Not all students are confident test-takers. For some students, no matter how hard they study, the stress of the exam still negatively affects their concentration. In fact, around 60% of high school students have ‘test anxiety,’ which is defined as stress before or during taking a test that impacts their focus and performance.

For high school students, there are many big tests that they may have to take like AP exams, PSATs, SATs, and ACTs. Students can take college entrance exams like the SAT or ACT at any time during high school, but many high school students take these tests during their junior or senior year as they prepare for graduation and beyond.

In recent years, many colleges have dropped ACT/SAT requirements—more than ever before. During the 2023 application cycle, over 80% of colleges in the U.S. that offer bachelor’s degree programs didn’t require students to submit their standardized test scores. This new trend of test-free or test-optional colleges is changing how many students are evaluated and offered acceptance into college. 

For students with test anxiety, who have opted out of taking these exams, or with less-than-ideal test scores, test-optional colleges in the U.S. may be a great solution; these new college application policies are showing students that there is a way to get into college without having to get perfect scores on their standardized tests.

In this blog post, we’ll explain what “test-optional” and “test-free” colleges mean for students, how these new college testing policies change the admissions process, and provide a list of some of the top test-optional colleges in the U.S.

What are “Test-Free” or “Test-Optional” Colleges?

For many years, the SATs and ACTs determined many students’ fate about where they went to college. But in recent years, many colleges have adopted a test-free or test-optional policy for their admission process. These new policies provide a way for these colleges to open their doors to a wider range of students, promoting equity and more opportunities for all students.

Some students may be concerned about this change and wonder: “Won’t applying without my test scores hurt my chances of being accepted?” Don’t worry! Depending on the college’s updated admission policies, applying without your test scores shouldn’t hurt your chances. 

Let’s take a closer look at what test-free and test-optional colleges mean for students today.

What are Test-Free Colleges?

Test-free colleges are colleges that don’t require standardized testing, meaning that they dropped the requirement for SAT and ACT in their application process. They won’t take your test scores into consideration when reviewing applications and often won’t allow you to submit them at all.

Colleges that don’t require test scores are more focused on your GPA, the classes you took, your extracurricular activities, your college essay or additional writing sample, your letters of recommendation, and other factors included in your application.

What are Test-Optional Colleges?

So, what does “test-optional” mean? It’s as simple as it sounds: If colleges are test-optional, they don’t require SAT or ACT scores. However, applicants can still send them if they want their scores taken into consideration. 

If you have taken a standardized test and are happy with your scores, you can submit it to the college when you send your application. But if you feel your SAT or ACT scores don’t reflect your abilities, feel free to omit them from your application.

Our advice: Pay attention when applying to test-optional colleges. Each test-optional college has a unique policy, and some colleges are ending their test-optional policies at the end of the 2024 or 2025 application cycles. While you research colleges, make sure you understand their application policy and check the policy’s end date.

What Do “Test-Optional” and “Test-Free” College Options Mean for Students?

With these new application policies that many colleges are adopting, students who face test anxiety, opt out of standardized tests, or don’t receive top-tier scores are able to show more about who they are on their applications and not let a test score decide their future. 

But even with these new application policies, some students might be concerned that applying without their test scores could hurt their chances of getting into college. But, this isn’t the case! In fact, even if you submit your test scores to colleges that are test-optional, they may not consider your test scores (depending on their application policy).

What are some colleges that don’t require test scores?

It may come as a surprise, but there are over 2,000 colleges that don’t require SAT/ACT scores. 

That’s a lot of options for students! Over the last few years, there has been an increase in colleges changing their application policies to provide more students with the opportunity to enroll in their program.

16 Test-Optional Colleges in 2024

You may ask, “What colleges don’t require test scores?”. Below is our list of the best test-optional colleges in the U.S., including both private and public college options. And if you’re looking for a college in a specific area, we’ve even broken our list down by region.

It’s important to note that a college’s application policies may change frequently. We recommend visiting the college’s website for the most recent policy information and updates.


1. University of Notre Dame

Located in Notre Dame, Indiana, this private university has a test-optional policy that will last through the 2025 application cycle.

