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 2020-21
Babson College 2020-21; 2021-22; 2022-23
Barnard College 2020-21; 2021-2022; 2022-2023
Baylor University 2020-21; 2021-22; 2022-23
Bentley University 2020-21; 2021-22
Boston College 2020-21
Boston University 2020-21
Brandeis University Test flexible starting the 2020-21 application cycle Students have 3 options: Option 1: Submit SAT or ACT. The writing portion of the SAT is not required. Brandeis will superscore each exam if more than one set of results is submitted. Option 2: Submit three exams from the approved list, which includes APs, IBs and SAT subject tests. One exam must be from a Science or Math discipline, one exam must be from an English or social science discipline, and the third exam may be from a discipline of your choice. Option 3: Submit a graded analytical paper through the Common Application.
Brown University 2020-21; 2021-22
Bucknell University 2020-21; 2021-22; 2022-23, 2023-24
California Insitute of Technology 2020-21; 2021-22 Completely test blind, i.e., not considering test scores at all
California State University 2020-21
Case Western University 2020-21
Catholic University Completely test blind starting the 2020-21 application cycle
Chapman University 2020-21
Claremont McKenna College 2020-21
Clarkson University 2020-21
Colgate University 2020-21; 2021-22; 2022-23
College of Charleston 2020-21
Columbia University 2020-21; 2021-22
Cornell University 2020-21; 2021-222 The university states that standardized test scores could still be a “meaningful differentiator” for students who live near or attend a high school that will offer more testing this year or if the candidate has not experienced a significant loss in income for one or more household providers.
Cooper Union 2020-21; 2021-22
Dartmouth College 2020-21
Davidson College 2020-21, 2021-22, 2022-23
Drexel University 2020-21
Elon University 2020-21, 2021-22, 2022-23
Emory University 2020-21; 2021-22
Fordham University 2020-21, 2021-22
Georgetown University Regarding Subject Tests: SAT Subject Tests: The College Board has discontinued offering the Subject Tests in the USA therefore these are no longer an option. In their place, we recommend (not require) that students who have A.P. (Advanced Placement) scores, submit them to supplement their admissions file. Please note that Georgetown does not allow Score Choice. Therefore, students who took SAT Subject Tests prior to them being discontinued, will be expected to submit their scores to Georgetown.
Grinnell College 2020-21
Hamilton College 2020-21; 2021-22; 2022-23
Harvard University 2020-21
Harvey Mudd College 2020-21; 2021-22
Haverford College 2020-21; 2021-22; 2022-23
Johns Hopkins University 2020-21; 2021-22
Indiana University — Bloomington Completely test optional starting the 2020-21 application cycle
Kenyon College 2020-21
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 2020-21
Middlebury College 2020-21; 2021-22; 2022-23
New York University 2020-21
Northeastern University 2020-21; 2021-22
Northwestern University 2020-21
Oberlin College 2020-21; 2021-22; 2022-23
Ohio State University 2020-21; 2021-22
Olin College of Engineering 2020-21
Oregon State University 2020-21
Pomona College 2020-21
Princeton University 2020-21; 2021-22
Reed College 2020-21 completely test blind
Rhodes College 2020-21; 2021-22; 2022-23
Rice University 2020-21
Rochester Institute of Technology Test optional starting Fall 2021 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 2020-21; 2021-22
Santa Clara University 2020-21; 2021-22
Stanford University 2020-21; 2021-22
State University of New York 2020-21
Syracuse University 2020-21; 2021-22
Texas Christian University 2020-21
Tufts University 2020-21; 2021-22; 2022-23
Tulane University 2020-21; 2021-22
University of California (all schools) Test-blind
University of Colorado - Boulder 2020-21
University of Connecticut 2020-21; 2021-22; 2022-23
University of Georgia 2020-21
University of Illinois — Urbana Champaign 2020-21
University of Massachusetts—Amherst 2020-21; 2021-22; 2022-23
University of Minnesota—Twin Cities 2020-21; 2021-22; 2022-23
University of North Carolina (all schools) 2020-21
University of Notre Dame 2020-21; 2021-22; 2022-23
University of Oregon 2020-21
University of Pennsylvania 2020-21
University of Pittsburgh 2020-21; 2021-22; 2022-23
University of Richmond 2020-21
University of San Diego Completely test optional starting the 2020-21 application cycle
University of South Carolina 2020-21
University of Southern California 2020-21; 2021-22; 2022-23
University of Texas — Austin 2020-21
University of Toronto 2020-21 Optional for US students applying for Arts, Science, Commerce/Management, Architectural/Visual Studies,Kinesiology & Physical Education, and Music. Engineering still requires testing.
University of Virginia 2020-21
University of Washington 2020-21
University of Washington — Seattle Completely test optional starting the 2020-21 application cycle
University of Wisconsin — Madison 2020-21; 2021-22
Vanderbilt University 2020-21
Vassar College 2020-21; 2021-22; 2022-23
Villanova University 2020-21; 2021-22
Washington and Lee University 2020-21; 2021-22
Wellesley College 2020-21, 2021-22
Williams College 2020-21
Yale University 2020-21; 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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