Having a list of the best colleges that are test optional is a must-have for every fresh high school graduate.
Standardized testing can be challenging and often doesn’t represent the true academic capabilities of students.
As more and more universities and colleges agree, some of the nation’s most competitive schools are opening up to be test-optional or ultimately test-free.
This guide reviews 10 of the best schools you can apply to that do not require SAT or ACT scores. Each of these schools meets the following criteria:
- An average annual cost of no more than $43,000
- A median starting salary no lower than $45,000
- Accredited programs by recognized bodies
10 Best Colleges That Are Test Optional
1. Davidson College
4 Year; Davidson, NC
Average Annual Cost: $21,042
The curriculum at Davidson College is unique because it combines intellectual and creative trains of thought.
As such, students will learn how to develop their fine skills and instincts to become top performers in their chosen areas of study.
By graduation, they will become strong leaders in their industry with enhanced employable skills, preparing them for a rapidly changing world.
Davidson College is home to 1,973 enrolled students with an average class size of 18:1.
Enrolling in this school is a fantastic opportunity for students who excel in one-on-one learning.
The school has several accolades, one being that it has produced the highest number of Fulbright students for seven years in a row.
Outside of academics, Davidson College is home to 21 women’s and men’s NCAA Division I sports teams, making it perfect for athletic-minded individuals.
When choosing your program of study, you will be able to select from 31 different majors as well as 40 minors and 15 interdisciplinary minors.
You will also find that its advising practices are some of the best, offering students numerous options to help them plan their future learning pathways.
There is peer tutoring, career advising, holistic advising, and multilingual student support, which help guarantee that everyone has equal access to the assistance they need.
2. Northwestern University
4 Year; Evanston, IL
Average Annual Cost: $23,279
Northwestern University is one of the world’s leading teaching and research schools that offers numerous learning opportunities to students.
You will be able to become a part of some of the most innovative research opportunities, all while studying in a diverse and inclusive academic community.
With three total campuses containing 12 individual schools and colleges, students can explore phenomenal learning pathways.
Moreover, Northwestern University is exceptionally competitive, with 21,000 annually enrolled students.
Its teaching faculty includes 3,334 full-time professors who assist students with learning their specialty and becoming diverse community members.
Outside of studies, the school is home to 19 intercollegiate athletic teams and 500+ organizations and clubs you can join.
Northwestern University has various undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education programs.
It also has an exceptional number of fully online programs and short online courses to help you explore other fundamentals of your future career.
Students can find their dream careers within one of the following schools of education:
- Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
- School of Communication
- School of Education and Social Policy
- McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science
- Medill School of Journalism, Media, and Integrated Marketing Communications
- Northwestern Pritzker School of Law
- Kellogg School of Management
- Feinberg School of Medicine
- Bienen School of Music
- School of Professional Studies
3. Rhodes College
4 Year; Memphis, TN
Average Annual Cost: $25,881
Rhodes College is a great campus with sprawling buildings that boast some of the most beautiful architecture in the nation.
As a four-year private and co-educational residential institution, students can explore several phenomenal liberal arts and sciences courses.
What makes Rhodes College unique is that it looks like the campus is in the middle of nowhere.
In truth, it is located in the middle of a major metropolitan area.
In this school, students will be able to explore many internships, service opportunities, research opportunities, and more.
Since the campus is so close to downtown Memphis, they can explore an exuberant nightlife with music, fantastic cuisine, and brilliant artistic events.
Regarding academics, this school is one of the most prestigious that students can choose to enroll in.
They will find 50 different majors, minors, and graduate academic programs at Rhodes College.
You can partake in single- or dual-degree studies if you want to earn your undergraduate and graduate degrees simultaneously.
It is also important to note that every student will have a fair opportunity to learn comfortably at Rhodes College.
Each course features experiential and applied learning techniques, giving you access to hands-on learning and leadership opportunities.
In other words, studying in this school is a fantastic way to ensure you are career-ready upon graduation.
4. California Institute of Technology
4 Year; Pasadena, CA
Average Annual Cost: $26,542
The California Institute of Technology is another good school known for its incredible educational and research opportunities.
Students can explore a number of fundamental tenets in science, mathematics, and other competitive programs.
Undoubtedly, the California Institute of Technology is home to some of the brightest minds.
It boasts more than a few excellent facilities for learning, such as the Seismological Laboratory.
Currently, there are 987 undergraduate students enrolled as well as 1,410 graduate students.
With their small class sizes, you will have a three-to-one student-to-teacher ratio, opening the door to learning in the most exclusive environment possible.
An even greater accolade of California Institute of Technology’s programs is that they have helped develop 46 Nobel Prize winners over the years.
Students at this school can choose from 28 undergraduate and 30 graduate options.
There are 300+ staff members that specialize in their areas of teaching, giving students a remarkable opportunity to learn from industry leaders.
By the time you graduate, you will know exactly how to identify, analyze, and solve complicated problems in your discipline.
5. Brown University
4 Year; Providence, RI
Average Annual Cost: $29,544
Brown University is one of the many schools that understand standardized testing does not represent students’ true academic nature.
That said, it currently does not require students to provide their ACT or SAT scores upon application.
If you are looking for a remarkable institution known for its exceptional learning pathways, this is one of the top schools you must consider attending.
Brown University is the seventh oldest college in the entire United States.
