College is still an option even if you have low SAT scores.

Sometimes good students just don't perform well on standardized tests. Many schools recognize this and are now including other factors into their admission equations that carry as much weight as the SAT scores. Some have even stopped including the SAT scores altogether.


First things first - Don't give up on your college dreams!

Here are some things you can do:

Retake the SATs. The SAT Score Choice program allows you to choose the test scores you send to colleges so you aren't locked into your first set of scores. On average the combined test score increases by 42 points the second time around.

Review your original test scores and make a study plan for any areas that need improvement.

Get a tutor to help you study.

Strengthen the rest of your college resume. Leadership experience, good grades, exceptional extracurricular activities and a strong essay can help offset a low SAT score.

 Try Community Colleges.

Many have an open admission policy where you only need a high school degree or GED to attend. Other community colleges will consider a wider SAT score range than four-year schools do. Often a community college curriculum is designed to prepare a student to meet the transfer requirements of a state school's four-year degree.

Consider a State Sponsored school

If your SAT scores aren't too far below average, consider a state sponsored school. They give priority to in-state residents when accepting students. This means that a state resident can still gain admission even if they have a lower test score than an applicant from out-of-state.

Of the 20 colleges and universities in the list below, many are highly selective schools with test-optional admissions policies. Others are colleges that offer top-notch academics, but are likely to admit students with mid-range SAT scores.

Arcadia University

JArcadia University CastleJackskellington101 / Flickr

Located just 25 minutes from Center City, Philadelphia, Arcadia University features small classes and one of the best study abroad programs in the country. Visitors can't miss the stunning historic landmark, Gray Towers Castle.
  • Location: Glenside, Pennsylvania
  • SAT Reading (Middle 50%): 500 / 610
  • SAT Math (Middle 50%): 490 / 590
  • Test-Optional? No

Bowdoin College

 Bowdoin Collegesglickman / Flickr

Bowdoin is the most selective college on this list, so applicants will need an impressive academic and extra-curricular record. The school was awarded a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for its excellent in the liberal arts and sciences, and the school recently changed its financial aid practices so that all new students will graduate debt free.

  • Location: Brunswick, Maine
  • SAT Reading (Middle 50%): 650 / 740
  • SAT Math (Middle 50%): 650 / 730
  • Test-Optional? Yes

College of the Atlantic

College of the AtlanticThe Udall Legacy Bus Tour / Flickr

 COA features a beautiful location on the Maine coast, a carbon-neutral campus with impressive environmental initiatives, a 9 to 1 student / faculty ratio, and an innovative interdisciplinary curriculum with a Human Ecology focus.

  • Location: Bar Harbor, Maine
  • SAT Reading (average score): 647
  • SAT Math (average score): 589
  • Test-Optional? Yes

College of the Holy Cross

College of the Holy CrossGeorgeThree / Flickr

Holy Cross has an impressive retention and graduation rate, with well over 90% of entering students earning a degree within six years. The college was awarded a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for its strengths in the liberal arts and sciences, and the school's 10 to 1 student / faculty ratio means that students will have a lot of personal interaction with their professors.

  • Location: Worcester, Massachusetts
  • SAT Reading (Middle 50%): 580 / 670
  • SAT Math (Middle 50%): 600 / 680
  • Test-Optional? Yes

George Mason University

George Mason Universityfunkblast / Flickr

The 2009 U.S. News & World Report ranked George Mason #1 among "up and coming" colleges, and it's easy to see why with the school's rapid expansion since its founding in 1972. The university's preprofessional programs such as business, engineering, education and nursing are all popular among undergraduates.

  • Location: Fairfax, Virginia
  • SAT Reading (Middle 50%): 500 / 600
  • SAT Math (Middle 50%): 520 / 610
  • Test-Optional? Yes

Hampshire College

Hampshire Collegeredjar/Flickr

 Hampshire College has never been fond of conformity, so it's no surprise the school has test-optional admissions. If you like to think outside the box, if you enjoy debate, if you'd like to design your own major, if you'd like to be evaluated qualitatively, not quantitatively -- then Hampshire might be a good choice.

  • Location: Amherst, Massachusetts
  • SAT Reading (Middle 50%): 610 / 700
  • SAT Math (Middle 50%): 540 / 660
  • Test-Optional? Yes

Mount Holyoke College

Mount Holyoke Collegeone more dreamer / Flickr

Founded in 1837, Mount Holyoke College is the oldest of the "seven sister" colleges, and it consistently ranks as one of the top women's colleges in the country. Mount Holyoke features a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa and a beautiful campus where students can enjoy the college's botanic gardens, two lakes, waterfalls, and horseback-riding trails.

