FairTest's Updated List of Test-Optional Schools

There's a lot of talk about testing at the moment -- the SAT and ACT have just been administered and results of the PSAT arrive soon. But remember that today there are hundreds of four-year colleges that have deemphasized ACT and SAT scores in making their admission decisions. And the National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest) has updated and redesigned their listing of the more than 800 schools with test-optional policies.

"To make our list even more useful," says FairTest Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer, "FairTest rechecked requirements at all the schools. At the same time, we eliminated multiple listings of those that maintain several campuses. For applicants who care about rankings, it is worth noting that nearly 150 colleges and universities on our test-optional list rank in the top tier of their respective academic categories."

Students can find the free comprehensive list of these schools online here at  National universities on the list include Wake Forest, New York University, Arizona State University, Kansas State University, University of Texas at Austin, and DePaul University. And national liberal arts colleges include Dickinson College, Bryn Mawr, Augustana, Middlebury, Hamilton, Mount Holyoke, and Pitzer College.

Juniors: For testing, get to know the basics

"Have a plan and never go into a test cold; always know the basics." -- Natalie Bitton, college counselor at Lycee Francais La Perouse in San Francisco

Juniors, with the ACT and SAT upcoming, here are some suggestions for getting to know the basics:

Read through the instructions (available on the SAT (College Board)and ACT websites) so you don't waste time the day of the test figuring out what the "No Change" response means on the ACT English section or how the SAT math section "grid-ins" work.

Refresh your knowledge on subjects where it's been a while since you've studied them, such as geometry. Take some practice tests under actual test conditions. Free practice tests are available here on the ACT website and here on the College Board website.

Scope out the location where you will be testing so you're not late. 

Juniors: When to begin testing?

Most students will want to take either the SAT or ACT once by the end of junior year -- usually taking either test for the first time in the winter or spring. (The SAT is first offered in January; the ACT in February.) This timing allows you to capitalize on having just completed Algebra II, as well as further coursework in English. No timetable suits all students, but all students should begin thinking of creating a testing plan, taking into account planning for the SAT or ACT, Subject Tests, and AP exams (if enrolled).


For more information on testing, including how colleges view standardized testing, how to create a testing plan, and more, see Chapter 7, "Testing," in College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step. And find more free test prep resources here on our website. 

Seniors: Free Test Prep Resources


The best preparation for testing is to take rigorous courses, work hard, and read, read, read. But familiarity with the SAT and ACT and taking practice tests can improve scores. So, seniors, if you're taking the SAT or ACT this fall, here are some resources for free practice tests and test prep:


ACT Sample Test


SAT College Board Practice Test 

Spark Notes SAT Practice Test

You can find more information about testing, including information on the essay, testing accommodations, test-optional schools, and how colleges view testing in Chapter 7 of College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step, "Taking the Tests."

Juniors: Preparing for the SAT or ACT


This marks the first in our weekly reminders for juniors starting the college application process. Each week, we'll be providing information, checklist items and advice on applying --  testing, researching colleges, first college visits and more.

First up?

Keep your eye out for an opportunity to take the PSAT or PLAN. The best preparation for the SAT and ACT is to challenge yourself with rigorous courses in the classroom and read, read, read.  But familiarity with the tests and practice can increase scores up to a point. The PSAT, offered by the College Board, and PLAN, offered by ACT, are practice tests meant to prepare you for the SAT and ACT. Your answers and the correct answers are available with the score report -- good feedback that will show you where you need to improve. The PSAT is offered every October by the College Board, but you register through your high school.  The PLAN is administered at the discretion of the high school or school district. Stay alert for announcements about the PSAT and PLAN and follow up. If you haven't heard of anyone taking these tests at your school, check with your guidance counselor about them. 

Seniors: It's Not Too Late to Test


This marks the first in our weekly reminders for seniors. Each week, we'll be providing information, checklist items and advice on applying to college --  testing, essays, deadlines, college visits, letters of recommendation and more.

First up?

It's not too late to take the SAT or ACT this fall.

SAT Deadlines:

Register by September 7th for the October 6th test

Register by October 4th for the November 3rd test

Register by November 1st for the December 1st test

You can register online for the SAT here

ACT Deadlines:

Register by September 21st for the October 27th test

Register by November 2nd for the December 8th test

You can register online for the ACT here

Or visit your high school college or guidance counselor for registration materials.

Remember, the best preparation for the SAT and ACT is to challenge yourself with rigorous courses in the classroom and read, read, read.  


We'll be posting for Juniors, as well. Look for our first item for the Class of 2014 tomorrow.

BigFuture, the College Board's New Website

The College Board, the not-for-profit organization whose programs include the SAT, AP tests, PSAT/NMSQT, and CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE, has launched a new website for high school students that includes a college search function, a scholarship search tool, and an action plan program for the application process. Click on the links to see what the Chronicle of Higher Education and New York Times' The Choice blog are saying about BigFuture. And let us know your thoughts about this new resource...

Things We Like: Free -- Great -- SAT Prep

The Khan Academy is an educational website that lets anyone “learn almost anything—for free.” Khan Academy boasts an online library of more than 3000 video micro-lectures on everything from algebra to venture capital and it now includes an entire section on SAT test prep, using the College Board's Official SAT Study Guide. In 10-minute videos, Khan works through each problem in the math sections of the study guide.  He recommends students take the practice tests on their own, grade them and then use the Academy videos to understand the problems they didn't solve correctly or simply to review their work.  We've been working through these videos ourselves and, while they may not be slick in their presentation, they provide clear, helpful, step-by-step instruction that feels one-on-one.  And, one more time… it's free. File this under "Things We Like."  

College Admission on India Ink at The New York Times

Our primer on standardized testing for international students applying from India is up on the New York Times' blog India Ink. Thank you to Jacques Steinberg, education writer and author of The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College, who helms the New York Times' blog The Choice, for inviting us to explain the role testing plays in the admission decisions of American colleges and universities. And thank you to the experts who contributed to the feature: Jarrid Whitney, executive director of admissions and financial aid at the California Institute of Technology; Katharine Harrington, vice president for admissions and planning at the University of Southern California; Jenny Rickard, chief enrollment officer at Bryn Mawr College; Jim Montoya, vice president for higher education at the College Board; and Amin Gonzalez, associate director of admissions at Yale University and his colleagues Rebekah Westphal and Jean Lee.