Test-blind? Test-optional? A breakdown of the six significant admissions policies

Test-blind? Test-optional? A breakdown of the six significant admissions policies 

As we enter the 2023-2024 college admission year, over 1800 colleges remain test-optional. In addition, more than 80 additional colleges and universities have adopted a test-blind or test-free admissions policy for first-year applicants. Some schools, however, still require testing. It is essential to understand the testing admissions policy for each school on your list so that you can make decisions based on your performance and can build your strongest application statement. 

If you are new to the college admissions process, it will help to understand that university testing policy falls in six categories: Test-Blind, Test-Optional, Test-Specific, Under Evaluation, Test Required, and Official Reporting or Self Reporting of Scores.To help you understand what each policy means and how that will impact your application, we have provided descriptions of each category in the paragraphs that follow and, at the end of this document, have also added links to examples of each policy category.

Test-Blind: These schools will not consider test scores as part of an application evaluation, even if scores are submitted. They rely on GPA, grades, degree of course rigor, teacher evaluations, essays, and other details; however, standardized test scores are blocked from consideration. Test-blind universities include public schools such as the University of California system, private schools like CalTech, and liberal arts institutions including Dickinson College, among many others. If you are considering applying to any of these colleges, it is crucial to have a strategy and process in place to address all of the other application components. Additionally, keep in mind that you might be applying to colleges for whom test scores can help your application, so don’t sleep on your efforts regarding the ACT or SAT, but continue to prepare diligently for them.  

Test Optional: For these institutions, you may want to share your scores if they add positive information – or you have the option of keeping your scores private. If your scores are lower than what you believe those of the applicant pool overall to be, you have the option of not sharing them. It is essential to develop a strategy for each school on your college list and know when to share your SAT or ACT scores and when not to share your scores. The goal is always to highlight your most vital self and to have your application positively reflect your test preparation and college admissions planning. 

Test Specific: Some test-optional policies have caveats or restrictions. These policies are categorized as test specific. For example, the test-optional choice may only pertain to students whose GPA is over a specified level – but test scores may be required for students interested in particular majors, scholarships, or honors programs. Additionally, homeschooled students may be required to submit ACT or SAT scores for placement purposes. So, be sure to read the standardized testing policy outlined on the website of every college and university on your list. You may find yourself in a position of needing solid scores to bolster your application. 

Policy Under Evaluation: Some colleges are still evaluating the impact of the test-optional policy on their program, so it’s essential to stay current and check the specific details related to each school on your list. Last December, for example, Tufts University extended its pilot program for an additional three years, thereby allowing the university to gather data that will help them better understand the impact of a change on their current policy. 

Tests Required: Finally, of course, there are some schools (both private and public) that still require standardized tests. Three examples are MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology),  Georgetown University, and GA Tech (Georgia Institute of Technology) . Presenting your best scores in addition to other application items is the best path to successful admission to these schools. 

Score Reporting: Official or Self Reported Scores: There are two parts to this category – when and how scores are submitted. First, some schools require an official score report from the testing agency – whether College Board (SAT) or ACT – as part of their application process. It is important, therefore, to research which schools require scores to be received by the school by the application deadline and which colleges will add it to your file after the deadline. Second, some colleges accept self-reported scores that you can submit on your application. In this case, you would send your official report only if requested or if you subsequently enrolled. However, it is best practice to obtain your official score reports and accurately report them.

Applying to colleges and universities is different from what it was 25 years ago, and there are only so many spots at higher learning institutions. Our team at PrepMatters specializes in helping students prepare successful applications. Although we can not and do not guarantee any outcomes, we have helped thousands of students in the DMV area gain admission to competitive universities through college application planning, essay support, tutoring, and test preparation. We welcome the opportunity to work with your family and to help craft the right plan for you. 


Examples of Test-Blind Policy

University of California: https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/press-room/university-california-board-regents-unanimously-approved-changes-standardized-testing

CalTech (California Institute of Technology): https://www.admissions.caltech.edu/apply/first-year-applicants/standardized-tests

Dickinson College: https://www.dickinson.edu/info/20256/apply/996/standardized_testing_information/2


Examples of Test Optional Policy

Wake Forest University: https://admissions.wfu.edu/apply/test-optional/

George Washington University. Optional for most (but not all) students: https://undergraduate.admissions.gwu.edu/test-optional


Examples of Test-Specific Policy

George Washington University: Optional for most applicants, but scores required for certain categories of students:  https://undergraduate.admissions.gwu.edu/test-optional

New York University:  https://www.nyu.edu/admissions/undergraduate-admissions/how-to-apply/standardized-tests.html


Examples of Test-Required Policy

MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology): “First-year applicants: – Tests & scores.” MIT Admissions, 2023, https://mitadmissions.org/apply/firstyear/tests-scores/

Georgetown University: “Preparation Process | Office of Undergraduate Admissions | Georgetown University.” Office of Undergraduate Admissions, 2023, https://uadmissions.georgetown.edu/applying/preparation-process/#TestRequirements

GaTech (Georgia Institute of Technology): “Standardized Tests | Undergraduate Admission.” Undergraduate admission, 2023, https://admission.gatech.edu/first-year/standardized-tests


Example of Under Evaluation Policy

Tufts University. Ferguson, Laura. “Applications for the Undergraduate Class of 2027 Top 34000.” Tufts Now, 17 January 2023, https://now.tufts.edu/2023/01/17/applications-undergraduate-class-2027-top-34000