  • Location: South Hadley, Massachusetts
  • Test-Optional? Yes

Pitzer College

Pitzer College QuadWhoaboy / Wikimedia Commons

Don't be fooled by Pitzer's small size -- students can easily take courses at any of the Claremont Colleges. The college places a strong emphasis on study abroad and community service, and students can expect lots of student/faculty interaction. Pitzer is particularly strong in the social sciences.
  • Location: Claremont, California
  • SAT Reading (Middle 50%): 580 / 680
  • SAT Math (Middle 50%): 560 / 650
  • Test-Optional? Yes

Ripon College

Ripon College, Smith HallMadmaxmarchhare / Wikimedia Commons

Ripon has much to be proud of: Phi Beta Kappa membership; high retention and graduation rates; generous financial aid; excellent value; and a Collaborative Learning Center that provides valuable support for students who need a little extra help

  • Location: Ripon, Wisconsin
  • SAT Reading (Middle 50%): 440 / 610
  • SAT Math (Middle 50%): 480 / 650
  • Test-Optional? No

 Sarah Lawrence College

Sarah Lawrence College  mr.Scholastic / Flickr

Located in Bronxville, New York, Sarah Lawrence has an amazing 6 to 1 student / faculty ratio and students will find that teaching truly is valued more than faculty research. The application process does not consider standardized test scores at all; in fact, Sarah Lawrence was a leader in the test-optional movement. The college's quaint campus has the feel of a European village.

Sewanee, The University of the South

Sewanee, University of the Southwharman / Flickr
Sewanee can boast of a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, small classes, and an 11 to 1 student / faculty ratio. The university has a particularly strong English program that is home to The Sewanee Review and Sewanee Writers Conference.
  • Location: Sewanee, Tennessee
  • SAT Reading (Middle 50%): 570 / 680
  • SAT Math (Middle 50%): 580 / 670
  • Test-Optional? Yes

 Smith College

Smith College Student Centeredjar / Flickr

Smith is one of the top women's colleges in the country, and it also features test-optional admissions. Smith is a member of the five college consortium along with Amherst, Mount Holyoke, Hampshire, and UMass Amherst. Students at any of these five colleges can easily take classes at the other member institutions. Smith has a beautiful and historic campus that includes the 12,000 square foot Lyman Conservatory and the Botanic Garden.
  • Location: Northampton, Massachusetts
  • SAT Reading (Middle 50%): 590 / 710
  • SAT Math (Middle 50%): 560 / 670
  • Test-Optional? Yes

Texas A&M College Station

Texas A&MBlue Ag09 / Flickr
If you have a strong GPA or high class rank, you don't need to report SAT or ACT scores when applying to Texas A&M. The university has many strengths in engineering and agriculture, but the liberal arts and sciences are also extremely popular among undergraduates. In athletics, the Texas A&M Aggies compete in the Division I Big 12 Conference.
  • Location: College Station, Texas
  • SAT Reading (Middle 50%): 520 / 630
  • SAT Math (Middle 50%): 560 / 670
  • Test-Optional? Yes

University of Hawaii at Manoa

University of Hawaii at Manoahellochris / Flickr
Manoa's strengths are many, including highly ranked programs in astronomy, oceanography, cancer research, and Pacific Island and Asian studies. The university has a diverse student body representing all 50 states and 103 countries. UH at Manoa is the only college in Hawaii to have a chapter of the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society.
  • Location: Manoa, Hawaii
  • SAT Reading (Middle 50%): 480 / 580
  • SAT Math (Middle 50%): 510 / 610
  • Test-Optional? No

 University of Iowa at Iowa City

University of Iowa Old CapitolCbenning / Wikimedia Commons
Iowa has strong programs in nursing, creative writing and art, to name just a few. Some of the University of Iowa's graduate programs are consistently ranked among the top in the country. The Iowa Hawkeyes compete in the NCAA Division I Big Ten Conference, and historically the football, basketball and wrestling teams have enjoyed great success.
  • Location: Iowa City, Iowa
  • SAT Reading (Middle 50%): 520 / 650
  • SAT Math (Middle 50%): 550 / 670
  • Test-Optional? Yes

 University of Texas at Austin

University of Texas, Austin, TowerSilly Jilly / Flickr
UT Austin does not require SAT or ACT scores from students who have a high enough GPA or class rank. The university is one of the top public universities in the country. It has numerous selling points including a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, a top business school, and membership in the Division I Big 12 Athletic Conference.
  • Location: Austin, Texas
  • SAT Reading (Middle 50%): 530 / 660
  • SAT Math (Middle 50%): 560 / 690
  • Test-Optional? Yes

University of Montevallo

University of Montevallo Reynolds HallCourtesy of Matt Orton
Most students submit ACT scores, not SAT, but applicants with average scores won't find the admissions standards beyond their reach. As a public liberal arts college, Montevallo is a true value. The campus is charming, and students can expect strong student-faculty interaction.
  • ACT Composite (middle 50%): 19 / 24
  • ACT English (middle 50%): 19 / 25
  • ACT Math (middle 50%): 17 / 23
  • Test Optional? No

Ursinus College

Ursinus College Bomberger HallPennaBoy / Wikimedia Commons
Ursinus is a highly selective college, but they do not require SAT scores if an applicant has a strong enough GPA and high class rank. Ursinus is a top-rate liberal arts college with a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, a 12 to 1 student / faculty ratio, generous financial aid, an excellent observatory and art museum, and a new performing arts building. In 2009, the college was ranked #2 for "up-and-coming" colleges by US News & World Report.
  • Location: Collegeville, Pennsylvania
  • SAT Reading (Middle 50%): 550 / 660
  • SAT Math (Middle 50%): 560 / 660
  • Test-Optional? Yes



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