Get Into These 39 Top Colleges With Bad SAT or ACT Scores

Last Updated Jun 23, 2011 3:09 PM EDT

Are you eager to get into a highly ranked college, but have lousy ACT or SAT scores?eraser end of yellow pencils
Cheer up. There are plenty of excellent colleges in this country which wouldn't mind if you keep your mediocre ACT and SAT scores a secret. In fact, more than a third of the top 100 liberal arts colleges in the country are test optional.

At test-optional schools, your application with missing scores should be given the same weight as students who send in their scores.

Where can you find these schools? The best source is the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), which maintains a list of hundreds of colleges and universities with test-optional policies.

To make your job easier, I've provided lists of the top nationally ranked schools in the liberal arts college and university categories that are test optional. Here they are:

Test-Optional School Among US News' Top 100 Liberal Arts Colleges

4. Middlebury College (VT) *

6. Bowdoin College (ME)

14. Smith College (MA)

18. Hamilton College (NY) *

21. Bates College (ME)

23. Colby College (ME) *

26. Colorado College (CO) *

26. Mount Holyoke College (MA)

30. Bryn Mawr (PA) *

32. College of the Holy Cross (MA)

32. Sewanee - The University of the South (TN)

38. Bard College (NY)

41. Connecticut College (CT)

41. Franklin and Marshall College (PA)

41. Union College (NY)

41. Furman University (SC)

46. Pitzer College (CA)

47. Dickinson College (PA)

47. Gettysburg College (PA)

51. Denison University (OH)

55. St. Lawrence University (NY)

59. Wheaton College (MA)

67. Agnes Scott College (GA)

67. Hobart and William Smith Colleges (NY)

67. Lawrence University (WI)

71. Ursinus College (PA)

75. Knox College (IL)

75. Lewis and Clark (OR)

75. Muhlenberg College (PA)

79. Drew University (NJ)

79. Gustavus Adolpohus (MN)

81. Juniata College (PA)

88. Augustana College (IL)

93. St. Michael's College (VT)

93. Washington College (MD)

* The schools with the asterisk require other test scores if students are not submitting the SAT or ACT. These could include scores on Advanced Placement tests or SAT subject tests.

Not on the liberal arts college list is Sarah Lawrence College, which is in a class by itself because it refuses to accept ACT or SAT scores at all. Good for Sarah Lawrence.

Test-Optional Schools Among US News' Top 100 National Universities


While there are many less selective state schools that are test optional, it's rare for private universities to be test optional. Why? Because unlike colleges, which are small enough to evaluate applications holistically, universities receive too many applications to evaluate students on a more personal level. At universities, grades and test scores tend to be far more important.

Here are three notable private universities that are test optional:

25. Wake Forest University

64. Worcester Polytechnic Institute

79. American University

To learn more about test-optional practices, I'd suggest you read this article that I wrote for The New York Times a couple of summers ago:

The Other Side of Test Optional

Read More on CBS MoneyWatch:

5 Hardest and Easiest College Majors by GPA's
Grade Inflation: Colleges With the Easiest and Hardest Grades

Engineering Degrees: How Tough Is It To Get One

8 Reasons Not to Get a Business Degree
Lynn O'Shaughnessy is author of The College Solution, an Amazon bestseller, and she also writes her own college blog at The College Solution.
SAT and ACT image by fdecomite. CC 2.0.

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