More California colleges remove SAT, ACT requirements during application process

Students' decorated mortar boards at a California State University San Marcos graduation
California State University San Marcos students at their graduation ceremony. The university is one of some 130 institutions that do not require high school graduates to provide standardized test scores during the application process.
(Howard Lipin / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Nearly 130 colleges and universities in California do not require students applying for the fall 2022 semester to release their ACT or SAT scores, according to updated data from the National Center for Fair & Open Testing.

The center, also known as FairTest, is a nonprofit organization that lobbies for colleges to treat students as “more than a score,” and expand their admission criteria beyond standardized test results.

“Schools that did not mandate ACT/SAT submission last year generally received more applicants, better academically qualified applicants, and a more diverse pool of applicants,” said FairTest Executive Director Bob Schaeffer.


According to FairTest, some 1,780 institutions in the U.S. do not require recent high school graduates to submit ACT or SAT results when applying for college.

About 7% — including the University of California and Cal State University — are located in California. The University of San Diego and Point Loma Nazarene University are also on the list.

University of California regents unanimously voted in May 2020 to suspend SAT and ACT testing requirements through 2024 and eliminate them for California students by 2025.

The action by the nation’s premier public university system marked a turning point in the long-running debate over whether the standardized tests unfairly discriminate against disadvantaged students or provide a useful tool to evaluate college applicants.

Other institutions followed.

Michael Uhlenkamp, senior director of strategic communications and public affairs for California State University, said the university system changed its admission policy to help prospective students overcome challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The admission policy is temporary, Uhlenkamp said in an email, and will remain in place through the 2022-23 academic year.


Elena Gomez, a spokesperson for the University of San Diego, said the pandemic also played a role in the private school’s decision. In March of last year, USD became a test-optional institution, which means prospective students have the option to include their standardized test scores in their application.

“However, by October of 2020, it was clear that the availability of testing around the world was severely impacted by the pandemic,” Gomez said. “In order to create a more equitable process under these conditions, we decided to become a ‘test-blind’ campus and pledged not to view an incoming student’s standardized tests during the admissions process.”

The decision helped level the playing field for students who have traditionally been disadvantaged in the college application process, Gomez said, and for the first time in its history, the school admitted more nonwhite students than white students.

Offering what are known as test-blind or test-optional admissions has become increasingly popular nationwide in recent years.

In 2005, just eight institutions did not require students to release their standardized test scores. A decade later, the total was nearly 150.

In the 2020-21 school year alone, data show that more than 750 more colleges and universities changed their admission standards, bringing the total to some 1,070 institutions.


“Evaluating applications without regard to test scores has become the new normal in undergraduate admissions,” Schaeffer said in a statement. “More than half of all colleges and universities in the nation have already committed to remaining test-optional or test blind for Fall 2023 applicants.”

The U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics currently recognizes about 2,330 bachelor degree-granting colleges and universities that enroll first-year students.