SAT subject tests are NOT truly optional for middle/upper middle class applicants at elite colleges!

My kids go to a high school that sends 100% to 4 year colleges, and many every year to tippy top schools. I have never heard mention of SAT subject tests. Maybe those kids applying to Georgetown etc are encouraged to take them, I don’t know, because my kid did not apply there. But overall as part of college admissions strategy over the high school years, they were never mentioned. And these would be considered privileged kids.

very frustrating

Regarding SAT subject tests, Yale says “recommended but not required.” I’m not sure I would read that and conclude that it absolutely supports your “bottom line.”

Just went through process, my D20 college counselor was very clear on which schools are not really subject test optional - I don’t think it is big secret.

Curious which ones …


When it comes to “definitely not optional” schools, Georgetown immediately comes to mind. I want to say Tufts as well. Not saying you cannot get into Georgetown without good subject test scores, but it is making things very hard for yourself.

As for other schools: probably the Ivies, but I don not think they care about them to the extent Georgetown does.

Tufts no longer asks for subject tests or the writing portion of either the SAT or ACT.

One should also not disregard the importance of AP Tests – they play a big part in acceptances.

They’re completely optional.

No. Schools don’t have different subject test policies for one socioeconomic class of applicants versus another.

They may have not explicit polices but they make it clear if you can afford them, you should take them. This is from Brown:

“The absence of scores will not disadvantage a student, particularly in cases when financial hardship prevents students from registering for the tests, or for those who may have found Brown too late in their college search to register for the Subject Tests.”

The “too late in the process” is again for students in disadvantaged districts who don’t have resources to help with college advising. I recall a presentation in a local hs where the GCs said in a 9th grade event to take subject tests the year after you take the subject. If you don’t get that advice and as a senior in the fall, you decide to apply to Brown, you may have a tough time taking the tests.

The expectation is that if you are in a higher SES class, subject test are a requirement, and not having could hurt.

Hello everyone; I definitely think SAT subject tests are important. However, I would like to point out that my older brother got into UPenn ED (after being deferred) WITHOUT any subject tests! We come from an upper-middle-class family. We by no means fit into the category of people who can not afford to take subject tests, so we have no excuse to be exempt from this policy.

For reference, my older brother got a 34 on his ACT and had interesting ECs, recs, and everything else. He by no means was some exceptional student that everyone praised since he was born; he just was super interested in law and was super social and well-liked at his school. Additionally, we have no family connections to Penn what so ever. On some level, his admission was a combination of luck, grit, and intelligence. He was super chill throughout the process and that served him well.

What I am trying to say is that SAT subject tests are not the holy grail of admissions! If you go to an AP school, it makes sense to take subject tests because you have learned all the content for them. If you don’t go to an AP school, then don’t. It makes no sense to prepare for something you know nothing about. Focus on your extracurriculars, building connections with teachers and peers, and studying for the main standardized tests (ACT and SAT).

If you can succeed on the subject tests easily then, by all means, take them! Just don’t freak out and compromise your schooling and health for them.

You CAN get into an ivy league school without subject tests no matter your background; my brother is an example!!!

(P.S. I got into UMich and WUSTL among other schools WITHOUT any subject tests! Please see this as hope. It is HOLISTIC review for a reason.)

P.S.S Some schools are an exception. If you are applying to MIT, then take subject tests of course. Or, if you are applying to a program that requires them, then you have to take them. But, keep in mind that MIT is a SCIENCE and TECHNOLOGY school! Most elite colleges are liberal arts and prepare students for DIVERSE kinds of jobs beyond STEM!

My son got into a highly ranked LAC and never took subject tests. I tried to get him to but he refused. Some schools require them and if someone isn’t sure where they will apply and if that school might require them, it is probably a good idea to take them if possible (soon after having taken the associated course so the material is still fresh).

Does this still apply given the current situation? I come from an upper middle class family and will likely major in something very competitive such as engineering, however there are no seats available to take the august SAT II within a 70 mile radius… Will this hurt my chances?


CMU Admissions officer told us they don’t even look at them. “They’re called a placement tests for a reason. We use them for Freshman class placement after students enroll.”

Other AO’s have been on the spectrum between CMU and “yes, they might help a bit if you do well”.

I don’t think they play a “big part in acceptances” anywhere. Which is why “self studying” in hopes of helping admissions chances is a poor investment of time.

In the most recent NACAC survey, less than 6% considered them of “Considerable importance”. 76% said “Limited” or “None”.

Almost all schools that request /recommend them have modified their criteria next year - either they won’t consider them at all or “you won’t be disadvantaged” by not taking them.

There’s a valid debate of how a student with an 800 Subject Test score is compared to someone who wasn’t able to take it. If one person is advantaged, isn’t the other, by default, disadvantaged?

Given the cancellation of May/June tests, I suspect many, many students will be in your same situation. You can consider trying to stay fresh on the material for a September test, but I personally don’t think it would be worth it. I think the impact of not being able to take it will be minuscule, if any.

I’ve heard several schools say that sat subject tests will not even be considered if you submit them, so I wouldn’t worry too much about them. If you haven’t taken the ACT or SAT yet, definitely prioritize that over SAT subject tests, but a lot of colleges sound like they’ll review your application equally regardless of whether you have those scores. Take that how you will I suppose…

I thought that pre-covid one should take the Subject tests. But the June tests were canceled. I know CalTech announced they would not look at subject test scores this year. Which other elite schools have said the same? Are ivies looking at them?

How about post-COVID? Our US history august test got cancelled and not sure it makes sense to retest long after new courses started…

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MIT and Yale will also not even consider Subject Tests.