At its core, it is an outstanding institution for students who want to be involved in teaching and research.
It is also well-known for its numerous scholarship opportunities, helping students achieve intellectual excellence and academic freedom.
One of the most remarkable tenets of Brown University is that it has an Open Curriculum.
It is a flexible yet rigorous method of learning that is highly adaptable to the learning styles of every student.
You will also find that it works well across all disciplines, from engineering to medical studies.
Brown University is home to 2,477 courses, including 80+ undergraduate and 84 doctoral and master’s programs.
To date, the school has produced 635 Fulbright Scholars, speaking to the integrity of its 1,429 faculty members and phenomenal curriculum.
Students will be able to explore numerous course options within the following schools of thought:
- Warren Alpert Medical School
- School of Professional Studies
- School of Public Health
- School of Engineering
- And many more
6. Boston University
4 Year; Boston, MA
Average Annual Cost: $30,395
Boston University is home to a spectacular campus that will take your breath away.
Many students even suggest that their campus buildings are reminiscent of castles, helping you study in a unique and enticing environment.
Apart from its beautiful architecture, Boston University is also home to some of the best and most competitive programs nationwide.
There are over 36,000 students enrolled in the school from over 130 countries.
Boston University employs 10,000 faculty and staff members across its 17 colleges and schools of thought.
Students can choose from 300 unique programs available across three campuses, depending on their desired specialty.
When choosing the program of your dreams, there is a multitude of options to consider, including:
- Fine Arts
- Computing and Data Sciences
- Arts and Sciences
- Dental Medicine
- Graduate Sciences
Along with an impressive number of undergraduate programs, you will also find highly competitive graduate programs at Boston University.
Most of the graduate programs fall within the Graduate Medical Sciences and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
7. Lehigh University
4 Year; Bethlehem, PA
Average Annual Cost: $34,384
Lehigh University is one of the premier universities for students to consider if they are looking for numerous research opportunities.
Compared to other programs, the curriculum at this institution is incredibly rigorous and not for the faint of heart.
That said, it can help open the door to endless employment options once you graduate from your program.
Lehigh University is home to over 7,000 students spanning 20+ interdisciplinary programs.
The school is ranked sixth as an NGO by the UN. It features a 10-to-one student-to-faculty ratio for its 111 undergraduate degree programs.
What makes this school unique is that 94% of the students go on to complete internships or experiential learning opportunities to help their future careers.
Student life at Lehigh University is amazing, giving students many opportunities to network and make lifelong friends.
There are over 150 clubs, 25 sororities and fraternities, and 41 clubs and intramural sports.
Students can also watch or become a part of one of the school’s 25 NCAA Division I intercollegiate sports for women and men.
8. Cornell University
4 Year; Ithaca, NY
Average Annual Cost: $37,042
Cornell University is one of the most well-known universities that don’t currently require testing scores.
Initially, the school withdrew these requirements due to COVID-19 impacting student learning.
However, it is said to continue not requiring SAT or ACT scores until 2026, if not longer.
Cornell University is a privately funded research university that is also considered a partner of the State University of New York.
As an Ivy League facility, the school contributes exceptional knowledge in many fields.
There are currently 25,582 enrolled students and 1,729 professors who are all renowned specialists in their fields.
Another notable accolade of this school is that it is home to 50 Nobel Laureates, speaking to the quality of its learning pathways.
As a student at Cornell University, you will always have learning opportunities to satisfy your desire to learn.
Students can explore phenomenal programs in the various schools of thought, including:
- College of Arts and Sciences
- College of Architecture, Art, and Planning
- College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
- Cornell SC Johnson College of Business
- The Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science
- College of Engineering
- College of Human Ecology
- Cornell Law School
- And more
9. Pepperdine University
4 Year; Malibu, CA
Average Annual Cost: $38,846
Pepperdine University is unique because it is a Christian university that provides students with excellent learning opportunities while following the word of God.
During your studies, you will explore Christian values while dedicating a significant part of your school life to service, purpose, and leadership.
Not only are its academics top-rated, but the campus is also very well known for its beauty.
At Pepperdine University, students can work toward bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees.
There are also certificate programs available for students to consider in the following academic pathways:
- Caruso School of Law
- Graziadio Business School
- Graduate School of Education and Psychology
- School of Public Policy
- Seaver College
10. Santa Clara University
4 Year; Santa Clara, CA
Average Annual Cost: $42,614
The last top-ranked school that does not require your SAT or ACT scores is Santa Clara University.
As one of California’s most prestigious universities, this school is for you if you want unique learning opportunities paired with phenomenal on- and off-campus experiences.
Santa Clara University offers students over 50 minors and majors with various specialty programs in teaching, law, and medicine.
You will also be able to explore a variety of graduate programs in engineering, counseling, education, business, law, theology, and pastoral ministries.
Along with on-campus courses, students can explore online classes, degree programs, and study-abroad opportunities.
Santa Clara University is also home to numerous experiential learning programs and internships, helping students get hands-on experience in their field of study.
Choose the Best College Today!
As a prospective student looking for a competitive program, finding the best colleges that are test optional can make a world of difference.
Fortunately, more of the nation’s top-ranked programs are jumping on the bandwagon and becoming the best test-optional colleges.
There is no better time than now to submit your application so that you can prepare for the upcoming school year!