Colleges that dont require act or sat

Last Updated on January 17, 2023

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Colleges that don’t require Act or Sat

College admissions are not a one-size-fits-all process for higher education institutions across the US. Each school has its own intricate formula to determine which students to welcome into the fold. One increasingly emerging differentiator is how schools weigh SAT and ACT scores in their consideration of candidates. Standardized test scores were once universally considered the most important admissions factor, but there are now over 1,000 accredited universities and colleges that don’t require SAT or ACT results as part of the admission process.

Test scores were initially intended to allow for unbiased, standardized comparison of students across the country — but over time have put prospective college students that suffer from test anxiety, or don’t have the means or access to testing, at a severe disadvantage. In addition to barring many talented students from continuing their education, this has reduced ethnic and economic diversity among college student populations across the country.

As such, a growing number of schools are changing their approach and either de-emphasizing or eliminating the need for students to disclose test scores through test-optional or test-flexible policies. Tracking down schools that don’t require SAT or ACT scores and knowing your application options can be tricky, so read on for our guide to the process and some colleges to consider to get you started!

What Is The SAT/ACT And Why Is It Sometimes Required?

The SAT and ACT are entrance exams used by many higher education institutions to gauge students’ academic aptitude and make admissions decisions. The most marked difference between the two exams is that the SAT is two sections and administered by The College Board, whereas the ACT has four sections and is administered by ACT, Inc.

Colleges have long considered these exam results in a great indicator of a students’ readiness for college above GPAs, high school transcripts, and extracurriculars because the tests are standardized across the country. This allows for evaluation across a more level playing field.

Students studying in college
Photo by Alissa De Leva on Unsplash

12 Colleges That Don’t Require SAT Or ACT In The US

Whatever your reason for seeking a school with a more flexible approach to exam evaluation, here’s a list of some top schools that don’t require SAT or ACT scores across the US to get you started in your search:

1. Pitzer College

Pitzer, a small liberal arts college located just outside of Los Angeles, became a test-option college in 2003. Despite its alternative approach to admissions, Pitzer is considered both highly ranked and highly selective. Although Pitzer’s admissions office will still accept test scores for those who choose to send them, they instead focus on prospective students’ transcripts, extracurriculars, and overall reflection of Pitzer’s core values.

2. New York University

NYU is one of the more relatively rigid schools, but it has a considerably more flexible standardized testing policy than other research universities of its size and caliber. The internationally regarded institution in the heart of Manhattan does evaluate test scores but allows prospective students to substitute SAT/ACT scores for others like AP or IB results, or an IB diploma.

3. Hampshire College

Nestled just outside the gorgeous Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, Hampshire College is currently the only school in the US that has adopted a test-blind policy. This means that the school doesn’t require students to send test scores and it also rejects any scores that are sent in. According to the school’s website, “even if it’s a perfect score, it will not weigh into our assessment of the applicant.” The small liberal arts school instead prioritizes consistency in an applicant’s transcripts and extracurriculars, and heavily weighs personal essays as well.

4. Cornell College

Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa has recently adopted a test-optional policy, allowing applicants to send in a portfolio instead as part of a pilot program. Rather than scores, students can fill their portfolios with creative work like photography or creative writing to best demonstrate their skills outside of a score. Because Cornell is giving this process a trial run, the school could resume test result requirements at any time.

5. University of the People

University of the People is an accredited online university that is dedicated to providing access to higher education for all those around the world who want it. To that end, not only does U o People not require students to submit SAT or ACT scores, but all of its courses are completely tuition-free. Its degree programs range from bachelor’s degrees to master’s degrees. Its online setup means students can pursue a degree at a time and place that works best for their unique situation.

6. George Washington University

Situated in the nation’s capital, George Washington University is one of few private research universities that extends a test-optional policy to applicants. Known for strong academics, a roster of nationally competitive Division I sports teams, and convenient access to DC internships, GW hosts a student body of over 26,000. Its test-optional policy has been in place since 2015, with an emphasis on evaluating how students perform in class over their performance on one four-hour test.

7. Montana State University

Montana State’s proximity to Yellowstone National Park is an outdoorsy student’s dream, made all the more appealing by its extremely flexible admissions policy. While standardized test scores are optional, the school minimally requires that prospective students rank in the upper half of their graduating class or maintain a high school GPA of 2.5.

