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7 Schools to Consider If You Don’t Test Well

The college application process can be stressful for anyone, but it’s especially anxiety-inducing for students who don’t perform well on standardized tests.

Even though many colleges use test scores as a factor in admissions decisions, tests like the ACT® and SAT® exams are far from the only accurate measures of aptitude and ability.

If standardized tests aren’t an accurate reflection of your abilities as an applicant, here are seven schools to consider adding to your college list. They’re just a small selection of the many colleges that either don’t require test scores or give more consideration to other aspects of your application.

1. American University in Washington, DC

This prestigious university, located in the nation’s capital, is interested in more than just test scores and welcomes applicants to opt out of having their ACT or SAT scores considered during review of their application. American University is most interested in students’ performance in the classroom as well as qualitative aspects of the application, like the personal essay and letters of recommendation. The university assures applicants that not submitting scores doesn’t impact a candidate’s prospects.

2. Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona

ASU has a unique set of admission requirements. Incoming freshman applicants must submit transcripts that show a high school curriculum that meets ASU’s specifications and demonstrate academic excellence by satisfying one of four measures. While the ACT and SAT exams are on the list, ASU will accept applications without test scores from applicants who are in the top 25% of their graduating class or have at least a 3.0 GPA.

3. Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania

This women’s college in Pennsylvania doesn’t require standardized test scores for applicants from the United States. International and non-US resident applicants are required to submit ACT or SAT scores in most cases. Also, if you do choose to submit your standardized test scores, you don’t have to submit the essay section, which may come as a relief to some students.

4. Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts

All-women’s college Mount Holyoke, one of the original “sister schools,” doesn’t require standardized test scores at all, with no exceptions. Their philosophy is that standardized testing doesn’t demonstrate the full range of a student’s intellectual and motivational qualities. They started this policy with their incoming fall 2001 class. Initially, it was a five-year trial in which they examined the impact of a test-optional admissions policy. They ultimately found that not mandating test scores aligned with their educational mission and goals and continued the policy moving forward.

5. Pitzer College in Claremont, California

Pitzer College launched its test-optional admissions policy in 2003 (with a few exceptions, including home-schooled applicants). Pitzer takes a holistic approach to its admissions process with the most emphasis placed on transcripts, recommendation letters, leadership roles, work history, school, and community activities and commitment to its core values. In case you have anxiety about being judged for opting out of submitting test scores, Pitzer guarantees that all students—test scores or no test scores—are given equal consideration in the admission process.

6. Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Temple University is so committed to providing an avenue to admission for students who don’t test well that it has a special name for it: the Temple Option. The Temple Option is intended for students who don’t feel like their test scores reflect their ability. Instead of submitting test scores, students opting for the Temple Option submit self-reflective short answers to a few specially designed, open-ended questions. The Temple Option is not available to home-schooled students, international applicants, or recruited athletes.

7. Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Wake Forest went test-optional with the class that entered in the fall of 2009 and has been pleased with the results. Undergraduate ethnic diversity has increased by 90 percent from the fall 2008 to the fall of 2017. There’s also been no reported difference in academic achievement between students who submitted standardized test scores and those who didn’t.

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