Can I get into college if I refuse to take the SAT or ACT?

I know there are a variety of tests and grades and honors classes offered in high school, some of which can transfer directly to college credits. By refusing to take an ACT or SAT will the school still accept me and look at my overall grades?

It really depends on the college. There are some colleges and universities that are "SAT-optional" (meaning you do not have to send in SAT scores at all with your application). One school, Hampshire College, has actually stated that it won't look at test scores at all!

There are other schools that are "test-flexible" - they still require test scores, but not necessarily SAT or ACT scores. For instance, NYU's text flexible policy means that you must choose one of the following options:

  • The SAT Reasoning Test; or
  • The ACT (the Writing Test is not required); or
  • Three SAT Subject Test scores*; or
  • Three AP exam scores*; or
  • The International Baccalaureate Diploma; or
  • Three IB higher-level exam scores* (if you are not an IB Diploma candidate); or
  • Results from a nationally accredited exam that is considered locally to signify the completion of secondary education, is administered independently of the student’s school, and has been approved by the NYU Office of Undergraduate Admissions

As you can see, you might be able to get away with sending in SAT Subject Test scores, AP scores, or IB scores in place of the SAT or ACT, depending on the school.

There are a few other special circumstances under which refusing to take the SAT or ACT wouldn't negatively affect your chances of admission. If you're applying to a specialized art school or conservatory for studio art, dance, music, acting, or other related subject, you might not need to take the SAT or ACT at all. These schools tend to be much more focused on your portfolio or audition, which is generally better evidence of your skill level (and of how well you'll do in the environment of an art school or conservatory). Be sure to read our article on how to assemble an art portfolio for college if you're thinking about applying to a fine arts program, or check out our great guide on how to get into film school for a more specific case study.

You'll be limiting your options of potential colleges and universities, but yes, it is certainly possible to be accepted to a school even if you refuse to take the ACT or SAT.