Eliminating the SAT or ACT requirement on college applications is getting popular. Since the University of California system’s decision, a number of Ivy League and other universities have followed. But, what does no SAT or ACT mean for the future of college applications?

To Learn More about the UC System’s New Admissions Policy, Read: 
UC Eliminates SAT or ACT Requirement—What You Need to Know

This depends on when you’re applying and where you’re applying. For the most part, your college application and admissions experience will be the same.

The Post-Corona World of College Applications

Unsurprisingly, the pandemic complicates applying to college. The ACT is addressing students’ need for more exam dates by offering 8 exam dates in the fall. In the case of the SAT, the College Board canceled the April, May, and June SAT dates. Currently, the College Board offers this update:

If it’s safe from a public health standpoint, we’ll provide weekend SAT administrations every month through the end of the calendar year, beginning in August. This includes a new administration on September 26 and the previously scheduled tests on August 29, October 3, November 7, and December 5.

For More COVID-19 Updates On the SAT

Universities are responding in kind. They’ve adopted various policies for the SAT or ACT for college applications. Many universities are temporarily waiving the SAT or ACT requirement in their applications. Some schools are taking a step further by making significant changes to the current system.

What does this mean for you? It’ll depend on the universities you’re planning on applying to. Most importantly, it will depend on whether you are applying this fall or not.

If You’re Applying to the Class of 2025:

Although many schools are waiving the SAT or ACT requirement, you must remember that holistic review still applies to most universities. A holistic review of your application means that every aspect—academics, test scores, extracurriculars, accomplishments, and personal statements—is reviewed with the context of your socioeconomic and family background in mind. If we take away the SAT or ACT part of your college applications, every other aspect of your application gains more weightage in your admissions result.

Approaching College Applications in a Post-COVID19 World

To withstand the removal of the SAT or ACT requirement, you need to learn to create the perfect college application. To achieve that, we sincerely suggest you check out these resources:

The Ultimate College Application Checklist

If you’re unsure where to start in your college application journey, here it is. This is the best starting point. Although this was written in the before times, this guide will give you a clear idea of how to apply to college. In other words, here’s a structured, comprehensive method to tackle the college application process.


In practice, it is best to separate the college application process into four different stages. The stages are as follows:

  1. Planning
  2. Gathering Information
  3. Personal Statements
  4. Submission and Results

Of these four stages, the first and third stages are the most work-intensive. As a result of this, we recommend that you perform aspects of each stage simultaneously. We’ll explain more about this later.  Let’s start discussing each individual stage, beginning with planning.

Read more about the ultimate college application here.

Test-Optional Admissions Policies?

Start researching admissions policies. Here are colleges who have released announcements about their SAT or ACT college applications policies:

