Best test-optional liberal arts schools best-colleges

Test optional schools don’t require students to submit their SAT or ACT scores as part of their college application. Depending on your circumstances, this policy can improve the likelihood of your application being successful. 

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Net cost: The median annual cost of all students that receive any aid. This does not refer to the “sticker price”, the price listed by the college.

Earnings: The median earnings of all bachelor-level students 10 years after enrollment. This includes both students that do and do not graduate, across all majors.

Payback: The amount of time in years it takes to pay off the median net cost by the median earnings. For this calculation, the median earning of high school graduates (in the school’s home state) are deducted from the median earnings.

Degree premium: The difference between the school’s median earnings and the median earnings for all schools in the same state. This is called “Vs. state average” in school profiles below.

Ranking: The payback rate is divided by the degree premium (set as a percentage), the lower the number the higher the rank. (i.e. payback=1, degree premium 20% higher than state school median: 1/120% = .883.

Net cost
Earnings
Payback
Degree premium
Rankings
Ranking methodology
#1 in Liberal Arts

Claremont McKenna College

Claremont, California

Admission rate: 14%

Grad rate: 94%

Net cost: $22,161

Payback: 1.5 Years

Earnings: $86,571

Vs. state average: + $35,892

Economic score: 0.87

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#2 in Liberal Arts

Harvey Mudd College

Claremont, California

Admission rate: 18%

Grad rate: 93%

Net cost: $32,727

Payback: 2.0 Years

Earnings: $108,988

Vs. state average: + $58,309

Economic score: 0.92

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#3 in Liberal Arts

Washington and Lee University

Lexington, Virginia

Admission rate: 25%

Grad rate: 96%

Net cost: $22,615

Payback: 1.9 Years

Earnings: $86,020

Vs. state average: + $43,036

Economic score: 0.94

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#4 in Liberal Arts

Davidson College

Davidson, North Carolina

Admission rate: 20%

Grad rate: 91%

Net cost: $19,115

Payback: 2.0 Years

Earnings: $71,671

Vs. state average: + $29,600

Economic score: 1.15

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#5 in Liberal Arts

Virginia Military Institute

Lexington, Virginia

Admission rate: 60%

Grad rate: 78%

Net cost: $17,804

Payback: 1.9 Years

Earnings: $71,910

Vs. state average: + $28,926

Economic score: 1.16

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#6 in Liberal Arts

Pomona College

Claremont, California

Admission rate: 9%

Grad rate: 94%

Net cost: $17,458

Payback: 1.6 Years

Earnings: $69,149

Vs. state average: + $18,470

Economic score: 1.18

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#7 in Liberal Arts

Colby College

Waterville, Maine

Admission rate: 11%

Grad rate: 91%

Net cost: $17,777

Payback: 1.9 Years

Earnings: $71,127

Vs. state average: + $23,861

Economic score: 1.25

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#8 in Liberal Arts

Lafayette College

Easton, Pennsylvania

Admission rate: 36%

Grad rate: 87%

Net cost: $32,551

Payback: 2.2 Years

Earnings: $84,939

Vs. state average: + $31,361

Economic score: 1.40

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#9 in Liberal Arts

Wabash College

Crawfordsville, Indiana

Admission rate: 64%

Grad rate: 72%

Net cost: $19,015

Payback: 2.0 Years

Earnings: $63,425

Vs. state average: + $17,780

Economic score: 1.45

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#10 in Liberal Arts

Wofford College

Spartanburg, South Carolina

Admission rate: 53%

Grad rate: 82%

Net cost: $25,674

Payback: 2.3 Years

Earnings: $67,530

Vs. state average: + $23,245

Economic score: 1.50

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#11 in Liberal Arts

Swarthmore College

Swarthmore, Pennsylvania

Admission rate: 10%

Grad rate: 95%

Net cost: $19,184

Payback: 2.1 Years

Earnings: $72,637

Vs. state average: + $19,059

Economic score: 1.53

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#12 in Liberal Arts

Hamilton College

Clinton, New York

Admission rate: 19%

Grad rate: 93%

Net cost: $25,440

Payback: 2.1 Years

Earnings: $74,340

Vs. state average: + $18,650

Economic score: 1.54

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#13 in Liberal Arts

Rhodes College

Memphis, Tennessee

Admission rate: 52%

Grad rate: 85%

Net cost: $27,540

Payback: 2.5 Years

Earnings: $66,619

Vs. state average: + $22,864

Economic score: 1.63

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#14 in Liberal Arts

Amherst College

Amherst, Massachusetts

Admission rate: 12%

Grad rate: 93%

Net cost: $18,524

Payback: 1.7 Years

Earnings: $71,567

Vs. state average: + $3,809

Economic score: 1.64

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#15 in Liberal Arts

Bucknell University

Lewisburg, Pennsylvania

Admission rate: 38%

Grad rate: 89%

Net cost: $42,502

Payback: 2.8 Years

Earnings: $88,154

Vs. state average: + $34,576

Economic score: 1.68

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#16 in Liberal Arts

Haverford College

Haverford, Pennsylvania

Admission rate: 19%

Grad rate: 92%

Net cost: $22,991

Payback: 2.2 Years

Earnings: $69,192

Vs. state average: + $15,614

Economic score: 1.68

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#17 in Liberal Arts

Williams College

Williamstown, Massachusetts

Admission rate: 16%

Grad rate: 96%

Net cost: $19,480

Payback: 1.8 Years

Earnings: $71,608

Vs. state average: + $3,850

Economic score: 1.71

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#18 in Liberal Arts

Albion College

Albion, Michigan

Admission rate: 75%

Grad rate: 65%

Net cost: $16,653

Payback: 2.2 Years

Earnings: $54,792

Vs. state average: + $10,746

Economic score: 1.73

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#19 in Liberal Arts

Bowdoin College

Brunswick, Maine

Admission rate: 10%

Grad rate: 95%

Net cost: $21,910

Payback: 2.5 Years

Earnings: $66,864

Vs. state average: + $19,598

Economic score: 1.80

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#20 in Liberal Arts

Colgate University

Hamilton, New York

Admission rate: 28%

Grad rate: 90%

Net cost: $25,834

Payback: 2.5 Years

Earnings: $76,267

Vs. state average: + $20,577

Economic score: 1.83

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