2021 Test Optional Colleges: Changes in Light of COVID-19

Padya Paramita

2021 Test Optional Colleges: Changes in Light of COVID-19

On top of the social distancing protocols interrupting the administration of the March and May exam sessions earlier, we’ve recently learned that the College Board has canceled the June SAT. As the pandemic continues, many colleges have decided to step up and remove standardized test scores from their requirements for at least the upcoming admissions cycle. We have a comprehensive list of the 2021 test optional colleges for you.

If you have an SAT score already, great! If you haven’t taken the exam yet, it’s important to think about the bigger picture and keep a few of the 2021 test optional colleges on your list in case the situation prevents you from taking the SAT. Many of the new additions include top colleges such as Cornell, Williams, Amherst, and UC Berkeley. To help you review the options, I have included the full list of schools that have made the decision to go test optional next year, and added more updates from the College Board to consider as you plan your road to the next four years.

List of 2021 Test Optional Colleges

As you look through the list of 2020 test optional colleges, you’ll notice that some schools have implemented test optional routes for more than just the upcoming cycle to be fair to all students in high school that could be impacted by this, regardless of which grade they are in right now. The following table includes institutions that have made changes to their standardized testing policies as a result of the disruptions. We will update the list as more colleges make announcements of changes.

Table Key

  • School: Name of the college which has gone test optional
  • Application Cycles Impacted: How long the change will be applicable
  • Additional Notes: Further details on schools that have alternate requirements in place of test score submission
School Application Years Impacted Additional Notes
Amherst College 2021-22
Babson College 2021-22; 2022-23
Barnard College 2021-2022; 2022-2023
Baylor University 2021-22; 2022-23
Bentley University 2021-22
Boston College 2021-2022
Boston University 2021-2022
Brown University 2020-21; 2021-22
Bucknell University 2021-22; 2022-23, 2023-24
California Insitute of Technology 2021-22 Test blind, i.e., not considering test scores at all
California State University 2021-22
Case Western University 2021-22; 2022-203
Catholic University Test Blind (not accepting SAT/ACT)
Chapman University 2021-22
Claremont McKenna College 2021-22
Clarkson University 2021-22
Clemson University 2021-22
Colgate University 2021-22; 2022-23
College of Charleston 2021-22; 2022-23
Columbia University 2021-22
Cornell University 2021-22 2021-22 (Optional for Arts & Sciences, Engineering, Human Ecology, & Industrial/Labor; Blind for Ag & Life Sciences, Architecture, and School of Business)
Cooper Union 2021-22
Dartmouth College 2021-22
Davidson College 2021-22; 2022-23
Drexel University 2021-22; 2022-23
Elon University 2021-22' 2022-23
Emory University 2021-22
Fordham University 2021-22
George Washington University Completely test optional
Grinnell College 2021-22
Hamilton College 2021-22; 2022-23
Harvard University 2021-22
Harvey Mudd College 2021-22
Haverford College 2021-22; 2022-23
Johns Hopkins University 2021-22
Kenyon College 2021-22
Indiana University — Bloomington Completely test optional
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 2021-22
Middlebury College 2021-22; 2022-23
New York University 2021-2022
Northeastern University 2021-22
Oberlin College 2021-22; 2022-23
Ohio State University 2021-22
Olin College of Engineering 2021-22
Oregon State University Test optional starting with the 2021-2022 application cycle
Pitzer College 2021-22; 2022-23; 2023-2024 (Test blind - not accepting SAT/ACT)
Pomona College 2021-22; 2022-2023
Princeton University 2021-22
Reed College Test blind - not accepting SAT/ACT
Rhodes College 2021-22; 2022-23
Rice University 2021-22
Rochester Institute of Technology Test optional starting with the 2021-2022 application cycle Fall 2021 and beyond: Test optional for all undergraduate programs. Applicants may choose whether to report test scores. Fall 2020 Test Optional Programs: Test optional for applicants to all programs in the College of Liberal Arts and BFA programs (except medical illustration) in the College of Art and Design. Students applying to imaging science, motion picture science and photographic sciences within the College of Art & Design must still provide test scores.
Rutgers University 2021-22
Santa Clara University 2021-22
Stanford University 2021-22
State University of New York 2021-22
Syracuse University 2021-22
Texas Christian University 2021-22; 2022-23
Tufts University 2021-22; 2022-23
Tulane University 2021-22
University of California (all schools) 2021-22; 2022-23; 2023-24 (Test-blind - not accepting SAT/ACT)
University of Chicago 2021-22
University of Colorado-Boulder 2021-22
University of Connecticut 2021-22; 2022-23
University of Illinois (all schools) 2021-22; 2022-23
University of Massachusetts—Amherst 2021-22; 2022-23
University of Minnesota—Twin Cities 2021-22; 2022-23
University of North Carolina (all schools) 2021-22
University of Notre Dame 2021-22; 2022-23
University of Oregon Test optional starting with the 2021-22 application cycle
University of Pennsylvania 2021-22
University of Pittsburgh 2021-22; 2022-23
University of Richmond 2021-22
University of San Diego 2021-22. (Test blind - not accepting the SAT/ACT)
University of South Carolina 2021-22
University of Southern California 2021-22; 2022-23
University of Texas — Austin 2021-22
University of Toronto 2021-22
University of Virginia 2021-22; 2022-23
University of Washington — Seattle Completely test optional starting the 2021-22 application cycle
University of Wisconsin — Madison 2021-22
Vanderbilt University 2021-22
Vassar College 2021-22; 2022-23
Villanova University 2021-22
Washington and Lee University 2021-22
Wellesley College 2021-22
William and Mary 2021-22; 2022-23
Williams College 2021-22; 2022-23
Yale University 2021-22

Most colleges have only implemented the change in policy for one year, although a handful of schools are running three-year pilot programs. It should be interesting to note how the addition of this new protocol impacts incoming classes — how many students submit their scores, what the median numbers are, and whether colleges choose to expand this policy beyond just this upcoming cycle.

Shoshannah Feinberg, a Former Admissions Officer from Northwestern, discusses how these new policies will influence your admissions chances in this podcast episode:

Other Changes in Testing by the College Board 

On the 19th of January 2021, the College Board announced that it will no longer offer SAT subject tests. Reflecting on a year of COVID-19 impacting the testing landscape in various ways, the Board said that the pandemic ““accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to reduce and simplify demands on students.” The timeline of this announcement is simple: The “SAT subject tests canceled” headline goes into effect immediately for all test centers in the US and after the May and June 2021 administrations for tests given internationally (including Canada). In addition, in light of the pandemic, the College Board will be working on a more flexible and streamlined version of the SAT that can be digitally delivered. There is not yet any official timeline for this change and the College Board will share more information about this later in the spring. The organization is also cancelling the optional Essay on the SAT after the June 2021 session.

Understandably, the list of 2021 test optional colleges is ever expanding. If you’re a student who hasn’t had the chance to take the exam — or aren’t sure if you’ll be able to do so in the fall — take advantage of the changes and consider applying to these institutions and other test optional colleges. Expect more universities to announce adjustments in their testing policies as states make changes regarding lockdown timelines in the upcoming months, but at the same time, continue leaving time to practice for the SAT, as most top schools haven’t made any changes so far. Good luck!

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