8. Colorado College

Colorado College’s test-optional policy isn’t the only unique aspect of its approach to academics. The Colorado Springs-based school of just over 2,000 undergrads follows what it calls a “block plan,” meaning students take one class only for three and a half weeks before moving onto the next one.

9. Ithaca College

Since Ithaca College’s 1892 origins as a small conservatory, the liberal arts college has grown to an undergrad student population of 6,200 who study across five schools and over 120 majors. The Western New York school lets students choose whether to send standardized test scores for admission consideration rather than requiring them.

10. Smith College

One of the nation’s first and most prestigious all-women’s colleges, Smith is adamant about the importance of considering factors other than test scores in its applicants. The Western Massachusetts school states on its website, “We choose people, not statistical profiles.” While the school does keep the opportunity to submit test scores open and optional, admissions heavily encourages potential students to schedule an interview with the department.

11. Connecticut College

Another one of the schools that doesn’t require SAT or ACT scores to apply is Connecticut College. Located in New London, the school has an undergrad enrollment of 1,865 students. Despite the college’s lenient approach to test scores, 92% of Connecticut College’s undergraduate students ranked in the top 20% of their high school class. Instead, the college encourages hopeful students to share achievements or materials that are better representative of their academic success and potential.

12. University of Chicago

For students seeking a city college experience, the University of Chicago is situated in Chicago’s Hyde Park and surrounded by all of the bustling city life and culture Chicago has to offer. True to the private research university’s encouragement of its students to challenge conventional thinking, the institution has adopted a test-optional policy to empower applicants to craft their candidacy how they see fit.

Number 2 pencils on blank paper

Common FAQs

For a better understanding of the landscape as you evaluate your options, here’s our guide to some key terms and issues:

1. What Is Test-Optional?

A test-optional policy leaves the decision of whether or not to send SAT/ACT scores to a school up to the applicant. This gives prospective students the power to decide whether their test scores are an accurate representation of their academic ability and potential, and allows them to have more choice in crafting an application that better demonstrates their strengths and attributes.

2. Why Are More Colleges Becoming Test-Optional?

More and more liberal arts colleges, and some larger research universities, are adopting the position that test scores are only one limiting component of a student’s application and don’t demonstrate the full scope of one’s academic potential. Though some detractors remain, schools that don’t require SAT or ACT scores have claimed the new policies have led to more diverse student populations by attracting low-income and minority students who are either not able to take the test, or students who suffer from standardized testing anxiety but are strong students otherwise.

3. What Is Test-Flexible?

Test-flexible means the admissions office does require some level of test scores but are open to different options in place of the SAT/ACT. Some schools go as far as to waive any test score requirements so long as students meet a minimum GPA or are applying to a specific program, while others will accept others like AP or SAT Subject Test scores instead.

4. What Is Test-Blind?

A school with a test-blind policy means the school outright doesn’t want students to supply test scores at all. As mentioned earlier, Hampshire College in Amherst, MA is the only school in the US currently with a test-blind policy.

5. Top-Tier Schools That De-Emphasize the SAT

The list of schools provided in this article is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to top-tier institutions that have loosened their admissions policy on SAT/ACT scores.

Whether test-optional or test-flexible, here are some additional schools that have de-emphasized the SAT and are ranked among some of the top schools in the country:

  • Bates College
  • Hofstra University
  • Wake Forest University
  • Middlebury College
  • Drexel University
  • American University
  • University of Texas – Austin
  • Gettysburg College

SAT Score Vs. GPA For Admissions

There is an ongoing debate among education experts over whether SAT/ACT scores should be given more consideration than a student’s high school GPA. Some college admissions offices say they believe the GPA packs more of a punch as it measures a student’s efforts, focus, and consistency over four years, versus the SAT score which is determined by a student’s performance in a matter of hours.

Those same college admissions offices, however, are actually giving serious consideration to SAT scores behind the scenes. Although it’s true that the GPA is the only numerical value that can reveal a student’s hard work, self-discipline, and intellectual growth over time, it only measures a student’s standing within their own school as opposed to the nationally standardized comparison that the SAT/ACT score offers. The GPA also can reflect teacher bias or grade inflation, where the SAT and ACT are administered and evaluated by a neutral, credible third party.