University of Notre Dame

2. The Ohio State University

Located in Columbus, Ohio, this public university offers a test-optional policy for the 2023-2024 through 2025-2026 academic years.

The Ohio State University

3. University of Minnesota

Located in Twin Cities, Minnesota, this public university is test-optional for the 2024 and 2025 application cycles.

University of Minnesota

4. Michigan State University

Located in East Lansing, Michigan, this public university is currently test-optional for first-year students.

Michigan State University


5. Vanderbilt University

Located in Nashville, Tennessee, this private university has a test-optional policy that will remain in place through Fall 2027 for all first-year, transfer, international, and homeschooled students.

Vanderbilt University

6. Texas A&M University

Located in College Station, Texas, this public university offers test-optional admissions

Texas A&M University

7. University of Miami

Located in Coral Gables, Florida, this private university is test-optional for the Spring and Fall 2024 admissions periods.

University of Miami

8. University of Virginia

Located in Charlottesville, Virginia, this public university has a test-optional policy for the Fall 2024 and Fall 2025 admissions periods.

University of Virginia


9. New York University

Located in New York, New York, this private university has a test-optional policy in place for its admissions process.

New York University

10. Northwestern University

Located in Evanston, Illinois, this private university is currently test-optional for the 2023-2024 admission cycle.

Northwestern University

11. University of Maine

Located in Orono, Maine, this public university is test-optional for all of its programs.

University of Maine

12. Columbia University

Located in New York, New York, this private, ivy league university is test-optional for students who are applying for Columbia College or Columbia Engineering.

Columbia University


13. University of Washington

Located in Seattle, Washington, this public university is test-free for the majority of applicants. Students who are homeschooled or attended schools with a non-traditional grading system will still have to submit SAT or ACT scores.

University of Washington

14. Santa Clara University

Located in Santa Clara, California, this private university offers a test-optional policy for first-year applicants.

Santa Clara University

15. Claremont McKenna College

Located in Claremont, California, this private university considers itself a test-optional school.

Claremont McKenna College

16. Oregon State University

Located in Corvallis, Oregon, this public university is test-optional.

Oregon State University

Should you still take the SAT or ACT?

If you are a current high school student and are thinking about your future college plans, consider whether or not to take the SAT or ACT. This decision will ultimately depend on your future plans and what colleges you are looking to apply to. 

There are numerous test-optional colleges in 2024 for high school seniors, but many colleges that are currently test-optional will change their application requirements depending on their policies. Be sure to review their current policies on their website before applying.

If you have already taken the SAT or ACT, don’t worry! If you are happy with your test scores, you can still submit them in your application to numerous colleges with test-optional policies if you want it to be a deciding factor in your college admission. But, every student needs to decide for themselves whether or not taking the SAT or ACT is the right choice.

Looking for test-optional colleges?

For students with testing anxiety, applying to colleges that are test-optional may be the right path for them. Test-optional colleges can also benefit students who have experienced bad test scores or even students who decided not to take standardized tests. 

When students apply to test-optional colleges, they are able to be evaluated based on their other skills and accomplishments. Colleges won’t judge you solely on your SAT or ACT score, but test-optional colleges allow students to share their other strengths.

Colleges that have adopted test-optional policies provide a more inclusive admissions process for students. Test-optional colleges tend to receive a more diverse applicant pool and offer more students the chance of being accepted into their programs.

Our list of 16 test-optional colleges in 2024 is just a glimpse of the new norm that many colleges across the country are adopting. In the next few years, we will continue to see how test-optional colleges in America continue to shift and evolve for new generations of students. If for whatever reason you don’t want to submit your test scores, a test-optional college is a great choice.

Are you currently getting ready to graduate and are exploring colleges? Then check out StudyLab and the College Finder tool. Filter and discover colleges that fit with what you are looking for and see if you have a minimum test score for a specific college’s testing requirements. 

Interested in exploring colleges in a specific location? Use our new map tool on StudyLab to see the location of where colleges are. Want to learn more information about college entrance exams like the SAT and ACT? Check out our other blog posts: