Skip to main content


Test-Optional: What Does It Mean at SCU?

We are just as excited as you that Santa Clara is test-optional for at least the next two years. But, understanding these new policies can be confusing. Read more to understand what test-optional means for you at SCU!

Across the country colleges and universities are receiving the same questions: what does test-optional mean? Is your university really test-optional? Am I disadvantaged from receiving merit aid if I do not submit test scores? Will I still be competitive enough to be admitted? These questions are stirring confusion and stress among students, as many are hesitant to believe in a truly test-optional admission process.

Test-Optional: Are They Telling Us the Truth?

Earlier this year, Santa Clara University released an official statement announcing we have gone test-optional for students applying for Fall 2021 and Fall 2022 admission. Former Dean of Undergraduate Admission and current Vice President of Enrollment Management, Eva Blanco stated, “Test scores have always been only a part of the holistic application-review process at SCU. Now is the time to let college-bound seniors know that they are supported and reassure them that their academic success will be fully recognized as they apply to Santa Clara University.” 

The current pandemic has changed the way we live and, in the admission world, the way we review applications. The last thing we want students to do is put themselves and their families at risk to take an exam. Health and safety are top priorities for our students and community. We understand the discomfort and uncertainty students and families feel during this transition since many schools have used the SAT/ACT as a determining factor in the admission process for many years. As students submit applications without these scores, our admission office is looking into the other critical pieces of the application and continuing to practice holistic admission.

At Santa Clara, students who choose NOT to have their test-scores considered will not be negatively impacted in the application review process or in consideration for merit scholarships and need-based aid. We hope that by giving the option to opt-out of submitting test scores, more students will take interest in SCU. Additionally, there is not an advantage to submitting a test score. It is simply another piece of your application if you choose to submit a score. To let us know if you would like your test score considered as part of your application, you simply need to answer the following question on the Common App: Do you want your test scores considered? If you select “yes,” you will have the opportunity to self-report your test scores in your SCU Application Portal. If you select “no,” you will not see test scores on your application checklist.

Ever Heard of Rigor?

As mentioned, at Santa Clara University, we evaluate applications holistically, which accounts for rigorous course load, community service, extracurricular activities, essays, letters of recommendations, demonstrated interest, and any additional materials that may help SCU get a better sense of who you are. Without test scores, your GPA and course rigor are increasingly important components of the academic side of your application. Not only do we want to see that you have excelled in your classes, but we also want to see that you’ve challenged yourself academically by taking advanced courses like honors, IB, AP, or dual-enrollment courses your school offers. We do not expect students to have taken every single rigorous course their school offers, but we do expect students to challenge themselves consistently throughout high school.

The Secondary School Report submitted by your counselor allows us to see the rigorous classes offered at your school and evaluate rigor within that context. If your school offers many honors or AP classes, we expect to see some of them on your transcript. If your school does not offer as many rigorous courses, we obviously don’t expect you to have taken courses not offered to you, but we still want to see that you’ve challenged yourself to the extent possible. We understand every student does not have the same background and education. We level the playing field by weighing applicants against the school they are coming from and what their school has to offer.

Ultimately, we want to admit students who will be successful in Santa Clara’s academic environment. Without the test score requirement, your GPA and course rigor will be the best indicators of your readiness for the academic rigor of Santa Clara.

Application Process,Application Tips
About the author