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Bombed the SAT or the ACT? Here are colleges that are ‘test-optional.’

Wake Forest University in Winston Salem, N.C., ranked 27th on the U.S. News & World Report list of national universities, went test-optional in 2009. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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So which colleges and universities will admit you without requiring or looking at test scores? If you’re aiming for the Ivy League or other national universities at the most elite level, forget about it. They not only demand SAT or ACT results, many also will look for other tests to show subject-matter mastery.

But there are plenty of schools that take a test-optional approach. On Monday, George Washington University became the latest. GWU said that with a few exceptions, students seeking freshman admission will no longer have to submit SAT or ACT scores.

[George Washington University applicants no longer need to take admissions tests]

The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, known as FairTest, is an advocacy group that tracks the test-optional movement. It has a list of more than 800 schools that admit substantial numbers of students to bachelor’s degree programs without using SAT or ACT scores.

The description of the list is carefully worded because of nuances in policies. Some schools require tests but allow students to submit results from assessments other than the two big admissions tests. Some public schools require tests but will then admit a portion of students based on grades or class rank, without considering their test scores. Some are test-optional but only for students who meet certain grade-point average thresholds. And so on.

The Washington Post analyzed FairTest’s list to see what types of schools offer some type of flexibility. Here are a few takeaways.

  • There are about 180 public and private schools on the list with published rankings from U.S. News & World Report, some of them national and many regional. They range from Agnes Scott College, a women’s school in Georgia, to Wake Forest University, a liberal arts/research university in North Carolina. There are no test-optional schools, however, among the top 25 on the U.S. News national university list. In general, there are far more test-optional schools among liberal arts colleges than major national universities.
  • There are at least 144 for-profit schools listed, ranging from the giant University of Phoenix network to various schools emphasizing art design, nursing, technology and other careers. Many of these are online operations. Some are hard to find on the federal College Navigator database and are probably not known to high school students.
  • There are about 460 private, nonprofit schools. Some are tiny. The Post counted 97 of these schools with enrollment of 200 undergraduates or fewer, according to recent federal data, and about 50 with no more than 100 undergrads. The latter include a great number of seminaries, bible colleges, rabbinical colleges and other religious institutions, from Shasta Bible College in Redding, Calif., (39 undergrads) to the Talmudical Institute of Upstate New York, in Rochester, with 13.
  • There are more than 230 public colleges and universities, from Alcorn State in Mississippi to Wichita State in Kansas. The California State University system is well-represented because it uses GPAs in core subjects to admit students. So are public schools in Texas, which use class rank to admit many in-state applicants. Virginia has become a hotbed of test-optional public experiments: George Mason, Old Dominion, Christopher Newport, Radford, Mary Washington and Virginia Commonwealth universities all are listed as test-optional with GPA thresholds. VCU is the latest, joining this year.
  • If you like test-optional choices, try Maine. This state has a cluster of well-regarded liberal arts colleges on the FairTest list. Bowdoin and Bates colleges are test-optional and have been for a long time. So are the College of the Atlantic and Thomas and Unity colleges, and several branches of the University of Maine. Colby College is test-flexible, meaning it requires tests but they don’t have to be the regular ACT or SAT. You could send in SAT Subject test scores instead.