Davidson College Goes Permanently Test-Optional

students sitting in circle outside on grass field outside Chambers building

Davidson College is making permanent its test-optional policy for applicants for admission. Students applying to the college will continue to choose whether to submit their SAT or ACT scores.

The move turns what had been a pandemic-era pilot program into policy. It was announced at today’s meeting of the college’s Board of Trustees. 

“We have always known that standardized tests create barriers for some students, and that test scores show only a fraction of their academic potential,” said Chris Gruber, vice president for admission and financial aid and dean of admission. “What we didn’t know was the impact of test-optional on the overall class. Two years later, we have the answer: This shift allows students to present themselves fully and the caliber of our incoming classes has not only remained stable, it has increased -- in grades, life experiences and even test scores.” 

Davidson College enacted a three-year pilot program of a test-optional admission process as the pandemic erupted in March 2020, when SAT and ACT testing centers were shutting down. The succeeding two years showed that the college can evaluate applicants effectively without standardized testing. 

“Standardized testing still provides some useful information, but other aspects of an applicant’s academic journey better demonstrate how they will perform and thrive here,” Gruber said. “We make a holistic review of our applicants so we can appreciate their different backgrounds and no single factor rules the day.” 

The decision speaks to the college’s commitment to make a Davidson education accessible to all qualified students regardless of their financial circumstances. 

“Talent is not determined by income or zip code,” Gruber said, “but those factors can  impact access to advanced high-school courses, test preparation and the administration of some standardized tests.”  

A test-optional policy helps extend the strength of community that makes Davidson distinctive to applicants. Gruber said the college has the capacity to lead in an effective test-optional policy, to continue as a leader in access, and to support the high school students in this country and around the world for whom Davidson is the supportive community that will help prepare them for lives of leadership and service.


  • April 11, 2022