You’re probably aware of “test-optional” colleges and universities, but have you ever heard of “test-blind” schools? A growing number of institutions are becoming test-blind as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. But what is a test-blind school, and how does it affect college admission? Check out the video and blog below to learn more!
What does "test-optional" mean?
Test-optional is the more popular term right now, and it means you don’t have to submit test scores when you apply to a college; they’re optional. If you don’t feel like your standardized test scores are on par with your abilities, you can apply to a test-optional school without submitting your scores. However, this option works best for students with impressive transcripts. For selective schools, the optimal test-optional candidates are students enrolled in rigorous classes and earning excellent grades whose scores don’t reflect their full potential. Some students simply don’t test to the best of their ability, and those students can be strong test-optional candidates.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, there were about 1,080 test-optional schools in the US, and that number was growing rapidly each year. When COVID-19 broke out, students weren’t able to test because of site cancelations and other obstacles. As the pandemic continued, an increasing number of colleges accepted that many high school seniors wouldn’t have a chance to sit for the SAT or ACT. Little by little, more schools announced they would be test-optional so they could increase access to college while minimizing health risks.
Currently, there are over 1,550 schools that are test-optional. That translates to two-thirds of all US universities acknowledging the fact that the majority of students won’t be able to test before this year’s admission deadlines. These students can now apply to test-optional colleges worry-free. However, many students are still under the impression that “optional” means “required.” Enter: test-blind.
What does "test-blind" mean?
Test-blind means you cannot send your test scores when you apply to a college. If you do submit your test scores, the college will block them from their view. They’ll evaluate you based on everything else, including the all-important transcript, which shows the strength and rigor of your course load and your grades. They’ll also look at other factors such as your teacher and counselor recommendations, activities, admission essay(s), demonstrated interest (for those that track it), and interview(s).
Before the pandemic, there were hardly any schools that were test-blind. So why are more colleges adopting this policy now? Many students believe that test-optional colleges actually prefer students to still submit scores despite the policy, and some of these students feel that pressure and are traveling hours away to neighboring states in order to sit for the ACT or SAT. But now, many schools don’t want you to sacrifice your health to sit in a room for hours with strangers and take these tests. Therefore, some colleges have decided to become test-blind so students won’t feel any pressure to continue attempting to take the tests.
This new concept can be frustrating to students who took their standardized tests last year, especially if they worked hard and are proud of their strong scores—but colleges are trying to level the playing field. Test-blind schools are sending students a clear message: You do not have to take a test, and the schools will not look at your scores when making admission decisions.
List of test-blind schools
In the last few months, there have been an increasing number of colleges that have decided to go test-blind. Most recently, the entire University of California system was ordered to go test-blind by the Superior Court of California (though it’s being appealed, so any students looking at these schools should keep their eyes open for changes). Right after that decision, Dickinson College became one of the few liberal arts schools that decided to become test-blind. The current list of test-blind schools in the US as of October 9, 2020 is as follows:
- California Institute of Technology (2-year trial)
- Catholic University
- California State system (1-year trial, 23 campuses)
- California Maritime Academy
- California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
- California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
- California State University, Bakersfield
- California State University, Channel Islands
- California State University, Chico
- California State University, Dominguez Hills
- California State University, East Bay
- California State University, Fresno
- California State University, Fullerton
- California State University, Long Beach
- California State University, Los Angeles
- California State University, Monterey Bay
- California State University, Northridge
- California State University, Sacramento
- California State University, San Bernardino
- California State University, San Marcos
- California State University, Stanislaus
- Humboldt State University
- San Diego State University
- San Francisco State University
- San Jose State University
- Sonoma State University
- City University of New York (CUNY) system (1-year trial, 11 campuses)
- College of Staten Island
- Baruch College
- Brooklyn College
- City College
- Hunter College
- John Jay College of Criminal Justice
- Lehman College
- Medgar Evers College
- New York City College of Technology
- Queens College
- York College
Cornell University (designated as "score-free" for fall 2021)
- Dickinson College (1-year trial)
- Hampshire College
- Idaho public universities (1-year trial, 4 campuses)
- Boise State University
- Idaho State University
- Lewis–Clark State College
- University of Idaho
- Loyola University New Orleans
- Minerva Schools at KGI
- Northern Illinois University
- Northern Michigan University
- Reed College (2-year trial)
- Saint Xavier University (1-year pilot, except Nursing programs)
- Stonehill College (1-year trial)
- University of California (nine schools as of a ruling on September 1 ruling; subject to change; all will be test-blind for in-state students beginning in 2023)
- University of California, Berkeley
- University of California, Davis
- University of California, Irvine (1-year trial for in-state only)
- University of California, Los Angeles/
- University of California at Merced
- University of California, Riverside
- University of California, San Diego
- University of California, Santa Barbara
- University of California, Santa Cruz (1-year trial for in-state only)
- University of Charleston (1-year trial)
- University of Minnesota at Crookston (1-year pilot)
- University of New England
- University of San Diego
- Washington State University (1-year trial)
For more information—including an up-to-date list of test-optional schools, test-flexible schools, and test-blind schools—visit Fairtest.org.