SchoolTest-Optional for:
Alfred University2020-21 application cycle
Alma College2020-21 application cycle
Amherst College2020-21 application cycle
Anderson UniversityPermanently beginning in the 2020-21 cycle
Babson College2020-21 application cycle
Barnard College2020-21 application cycle
Baylor University2020-21 application cycle
Bentley University2020-21 application cycle
Bethel UniversityPermanently beginning in the 2020-21 cycle
Boston College2020-21 application cycle
Boston University2020-21 application cycle
Brown University2020-21 application cycle
Buena Vista University2020-21 application cycle
Butler UniversityPermanently beginning in the 2020-21 cycle
Cal State system2020-21 application cycle
California Institute of Technology (Caltech)A 2-year period beginning with the 2020-21 admissions cycle
California Lutheran University2020-21 application cycle
Carleton College2020-21 application cycle
Carnegie Mellon University2020-21 application cycle
Case Western Reserve University2020-21 application cycle
Centre CollegeA 3-year period beginning with the 2020-21 admissions cycle
Claremont McKenna College2020-21 application cycle
Coastal Carolina University2020-21 application cycle
Colgate University2020-21 application cycle
College of Charleston2020-21 application cycle
College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University (Minnesota)Permanently beginning in the 2020-21 cycle
College of WoosterPermanently beginning in the 2020-21 cycle
Columbia University2020-21 application cycle
Cooper UnionA 2-year period beginning with the 2020-21 admissions cycle
Concordia University2020-21 application cycle
Cornell University2020-21 application cycle
Dartmouth College2020-21 application cycle
Davidson CollegePermanently beginning in the 2020-21 cycle
Drexel University2020-21 application cycle
Drury UniversityPermanently beginning in the 2020-21 cycle
Duke University2020-21 application cycle
Elon UniversityA 3-year period beginning with the 2020-21 cycle
Emory University2020-21 application cycle
Fordham UniversityA 2-year period beginning with the 2020-21 cycle
Georgetown University2020-21 application cycle
Gonzaga University2020-21 application cycle
Grand Valley State University2020-21 application cycle
Grinnell College2020-21 application cycle
Hamilton College2020-21 application cycle
Harvard University2020-21 application cycle
Harvey Mudd College2020-21 application cycle
Haverford CollegeA 3-year period beginning with the 2020-21 cycle
Indiana University – BloomingtonPermanently beginning in the 2020-21 cycle
Indiana University – South BendPermanently beginning in for fall 2020 admission
Johns Hopkins University2020-21 application cycle
Lafayette College2020-21 application cycle
Lehigh University2020-21 application cycle
Limestone UniversityFall 2020 admission
Loyola Marymount University2020-21 application cycle
Loyola University – New OrleansPermanently test-blind beginning in the 2020-21 cycle
Macalester CollegePermanently beginning in the 2020-21 cycle
Mansfield UniversityFall 2020 admission
Meredith College2020-21 application cycle
Middlebury CollegeA 3-year period beginning with the 2020-21 cycle
Millersville UniversityFall 2020 admission
MITWill no longer accept SAT Subject Test scores for consideration starting with the 2020-21 admissions cycle.
Montana University system2020-21 application cycle
New York University2020-21 application cycle
Northeastern University2020-21 application cycle
Northwestern University2020-21 application cycle
Oakland UniversityA 2-year period beginning with the 2020-21 cycle
Oberlin CollegeA 3-year period beginning with the 2020-21 cycle
Oregon State UniversityPermanently beginning in the 2020-21 cycle
Penn State University2020-21 application cycle
Pepperdine University­­International students for the 2020-21 application cycle
Pomona College2020-21 application cycle
Princeton University2020-21 application cycle
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)2020-21 application cycle
Rhodes CollegeA 3-year period beginning with the 2020-21 cycle
Rice University2020-21 application cycle
Rochester Institute of TechnologyPermanently beginning in the 2020-21 cycle
Rutgers University2020-21 application cycle
Saginaw Valley State University2020-21 application cycle for students with 3.0 or higher GPA
Saint Louis University2020-21 application cycle
Santa Clara UniversityA 2-year period beginning with the 2020-21 cycle
Scripps CollegePermanently beginning in the 2020-21 cycle
St. Mary’s University2020-21 application cycle
St. Olaf CollegePermanently beginning in the 2020-21 cycle
St. Thomas Aquinas CollegeFall 2020 admission
Stanford University2020-21 application cycle
Swarthmore CollegeA 2-year period beginning with the 2020-21 cycle
Texas Christian University2020-21 application cycle
Texas Tech University2020-21 application cycle
Trinity UniversityA 3-year period beginning with the 2020-21 cycle
Tufts UniversityA 3-year period beginning with the 2020-21 cycle
Tulane University2020-21 application cycle
University of California system2020-21 application cycle
University of ConnecticutA 3-year period beginning with the 2020-21 cycle
University of Delaware2020-21 application cycle
University of Hawaii2020-21 application cycle
University of Louisville2020-21 application cycle
University of Miami2020-21 application cycle
University of Notre Dame2020-21 application cycle
University of OregonPermanently beginning in the 2020-21 cycle
University of Pennsylvania2020-21 application cycle
University of Richmond2020-21 application cycle
University of San DiegoPermanently beginning in the 2020-21 cycle
University of Southern California2020-21 application cycle
University of ToledoPermanently beginning in the 2020-21 cycle
University of Virginia2020-21 application cycle
UVA Wise2020-21 application cycle
University of Washington2020-21 application cycle
Vanderbilt University2020-21 application cycle
Vassar College2020-21 application cycle
Villanova University2020-21 application cycle
Virginia Tech2020-21 application cycle
Washington & Lee University2020-21 application cycle
Washington University in St. Louis2020-21 application cycle
Wayland Baptist University2020-21 application cycle
Wellesley College2020-21 application cycle
Westminster CollegeFall 2020 admission
William & MaryA 3-year period beginning with the 2020-21 cycle
Williams College2020-21 application cycle
Yale University2020-21 application cycle

Interested in applying to a university on the above list? Make sure to read its official statement by clicking on its name.

Choosing Which Colleges to Apply to for the Best Results

So you looked at the list. Did some research. Now, you’re trying to figure out which colleges to apply to. Worry not, the above guide is here to help. Our first tip: make a spreadsheet. It’ll be worth the effort.

Here’s what you need to do:
  1. Begin by making a row for each of the universities you’re interested in applying to.
  2. Then, find the university’s student admissions profile to gather key statistics. Some things to include in your spreadsheet:
    • Standardized test scores
    • Unweighted high school GPAs
    • Weighted high school GPAs
    • Percentage of applicants admitted to the university
  3. Next, research financial aid packages, special programs, campus culture, etc. Consider these questions:
    • What are the sort of organizations on campus?
    • What are the ideologies of the college?
    • Are there activities you would like to participate in on campus?
    • What makes you feel excited about the prospect of attending this college?
    • Side Note: You will most likely have a “why this college?” question to respond to. Figure it out now!
  4. Now, compare your numbers with the statistics to classify each university into one of three categories:
    • `Safety – Easily get in
    • Target – On par with your own scores
    • Reach – Some difficulty getting accepted
  5. Finally, look at your list. Compare the pros and cons of each college. You should be aiming to have only six to eight colleges on your list of colleges. College counselors suggest a breakdown is 2 safety schools, 2-3 target schools, and 2-3 reach schools. Of course, you can alter this range as you see fit. However, it is especially important to narrow down your list of colleges to apply to around this range.
Approaching College Applications in a Post-COVID19 World

Baking cookies are like writing college applications.

Here’s an excerpt from this guide explaining why narrowing down your college list is incredibly important using cookies:

When you have a large number of colleges to apply to (let’s say 16), you’re only using one resource to generate those applications—you. What does this have to do with the cookies? You can only win the prize if customers buy your cookies. They’ll only buy your cookies if they are well-made and delicious. If you only have one oven, however, baking large quantities of cookies and ensuring the quality of each and every one of them is incredibly difficult. Some types of cookies will need more time than others which will feed into the time you have to make other cookies.

The same idea applies to college applications. Each college application will need different amounts of time, effort, and consideration put in them. The more colleges you apply to, the less time you will have to craft strong applications for each and every one of them. While the ultimate goal is to get into college, minimal time and effort placed into each individual application may not give you the results you are hoping for. Thus, to ensure the best results, you must narrow down where you want to apply to college.

Read more about how to choose the right college to apply to.

Learn About the Types of College Applications

Now that you’ve established what universities you would like to apply to, you need to decide how to apply. This means you need to first understand the different types of college applications and formats used by each of them. You’ll probably be applying through a combination of systems. Here’s a quick summary:

  • Common Application
    • Established in 1975 to streamline the application process
    • Over 879 member universities accept it
    • Components:
      • Personal Information
      • Common App Essay
      • High School Transcript
      • Standardized Test Scores
      • Extracurricular Activities List
      • Letters of Recommendation
      • Supplements
  • Coalition for College Application
    • Relatively new system
    • Over 140 member universities accept it
    • Guaranteed to have high graduating rates and debt-free graduates.
    • Fee waivers to eligible low-income students (so they can apply to as many universities as they please without paying application fees)
    • Similar components and structure to the Common Application
    • If your financial situation is impacting the number of colleges you apply to, this type of college application may be a smart option for you.
  • System-Specific Applications
    • For example, the University of California application system.
    • Similar components to Common Application and Coalition Application
    • Allows you to apply to every university in its system
    • Some universities will also accept the Common Application or Coalition Application (or both!) but make sure to check with the admissions office.
  • Individual Applications
    • Finally, there are some colleges that require a specific application that only it utilizes.
    • Usually has the same components.
    • Practiced more by private universities than public.
      • If you have a specific private university in mind, make sure to check their application policies!
To figure out how to choose which type to use, check out this excerpt from the guide:

At this point, you will need to research the requirements of your target schools. For most students, this will narrow down the choice of application to either a combination of a system-specific application and Common Application or Coalition Application. Moreover, many universities offer both as an option, so it may be a choice of which user-interface you are more comfortable or confident with using.

To be concise, choose the type of college application that fulfills your personal requirements best. Decide on the application system before you start filling out forms.

To Learn More, Go Through Our Complete Guide on the Types of College Applications

Understand How the Admission Officers Evaluate Your Application

Firstly, we want to remind you that college admissions officers are actual people! They are people who are exceptionally familiar with the university you are applying to. Their main objective is to see whether you would be a good fit on their campus.

Approaching College Applications in a Post-COVID19 World

College admissions officers are people, too!

While we provided summaries for the other resources, we seriously suggest that you actually go and read this guide through. It begins by discussing how applications are reviewed at multiple universities of different selectivities. Then, it goes over how to apply this to write an amazing application.

Here’s an excerpt:
  • Don’t waste time researching individual college admissions processes! Seriously, every top-notch university uses the aforementioned four stage process. Larger, less selective universities will generally make decisions based on your academics. They will not take as much time to consider other aspects of your application.
  • Choose stand-out experiences! The individual reader’s recommendation is important. They have a limited amount of time to read your application. Make sure to be clear about what makes you exceptional!
  • Remember, the admissions officer is human. Appeal to them by showing them who you are. A major part of that will be through your essay. If you have the opportunity to interview with an admissions officer, take it! Ensure to show your interest in the school by asking questions or at least by answering the “why this school” prompts in the supplementals.

Read more about how Admission Officers read college applications.

Writing the Best College Application Essay

According to college admissions officers, your personal statements can make or break your application. In other words, they are incredibly important!

As we explain in our general guide to writing the best college application essay:

There’s an important keyword—personal. Your college essay must be first and foremost incredibly relevant to you as a person. It needs to give the college admissions officer insight about who you are as an individual. An insight that is not already present in the numbers in your application.

Accept it or not, there are going to be many students with test scores and GPAs similar to yours competing for the same spots. You need to give the admissions officer a reason to pick you. Usually, it is your college essay that ends up being that reason.

Learn how to write a winning college essay.

In general, the best college application essays are well-written and explicitly introspective. College admissions officers are trying to understand whether you will be a good fit for their university. Make their job easier for them by dedicating a significant portion of your essay to introspection and reflection on your experience.

Reflection is key.

They want to know why you chose a particular experience to answer a specific prompt. They’re looking to answer the following questions:

  • Why the experience is significant to you?
  • What did you learn from the experience?
  • How did you apply the knowledge you gained?
  • What morals and values do you hold close to your heart?
  • What did you achieve with the opportunities you had?

You need to show the college admissions officers certain qualities like adaptability, maturity, leadership, and self-sufficiency. Do not be afraid to be vulnerable. If you aren’t being genuine in your essays, trust us, the admissions officer will be able to tell.

If you are looking for prompt-specific advice, check out our application-specific college essay guides below:
  • How to Write Your UC Essays: A Comprehensive Guide
    • In the above guide, we will help you choose and write the perfect responses for your University of California application.
    • Quick Glance:
      • Purpose of the UC Essays
      • Category of each UC Essay Prompt
      • Step-by-step instructions on how to write your response for each UC Essay Prompt
      • What the Admissions Officer is hoping to learn from your response for each UC Essay Prompt
  • Common Application Essay Simplified: A Strategic Guide
    • In this guide, we will meticulously explain each Common Application prompt as well as how to write a stellar response to it.
    • Quick Glance:
      • Purpose of the Common App Essay
      • How to Choose the Best Topic For You
      • Step-by-step instructions on how to write your response for each Common App Prompt
      • What the Admissions Officer is hoping to learn from your response for each Common App Prompt

Should You Still Take the SAT or ACT?

We’ll be honest. If you have the opportunity to take the SAT or ACT, you should definitely take it. Remember that most schools are going test-optional not test-blind.

Test-optional means that taking the SAT or ACT can only benefit your college application. In other words, extra credit to good grades is like the SAT or ACT to good college applications. 

However, do not fret if you cannot take the SAT or ACT. You are not going to be penalized due to the pandemic.

If You’re Applying Next Year or After:

As of now, most schools have not completely eliminated the SAT or ACT requirements in their college applications. It is good for you to be researching ahead of time. For now, we suggest reading through the guides above. We also suggest that you start studying for either the SAT or ACT for your college applications.

Also Read: Everything about the SAT—2020 Update and Strategies

What Next?

Applying to college has always been a nerve-wracking experience and the pandemic has made it even worse. That being said, remember that this will eventually come to an end. Stay strong. Stay safe. Remember it will all be worth it during Decision Day in May. We look forward to congratulating you on your college of choice!

At Talentnook, we are working towards ensuring that the love for learning does not stop. Take a break from the stress of college applications with something new and creative like playing an instrument, painting, creative writing, and more! Check out some free trial lessons with Talentnook. 

Posted by Irfhana Zakir Hussain

Irfhana Zakir Hussain is an undergraduate student in Computer Science and Engineering with Big Data Analytics. A lover of both STEM and humanities, she combines the two by writing analytical pieces on essential topics in education. In 2016, she was one of 15 students worldwide selected to speak at the inaugural TED-Ed Weekend. There, Irfhana navigated the complex issue of solving the effects of racism and intersectionality on educational opportunities.