Test Optional Admissions — Keep Options Open With the ACT

Will test optional admissions impact your college enrollment plans? It's important to consider and understand.

High school students from Hauppauge High School in New York talk about test optional admissions policies and why it is still important to have an ACT score.

Taking the ACT enables you to: 

Take the Right Classes

Colleges use ACT scores to place you in the right classes at the right level — saving time and money! Learn more about classes to take in high school. 

Get More Scholarships

An ACT score can increase your chances of earning new or better scholarships. One counselor found that over 10 years, more of her students earned more scholarship dollars with ACT scores than SAT scores. Learn more about paying for college. 

Qualify for Specific Programs

Even if a school has a test optional admissions policy, specific programs like nursing and engineering will often require an ACT score to make sure you are ready for the material. 

Secure Your Admission

For many schools, a sufficient ACT score will solidify automatic admission and/or the amount of your scholarship offer. You'll need to check with the specific colleges on your list.

Step by Step: Critical Milestones That Lead to College Planning Success

My Journey On-Demand Session

It’s no secret — college and career planning can be overwhelming. During this presentation, we’ll pull back the curtain and identify critical milestones that will help students and families plan for success.

The session will highlight 9th and 10th-grade college prep behaviors and break down time sensitive college application advice for 11th and 12th graders. Learn how a counselor helped students explore careers, jobs, and various types of colleges to help them arrive at a balanced college match list that met their needs.

Click below to view the webinar. 

Top Questions You Should Ask Colleges with Test Optional Policies

  1. How much weight is given to specific components of my application [i.e. GPA, test scores (if submitted), course load and rigor of courses taken, letters of recommendation, personal statements/essays, high school profile, portfolios, extracurricular activities, work experience, resume, etc.]? 
  2. How are scholarships awarded? Is the process different for students who submit test scores and those who do not submit test scores? 
  3. Without test scores, how do I place into appropriate levels of math, English, world languages, etc.?   
  4. What is your acceptance rate of students who submit test scores compared to non-submitters? 
  5. Is demonstrated interest considered in the admission process? How can I best demonstrate my interest in your school? 


Expand each section below for frequently asked questions and answers.

If a college or university is “test optional” it means they do not require you to submit ACT or SAT test scores to be admitted. If you submit your scores to a test optional institution, the scores will be considered. A “test blind” college does not look at or consider your scores for the purpose of the admission decision. You should keep in mind that some test blind schools still use the test data for scholarships, course placement, and advising. There is also a third category—test flexible—where schools have a longer list of assessments deemed acceptable for use. In addition to the ACT or SAT, test flexible institutions accept AP or IB.

Test optional policies are college and university-specific, meaning some schools may require test scores for certain academic programs, for certain GPAs, or as a requirement after enrollment. Test optional schools may require test scores for certain academic programs, for certain GPAs, or as a requirement after enrollment. Historically, the majority of students who apply to test optional schools still submit test scores with their application.

You are more than a score. Your score is a standardized, objective measure of your skills.

Submitting a test score can strengthen your application by providing an additional indicator of your abilities and achievements, in the context of all of your application materials. Selective test optional schools have seen vastly increased application rates, so including your ACT score could help you stand out in a crowded field of applicants. That said, if you have a choice in whether to submit your test scores and you don’t believe your scores are an accurate reflection of your abilities, don’t submit them.

We know, it’s confusing. The important thing to remember is, test optional policies are not consistent across schools. Researching individual admission requirements and talking to colleges about how they use test scores is key in determining whether to submit scores.

The truth is, it depends. It’s important for you to ask questions of the college or university you are considering to fully understand how various admissions criteria are weighted and which aspects are most important. Some schools still prefer test scores, even if they say they are test optional. This is because scores are used for a variety of purposes, not just in admissions decisions. Test scores help colleges recruit students, place them in the most appropriate courses for their skill level, and even support students who may be behind in certain academic subjects.

Students with an ACT test score qualify for more scholarships. Even test-optional colleges often require a test score when awarding merit-based scholarships. Without an ACT score, you could be missing out on thousands of dollars in scholarship money. 

Your college application is like a jigsaw puzzle. 

With each piece of information—GPA, extracurricular activities, volunteer hours, test scores, awards—you are giving colleges a complete picture of who you are. If you don’t include an ACT score, you’re removing part of the picture.

More Resources for College Applications

A list of resources to help you navigate the exciting journey of applying to college.