08/11/2014 04:33 pm ET Updated Oct 11, 2014

ACT? SAT? Subject Tests? No Tests? Holy Moly! Who Is Requiring What These Days?

Pretty much, everyone knows what time of year it is by the "back to school" advertisements that are all over the Internet, billboards, newspapers and on TV. As a college admissions counselor and blogger, I know because a slew of rising seniors are suddenly sending me emails about admissions tests.

I sense a kind of panic as they ask, "Which tests should I take? If I have already taken the SAT, do I need to take the ACT? Which colleges require subject tests? I hear that there are a bunch of colleges that don't require any tests at all. Where can I find them?"

To quickly answer the above questions: each college has its own test requirements; check individual college websites for exactly what to do. No college requires applicants to take both the SAT and ACT. Whether you need to take subject tests is a little more complicated; see below for the answer to that question.

Unfortunately, there is no one place that students can go to get answers for these and other test questions. In this blog, however, my goal is to bring together as much information as I can about which tests are needed for what schools.

Here is information I have compiled about various test requirements for freshmen applicants for a variety of colleges and universities. Know that these requirements may be different for home schooled, international and transfer students. Consult individual college admissions offices if you are one of those students.

I encourage students with whom I work to complete all of their required college admissions testing by the end of their junior year. This ends up saving them a lot of time, worry, and sometimes grief over lost test opportunities during their first semester, senior year.

The following are some of the private and public colleges that do not use SAT or ACT scores as a part of their admissions criteria:

  • Bard College
  • Bates College
  • Bowdoin College
  • Bryn Mawr College
  • (Many) Cal State universities
  • College of the Holy Cross
  • Connecticut College
  • Dickinson College
  • Franklin and Marshall College
  • Gettysburg College
  • Hamilton College
  • Hampshire College
  • Lawrence University
  • Lewis and Clark College
  • Pitzer College
  • Sewanee (University of the South)
  • Smith College
  • University of Arizona
  • University of Oregon
  • University of Texas
  • Wake Forest University

A complete list of test optional colleges can be found at here. For more information, you can also read a HuffPost blog I wrote on "Why Students and Parents Need to Know the Latest Buzz about 'Test Optional' Colleges."

Unless a college has declared itself test optional, it goes without saying that it probably has some kind of test requirement. Most of the time, that will be either the SAT with writing and/or the ACT with writing. The safest way of determining a college's testing policy is to go straight to the testing, undergraduate admissions section on its own website.

There are all kinds of policies relating to subject tests. In a number of cases, a college's admissions test policy will stipulate that the school does not require subject tests; however, it's important to know that individual colleges, majors, or programs, including BS/MD, engineering, some sciences and other special programs, may require or recommend certain subject tests regardless of the college's general no subject test policy.

For example, the University of California system of nine universities does not require subject tests, but UC Berkeley "recommends Math Level 2 and a science Subject Test for its Chemistry and Engineering colleges;" UC Irvine "recommends math level 2 and a science for its engineering, pharmaceutical and physical sciences schools;" and UCLA "recommends math Level 2 and a science test for its School of Engineering and Applied Science." UC Riverside, San Diego and Santa Barbara have similar Subject Test recommendations.

Many students and parents are unaware that some schools accept the ACT in lieu of both the SAT I and subject tests. There aren't a lot of them, but I think you will be surprised at quality of the colleges and universities that do adhere to this policy.

  • Amherst College
  • Barnard College
  • Brown University
  • Columbia University
  • Duke University
  • Haverford University
  • Pomona College
  • Rice University
  • Swarthmore College
  • Tufts University
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Vassar College
  • Wellesley College
  • Yale University
COLLEGES THAT ACCEPT 2 or 3 SUBJECT TESTS IN LIEU OF THE SAT AND/OR ACT Can you believe it! A few colleges accept Subject Tests in lieu of either the SAT and/or the ACT! The colleges are:
  • Colby College
  • Middlebury College
  • New York University (will also accept 3 AP exams or IB Diploma)
  • University of Rochester (will accept 2 or more Subject Tests, AP or IB exams)

No college in the U.S. requires more than two subject tests. When a college says that two subject tests are required, that means you must submit those scores in order to be considered for admission.

Be aware that the more competitive colleges are impressed when a student takes and reports more than just two tests.

The Compass Education group in California is a very good source for keeping on top of the subject test college admissions requirements. Needless to say a college's own website is the most authoritative source.

Here is a list of the major colleges that require two Subject Tests:
  • Amherst College
  • Barnard College
  • Brown University
  • California Institute of Technology
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Columbia University
  • Cornell University
  • Dartmouth College
  • Duke University
  • Harvey Mudd College
  • Haverford College
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Pomona College
  • Princeton University
  • Rice University
  • Swarthmore College
  • Tufts University
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Vassar College
  • Webb Institute
  • Wellesley College
  • Williams College
  • Yale University

Theoretically, if a college "recommends" taking subject tests, a student is not required to submit any Subject Test scores in order to meet their admissions requirements. However, in order to be considered a strong candidate, it behooves you to follow each college's recommendations about subject tests, including the number and content area they suggest.

  • Carleton College
  • Catholic University
  • Clarkson University
  • Davidson College (recommends 2)
  • Emory University
  • George Washington University
  • Georgetown University (recommends 3)
  • Grinnell College
  • Hampden-Sydney College
  • Harvard University (recommends 2)
  • Hollins University
  • Johns Hopkins University (recommends 2)
  • Lafayette College
  • Lehigh University
  • Northwestern University
  • Olin College of Engineering
  • Skidmore College
  • Stanford University
  • University of Delaware (recommends 2)
  • University of Georgia
  • University of the Pacific
  • University of Southern California
  • University of Virginia (recommends 2)
  • Washington and Lee University (recommends 2)
  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute

As noted above, each college's own website admissions section is the best source of information about test requirements, GPA requirements, and other admissions policies and procedures. Resources for this blog include Cigus Vanni's "2014-2015 School Year: Schools That Require, Recommend or Utilize SAT Subject Tests in Admission or for Placement/Credit (NACAC listerv)," Compass Education Group, College Board's, The College Handbook 2015, and individual college websites.

The above information and a lot more is permanently available in the Testing section of my website, here.