mid Atlantic
Bryn Mawr College
01
Best Value
Colby College
01
Best for Environmental Science
Colorado College
01
Best for Internships
Hamilton College
01
Best Catholic School
College of the Holy Cross
01
Best for Studying Abroad
Middlebury College
01
Best for International Students
Mount Holyoke College
01
Best Liberal Arts College, West
Pomona College
01
Best Pre-College Program
Skidmore College
01
Best Small Liberal Arts College for STEM
Union College
01
Best Consortium Option
Amherst College
01
Best Small Liberal Arts College for Research
Grinnell College
01
Best for Student Engagement
Haveford College
01
Best for Engineering
Harvey Mudd College
01
Best for the Natural Sciences
Kenyon College
01
Best for Music
Oberlin College and Conservatory
01
Most Customizable
Swarthmore College
01
Best Episcopal College
Trinity College
01
Best for Veterans
Vassar College
01
Best Coop Option
Wellesley College
01
Best Small Liberal Arts College, South
Agnes Scott College
01
Best Small Business College
Babson College
01
Best Dual Degree Option
Bard College
01
Best for Finance
Boston College
01
Best for Economics
Claremont McKenna College
01
Best for International Business
College of Charleston
01
Best Faculty
Dartmouth College
01
Best for Experiential Education
Earlham College
01
Best Mentoring
Franklin and Marshall College
01
Best Small Christian College, Midwest
Hope College
01
Best for Holistic Education
Lewis & Clark College
01
Most Innovative
Macalester College
01
Best Baccalaureate Academics
Providence College
01
Most Personalized Education
Reed College
01
Best for Community Engagement
Rhodes College
01
Best Polytechnic School
Virginia Tech
01
Best Accelerated Master's Option
Wheaton College, IL
01
Best for Career Services
Worcester Polytechnic Institute

What You Should Know About Test-Optional Colleges

Students needing financial aid to fund their education should be aware that many colleges award merit aid based on a combination of academic accomplishments, including your GPA and standardized test scores. If you choose to withhold your test scores when applying to college, this may prevent you from receiving aid from the school, and you will need to apply for scholarships from other institutions.

Do not confuse test-flexible for test-optional. Test-flexible schools may not require you to submit your SAT or ACT scores, but they may require you to submit scores from other tests, like AP tests. While this may not be an issue for some students, poor test-takers are better off applying to a test-optional school where they can boost their admission chances with extracurriculars and admissions essays.

Some studies indicate test-optional colleges promote socioeconomic equality as they cater to students that may not be able to pay for test prep services or take tests multiple times to improve their scores. DEFINING ACCESS: How Test-Optional Works, a 2018 study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, found test-optional policies can lead to an increased representation of “racial and ethnic groups often underrepresented in college populations.”

What’s Next?

When applying to a test-optional school, consider other ways you can boost your chances of admission and finance your education. Here are a few key points to keep in mind.

  • Decide whether or not to submit your scores. Just because SAT and ACT scores are not required does not mean your test scores cannot help improve your chances of admission at test-optional schools. In general, you should only choose to not submit test scores if your scores fall well below the average of those achieved by students enrolled at the university. Check to see if the school you are applying to publishes its students’ test score percentiles to determine whether or not your scores are in line with what the school expects from its students.
  • Take on more extracurriculars. If you choose not to submit your scores, it is important to strengthen the other components of your application. Extracurriculars can significantly increase your chances of acceptance at a test-optional school. Leadership activities, internships, athletics, volunteer activities, and academic clubs are good ways for students to bolster their academic resumes.
  • Review each college’s test-optional policies. Not all test-optional schools are test-optional for all students. Some colleges that advertise test-optional admissions still require certain students to submit test scores depending on certain factors. George Washington University, for example, is a test-optional school that requires homeschooled students and recruited athletes to submit test scores. Other schools are only test-optional for students with a GPA above a certain threshold. Before applying to a school, make sure to review its test-optional policies to ensure you are not required to submit your test scores.
  • Apply for financial aid. Some schools award merit aid on the basis of standardized test scores, so students that do not submit their scores may miss out on financial aid. To get the financial aid you need, you should apply for scholarships and financial aid, starting with Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). By applying for aid through FAFSA, you may be qualified to receive a number of grants, scholarships, and subsidized student loans to help pay for college.