Amherst test optional policy?

Several extremely selective colleges have said they will be “test optional” for the class or 2025 and that applicants who submit no standardized test scores “will not be disadvantaged.” Amherst does not say this but several colleges that attract similar applicants (including Brown, Yale and UVA) have used these or similar words.

If a “test optional” college does not say that applicants who submit no scores “will not be disadvantaged,” does that mean something different? Does it mean that the applicants who opt not to submit scores probably will be at a disadvantage? Or that they will be at a disadvantage unless they have a good excuse for not submitting scores?

Amherst, Pomona and Wesleyan are among the many colleges that have made submission of standardized test scores optional withlyout claiming not to hold that option against applicants who choose it. Is that sort of like giving someone the “option” of writing “I don’t really want to get in to your college” on the application form?

Hard to tell. Honestly, I think it’s best to have the test. IF you can’t then it’s likely they won’t consider the lack of test in the context of the application. Schools like Amherst are still going to be looking to see if you are a top candidate. For example, a kid who can demonstrate competence at a really high level might not need the test as much as a kid who has grades from a school no one at Amherst has likely heard of. Colleges tend to know various high schools. If you are applying from one which has not sent kids there recently I think you would be disadvantaged despite what they say. IF you were a NMF and didn’t take the SAT, I doubt they’d care.

The test optional policy for Amherst is clearly stated on its website. Here is the link,or%20ACT%20scores%20is%20optional.

It is also among top national liberal arts colleges on the Fair Test list.

To me, the Amherst website now clearly states that your application will be considered without test scores but there is not a clear statement from Amherst that you won’t be penalized if you choose not to submit test scores. Other colleges say you won’t be penalized (disadvantaged). Maybe they’re telling the truth and maybe they’re not, but I haven’t even seen a statement to that effect from Amherst. Have you? Maybe I missed it.

Under the ‘High School Seniors’ section of the COVID impact statement, it’s says, “At their own discretion, applicants may still submit SAT or ACT scores for consideration, but applicants who do not submit scores will not be at a disadvantage in the admission process. SAT Subject Tests will not be considered as part of the evaluation of any applicant’s academic record.”

My family watched a virtual visit hosted by Amherst, Williams, Pomona, Carleton, Swarthmore and Bowdoin and all of the admissions officers said that “test optional” this year for the high school class of 2021 was truly test optional. I quote: “not wink, wink test optional but really test optional”. They totally understand some states have allowed no testing since February and likely won’t until after admissions deadlines. Also, they said health and safety comes first and they understand some students would not be comfortable testing. Agree though if you have an good score then submit it but sounds to me that colleges will be looking deeper at other aspects of applications this fall/winter.

  So this is Amherst college answered for my question about test-optionality and disadvantaged students for not sending test scores. It is literally what they said.

 Thank you for your message and for your interest in Amherst.  No student will be penalized for not submitting ACT or SAT scores.  A student can choose to submit ACT or SAT scores, and if these scores are submitted, then they will be considered in the process.  If the student does not submit ACT or SAT scores, then these scores will not be considered and the student will not be disadvantaged in the process.  

I hope that this information is helpful to you.



Will Cummins
Associate Dean of Admission
Amherst College