While the GPA is still an important indicator of a student’s academic potential in the college admissions process, the SAT/ACT scores still tends to trump all at colleges that require test scores.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, a great education can be found in many places and it’s important to choose a school that not only recognizes your unique potential but offers a college experience best-suited for you.

If attending a traditional college campus isn’t for you, there are plenty of online options that can provide a fruitful educational experience. At the University of the People, our priority is making sure education is accessible to all students — not only do we not require SAT/ACT scores, but our courses are completely tuition-free. On top of that, pursuing a degree online allows you to engage in your studies whenever and from wherever you want!

colleges that don’t require act scores

For many prospective college students, taking the SATs and ACTs is a nerve-wracking, anxiety-producing experience. While the SAT can certainly help some students by potentially acting as a type of equalizer for those with lower high school grades, a growing body of research shows that placing so much weight in these types of exams can cause crippling anxiety.

In 2018, Jennifer Heissel, an associate professor at the Graduate School of Business and Public Policy at the Naval Postgraduate School, studied stress levels from a group of New Orleans elementary school students before and after they took a standardized test. The findings did not bode well for the exams. The test increased the children’s cortisol (a stress hormone) levels, which in turn led to poor results.

“We found that the kids who had large responses in changes in their cortisol performed worse on high-stakes test,” Heissel told INSIDER.

While Heissel notes that these are early findings and encouraged more testing to be done, the results appear to confirm something many high school students preparing for college intuitively understand: high-stakes tests can send some people over the edge. 

 Test scores were originally meant to create a level playing field, but a strict reliance on them may be having the opposite effect. A report released this week from Georgetown University found that  if students were admitted only on the basis of their test scores at 200 of the nation’s most selective colleges, only 53% of the incoming students would gain admission. The report also concluded that if colleges were to admit only those students with the highest scores, the student body would be noticeably wealthier and less diverse. 

Even though most universities place some degree of importance on standardized exams, there are still plenty of great schools that do not require students to take either the SAT or ACT. Here are 27 great universities that don’t require SAT or ACT scores. 

27. Colorado College does not require SAT or ACT scores.

Colorado College
A student working on a project at Colorado College. 

Located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the school has just over 2,000 undergraduates. Colorado College is unique in that it utilizes what they call a block plan. Under this, students take one class every three and a half weeks.

Students interested in applying to Colorado College should fill out the Common App, where they will need to include a personal statement, pay a $60 application fee, send their high school transcript, and try to get multiple letters of recommendation. 

Source: Colorado College 

26. Ithaca College lets you choose whether or not to send test scores.

Ithaca Colelge View
Ithaca College. 

Ithaca college began as a small conservatory in 1892 in Ithaca, New York. Since then, it’s grown to an enrollment of 6,200 undergraduates studying across five schools and 120 majors.

Ithaca College doesn’t require standardized tests scores for admission consideration. Interested students will need to submit the Common App and submit supporting documentation. 

Source: Ithaca College 

25. St. John’s University allows you to send an essay instead of test scores.

Peter J. Tobin School of Business at St. John's
The Peter J. Tobin School of Business at St. John’s University. 

St. John’s University is located in Queens, New York and has 21,346 undergraduate students.

Students can apply to St. John’s University using either the Common App or the St. John’s Application. For those who want to avoid submitting SAT and ACT scores, St. John’s requires an additional personal essay and encourages letters of recommendation.

Source: St. John’s University 

24. University of Puget Sound will let your write essays in lieu of test scores.

University of Puget Sound campus
University of Puget Sound’s campus. 

Puget Sound was founded in 1888 by the United Methodist Church. Today, about 2,400 undergraduates attend the small liberal arts college in Tacoma, Washington. Puget Sound says they are one of only two independent colleges in Washington State.

Interested students will need to fill out the Common App, pay a $60 application fee, and send their transcript, a letter of recommendation and an additional essay. Students who choose not to submit standardized test scores are instead asked to answer two short essay questions. 

Source: University of Puget Sound 

23. Smith College does not require applicants to submit test scores.

Smith College Campus
Smith College’s campus. 

Smith College was founded in 1871, and is one of the nation’s most prestigious women’s colleges.

Smith College’ admissions website emphasizes the importance of factors outside test scores.

“Smith doesn’t rely solely on grades and test scores to select new students; we choose people, not statistical profiles,” the school’s website says. Standardized testing is optional, but the school heavily encourages hopeful students to schedule an interview with the admissions department.  

Source: Smith College 

22. College of the Holy Cross values grades over tests.

College of the Holy Cross Library
The College of the Holy Cross library. 

College of the Holy Cross was founded in 1843 in Worcester, Massachusetts, and has a student body of just over 3,000 people. The most popular majors there are economics, psychology, and political science. 

The college’s website encourages students to take rigorous classes and claims to analyze each applicant individually, to see how their performance matches up with the school. College of the Holy Cross says they do not disadvantage any applicants that chose not to submit test scores.

Source: College of the Holy Cross 

21. Bowdoin College does not require test scores for most students.

Bowdoin College 2
Bowdoin College’s campus. 

Bowdoin is one of the top ranked liberal arts colleges in the country. Located in the small town of Brunswick, Maine, Bowdoin comes out at number five on US News and World Report’s ranking of liberal arts colleges. Founded in 1794, Bowdoin was a men’s-only college until 1971. Now, the college has an enrollment nearing 2,000 students. 

Bowdoin College does not require the SAT or ACT results from most of its incoming students. Students interested in applying to the university should send an application, a supplemental essay, a counselor recommendation, teacher recommendation, and a high school transcript. 

Source: Bowdoin College, U.S. News and World Report 

20. Marist College cares more about high school performance than test scores.

Marist college campus
Marist College’s campus. 

Marist College boasts an undergraduate population of 6,474 and is located in Dutchess County, New York. Marist offers 47 bachelor’s programs, Division I sports, and more than 80 clubs and organizations. 

Marist makes a point on their website to say that it places the greatest amount of weight on high school transcripts when considering applicants. Students are not required to send test scores

Source: Marist College 

19. Connecticut College does not require tests to apply.

Connecticut College Campus
Connecticut College’s campus. 

Connecticut College is located in New London, Connecticut, and has an undergraduate enrollment of 1,865 students. According to the school’s website, 92% of Connecticut College’s undergraduates ranked in the top 20% of their high school class.

The submission of standardized test scores is optional, but the university says you should send test scores, “if you feel they are representative of your achievement and will enhance your application.”  

Source: Connecticut College

18. The University of Evansville does not require most students to submit SAT or ACT scores.

University of Evansville campus
The University of Evansville’s campus. 

Founded in 1854, the University of Evansville is located on 75 acres of land in Evansville, Illinois. The university says it, “values academic achievement, character, and initiative,” and does not require most students to submit standardized test scores. 

Souce: University of Evansville 

17. The University of South Dakota does not require SAT or ACT scores.

University of South Dakota
The University of South Dakota’s campus. 

The university refers to itself as its state’s “flagship” university. The school is located in Vermillion and has around 10,000 students. The school’s website says its top fields of study are nursing, business, health sciences, and elementary education.

While you’re welcome to submit test scores, you can also gain admittance by having at least a 2.6 GPA, a score of three or higher on the English Language Arts and Mathematics Smarter Balanced Assessments, or by finishing in the top 50% of your graduating class.

Source: University of South Dakota  

16. California State University Fullerton does not require test scores from high performing students.

Cal State Fullerton mascot with students
California State-Fullerton’s mascot poses with students. 

Located in Fullerton, California, the university has nearly 40,000 undergraduate students. Diversity is valued at CSF: Students from nearly 80 nations attend.

California State-Fullerton normally requires SAT and ACT scores, but California residents can avoid this if they have a minimum 3.0 GPA. Out of state students interested in avoiding standardized test will need a GPA of at least 3.6. 

Source: California State University Fullerton 

15. Texas Tech University will automatically admit you if you’re in the top 10% of your class.

texas tech lubbock texas
The Texas Tech campus at sunset. 

Located in the town of Lubbock, Texas Tech is a large research university known for its campus life and sports programs. According to the school’s website, 40 of its  faculty members have received Fulbright Scholar recognition in the past 10 years.  

Texas residents who finish in the top 10% of their graduating school can avoid submitting standardized tests altogether. These students will need to send in an application and pay a $75 application fee.

Source: Texas Tech University 

14. James Madison University no longer requires standardized test scores.

college sleeping james madison university
Students on the green at James Madison University. 

James Madison University has a total undergraduate population of 19,974 and is located in Harrisonburg, Virginia, only a few hours from Washington, D.C. Some of the most popular majors at the university include community health services and counseling, communication, and liberal arts and humanities, according to Niche. 

James Madison University does not require standardized test scores from applicants, and instead focuses primarily on high school grades. It encourages interested students to take rigorous, college level and AP courses. 

Source: James Madison University 

13. Loyola University Chicago has a test-optional policy.

Oregon State v Loyola Chicago college basketball
Marquise Kennedy #12 of the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers attempts a diving shot against the Oregon State Beavers during the second half the Sweet Sixteen round of the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 27, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. 

Loyola University is a private Catholic university located in Chicago, Illinois. The school has 17,007 enrolled students and is passionate about their Division I sports. According to the school’s website, the school ranks seventh in female STEM graduates. 

Applicants who opt in for the university’s test-optional policy do not have to submit SAT or ACT but are required to submit an additional essay or a letter or recommendation. 

Source: Loyola University Chicago

12. George Mason University offers a ‘score optional’ program for select students.

George Mason University campus
George Mason University campus 

Founded in 1972, this relatively new university is located in Fairfax, Virginia and has a total enrollment of 37,316. George Mason offers 211 academic programs. Some of the most popular majors offered include, psychology, criminal justice, and political science.

Students can apply to George Mason using either the Common App or Mason’s Exclusive Online Application. George Mason says students applying for its Score Optional program, “should demonstrate evidence of consistent, strong performance in a challenging academic curriculum by having taken a robust selection of college preparatory, honors, advanced placement and International Baccalaureate courses.”

Source: George Mason University  

11. University of Arizona lets you decide whether or not to submit test scores.

University of Arizona mascot and fans
The University of Arizona mascot with fans. 

The University of Arizona is located in the heart of Tucson and has an undergraduate enrollment of 35,123. The school is known for its competitive Division I sports team and some of the most popular majors include, business, management, marketing biological and biomedical sciences. 

While SAT and ACT scores are not required for admittance, students will need them in order to be considered for merit scholarships or for admission to the honors program. Home schoolers are also required to submit scores. 

 Source: University of Arizona 

10. American University has a test-optional plan.

American University
American University’s campus. 

American University is minutes away from the nation’s capital and as such, tends to attract some of the most politically active students. The schools has over 12,000 students from all 50 US states and 124 international countries. 

Students interested in American University will need to submit an application on the Common App or Coalition App. Pay a $75 application fee, and provide a high school transcript and letter of recommendation. Students can opt for the “test-optional” policy if they want to avoid the SAT and ACT. American University says that, “While tests help to predict your potential for success in college, your academic performance in the classroom is the most important factor in our review of your application.” 

Source: American University

9. University of Texas Austin has a top 6% rule.

University of Texas at Austin

According to World Atlas, the University of Texas ranks as the seventh largest student body in the United States. Over 51,000 students are enrolled at the school which is spread across the center of Austin, Texas. UT is known for strong academics, great nightlife, and passionate sports scene. 

Students interested in the University of Texas can apply using either Apply Texas or The Coalition for College Application. While the university typically requires SAT and ACT scores, Texas residents who are among the top 6% of their school’s graduating class are guaranteed automatic admission by state law, and are not required to submit test scores. 

Source: University of Texas  

8. Wesleyan University has a ‘test optional’ option.

Wesleyan University
Wesleyan University. 

Wesleyan was founded in 1831 in Middletown, Connecticut, and is one of the top liberal arts schools in the country. Just about 3,00 students attend Wesleyan, with some of the most popular majors being economics, area studies, general English literature, and political science and government.

Wesleyan does not require standardized test scores and says: “We believe that students should have the power to decide how best to present themselves to the admissions committee and whether—or not—their standardized test results accurately reflect their academic ability and potential.” The University also allows you to suppress test scores or only submit your highest critical reading, writing and math scores from each test you take. 

Source: Wesleyan University 

7. University of Delaware does not require test scores for in-state applicants.

University of Delaware football fans
Students cheering on University of Delaware football team. 

The University of Delaware was founded in 1743 in Newark, Delaware and currently enrolls 24,120 students. According to the university’s website, Delaware’s first graduating class included, “three signers of the Declaration of Independence and a signer of the Constitution.” 

While most students will still have to submit an SAT or ACT score to gain admittance to U of D, in-state high school students do not. To apply, you will need to send a transcript, pay a $75 application fee, and submit an additional essay.  

Source: University of Delaware  

6. Rollins College has a ‘test score waived’ option.

Knowles Memorial Chapel at Rollins College
Knowles Memorial Chapel at Rollins College. 

Rollins college is located in Winter Park, Florida, just minutes away from the coast. The school was established in 1885 and now has just over 3,000 students enrolled.

Rollins says about 10 percent of their application pool each year chooses not to submit standardized test scores. The university recommends the Test Score Waived Option for students, “who perform well in the classroom but whose academic strength is not reflected in their standardized test scores.”

Source: Rollins College

5. Wake Forest University says ‘numbers rarely tell the whole story.’

Wake Forest University
Wake Forest University’s campus. 

Located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Wake Forest is a renowned private university with just over 8,000 students. The school offers 45 majors, with some of the most popular including social sciences; business, management, marketing, and journalism.

Wake Forest University stopped requiring SAT and ACT submissions in 2008 and they say the following year undergraduate ethnic diversity increased by 90 percent. Prospective students will need to complete an application and send their high school transcripts. Interested students are strongly encouraged to schedule an interview with Wake Forest Admissions. 

Source: Wake Forest University, U.S. News and World Report 

4. George Washington University is test-optional.

George Washington University best colleges

George Washington is the second school on this list located in the US capital city. Over 26,000 students attend GW, which is known for its strong academics, Division I sports, and access to DC internships. George Washington University’s test optional policy went into place in 2015, and since then, they’ve places a greater emphasis on what a student does in class versus the results of a single test.

“The best indication of whether a student will be successful at GW is their performance in high school—the grades they earn and the rigor of their coursework,” the university says on its website. “This has always been the most important part of the application process at GW and this will not change, regardless of whether you choose to submit scores.”

Source: George Washington University

3. Brandeis University has a ‘test-optional’ policy.

Brandeis University in the snow
Brandeis University in the snow 

Brandies University is located in Waltham, Massachusetts, and has 3,639 students. Some of the most popular majors at Brandeis include, economics, general, biology, and business and communications.

Brandeis says they have a, “holistic, student-centered review, that “takes into account your academic performance and potential and your out-of-class activities.” Prospective students will need to complete the Common App, pay a $80 application fee, a mid-year senior report, and furnish a letter of recommendation.  Students who do not want to submit SAT or ACT scores can submit three of these approved documents or they can provide “a graded analytical writing sample,” from 11th or 12th grade.  

Sources: Brandeis University U.S. News and World Report 

2. New York University has “one of the most flexible testing policies of any college or university.”

nyu, new york university
Washington Square, near New York University’s campus. 

Located in the dense heart of downtown  Manhattan, New York University is an ultra-urban campus with over 50,000 students. While many of these students are based in the New York campus, NYU also has numerous study abroad locations in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North and South America. 

NYU requires all incoming first-year students complete the Common App and pay an $80 application fee. The university claims it has “one of the most flexible testing policies of any college or university.” While you can submit SAT or ACT scores, you can also show them an International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma, thee SAT subject test scores, three AP exam scores, three IB higher-level exam scores, or a variety of international examinations.

Source: New York University 

1. The University of Chicago does not require SAT or ACT scores.

Obama at University of Chicago
Former president Barack Obama at the University of Chicago. 

The University of Chicago was founded in 1890 by John D. Rockefeller and is considered one of the most academically rigorous universities in the country. The school currently has 6,286 undergraduates studying across 52 majors. 

University of Chicago says they use a “holistic review” process and that no one piece of information alone determines whether or not a student will gain admittance. The university accepts both the Common App and the Coalition Application and requires a personal statement and supplemental essays. Students are encouraged to discuss their extracurricular activities. 

Source: The University of Chicago 

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