The best test-optional colleges best-colleges

Test optional schools do not require students to submit their ACT or SAT scores when applying for admission. The pandemic kickstarted the movement towards test optional admissions. However, standardized testing has been criticized for years, primarily because low-income students and students of color test far worse than wealthier students. Our list of test optional schools is taken from Fair Test, an advocate for fair and open testing. 

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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 National University

Princeton University

Princeton, New Jersey

Admission rate: 6%

Grad rate: 97%

Net cost: $11,317

Payback: Under a year

Earnings: $95,689

Vs. state average: + $50,066

Economic score: 0.31

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#2 in National University

Stanford University

Stanford, California

Admission rate: 6%

Grad rate: 96%

Net cost: $11,496

Payback: Under a year

Earnings: $97,798

Vs. state average: + $47,119

Economic score: 0.36

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#3 in National University

CUNY City College

New York, New York

Admission rate: 51%

Grad rate: 54%

Net cost: $2,385

Payback: Under 6 months

Earnings: $55,741

Vs. state average: + $51

Economic score: 0.37

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#6 in National University

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Admission rate: 8%

Grad rate: 96%

Net cost: $16,636

Payback: Under a year

Earnings: $111,222

Vs. state average: + $43,464

Economic score: 0.50

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#7 in National University

California Institute of Technology

Pasadena, California

Admission rate: 7%

Grad rate: 93%

Net cost: $24,274

Payback: 1.2 Years

Earnings: $112,166

Vs. state average: + $61,487

Economic score: 0.52

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#8 in National University

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Admission rate: 27%

Grad rate: 93%

Net cost: $15,336

Payback: 1.2 Years

Earnings: $75,842

Vs. state average: + $31,796

Economic score: 0.70

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#9 in National University

Duke University

Durham, North Carolina

Admission rate: 8%

Grad rate: 96%

Net cost: $27,020

Payback: 1.6 Years

Earnings: $93,115

Vs. state average: + $51,044

Economic score: 0.70

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#10 in National University

University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Admission rate: 9%

Grad rate: 97%

Net cost: $25,802

Payback: 1.4 Years

Earnings: $103,246

Vs. state average: + $49,668

Economic score: 0.71

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#11 in National University

University of California-Berkeley

Berkeley, California

Admission rate: 18%

Grad rate: 93%

Net cost: $15,329

Payback: 1.2 Years

Earnings: $80,364

Vs. state average: + $29,685

Economic score: 0.74

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#12 in National University

Missouri University of Science and Technology

Rolla, Missouri

Admission rate: 82%

Grad rate: 68%

Net cost: $14,262

Payback: 1.3 Years

Earnings: $80,289

Vs. state average: + $32,969

Economic score: 0.74

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#13 in National University

Vanderbilt University

Nashville, Tennessee

Admission rate: 12%

Grad rate: 94%

Net cost: $19,432

Payback: 1.4 Years

Earnings: $79,872

Vs. state average: + $36,117

Economic score: 0.75

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#14 in National University

Rice University

Houston, Texas

Admission rate: 11%

Grad rate: 95%

Net cost: $16,999

Payback: 1.3 Years

Earnings: $77,683

Vs. state average: + $32,736

Economic score: 0.77

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#16 in National University

University of California-Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California

Admission rate: 15%

Grad rate: 92%

Net cost: $14,279

Payback: 1.2 Years

Earnings: $73,744

Vs. state average: + $23,065

Economic score: 0.83

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#17 in National University

University of California-San Diego

La Jolla, California

Admission rate: 37%

Grad rate: 89%

Net cost: $14,232

Payback: 1.3 Years

Earnings: $74,771

Vs. state average: + $24,092

Economic score: 0.85

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#18 in National University

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Admission rate: 26%

Grad rate: 90%

Net cost: $12,352

Payback: 1.3 Years

Earnings: $61,915

Vs. state average: + $19,844

Economic score: 0.86

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#19 in National University

University of Washington-Seattle Campus

Seattle, Washington

Admission rate: 56%

Grad rate: 84%

Net cost: $13,297

Payback: 1.3 Years

Earnings: $68,925

Vs. state average: + $23,966

Economic score: 0.88

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#20 in National University

Harvard University

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Admission rate: 6%

Grad rate: 98%

Net cost: $15,386

Payback: 1.1 Years

Earnings: $84,918

Vs. state average: + $17,160

Economic score: 0.89

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#21 in National University

University of Virginia-Main Campus

Charlottesville, Virginia

Admission rate: 23%

Grad rate: 94%

Net cost: $20,397

Payback: 1.6 Years

Earnings: $77,048

Vs. state average: + $34,064

Economic score: 0.89

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#22 in National University

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Champaign, Illinois

Admission rate: 64%

Grad rate: 85%

Net cost: $15,880

Payback: 1.4 Years

Earnings: $71,539

Vs. state average: + $26,702

Economic score: 0.90

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#24 in National University

Columbia University in the City of New York

New York, New York

Admission rate: 7%

Grad rate: 93%

Net cost: $23,306

Payback: 1.5 Years

Earnings: $89,871

Vs. state average: + $34,181

Economic score: 0.91

school_link Go to School
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