Story Admission

Explained: Admissions Without the SAT or ACT

Alex Beall

The CSU will no longer use SAT and ACT scores in admissions. But what does that mean for applicants?

​​Photo courtesy of California State University, Chico/Jason Halley


In March 2022, the CSU Board of Trustees approved the removal of the SAT and ACT standardized tests from undergraduate admissions processes. The decision followed the nearly two years during the COVID-19 pandemic when submitting those test scores was not required for CSU applicants.

“The decision by the Board of Trustees aligns with the California State University’s mission of access and our efforts to provide high-quality college degrees for students of all backgrounds,” says April Grommo, Ed.D., assistant vice chancellor for Enrollment Management Services. “We are eliminating a high-stakes test that can cause great stress on students and their families and does not add any additional predictive value over high school GPA. The CSU being test-free will better meet the needs of our future students.”

The CSU's Admission Advisory Council (AAC) is now developing final recommendations for how to reconfigure the university’s minimum eligibility index used for admissions, with a final decision expected later in the spring.

Before the pandemic, the CSU admissions process relied on a minimum eligibility index that calculated a score based on applicants’ high school “a-g” GPA (minimum of 2.0 for California high school graduates, 2.45 for non-California residents) and SAT/ACT test scores. California high school graduates who earned a 2.0-2.49 GPA (2.45-2.99 for non-California residents) would be eligible with high test scores.

Beginning in fall 2020 after the onset of COVID-19, the CSU moved to test-free admissions for the incoming class of fall 2021, with eligibility being based on GPA alone (minimum 2.5 for California high school graduates, 3.0 for non-California residents). Campuses could then choose to individually review applicants with a 2.0-2.49 GPA, or 2.47 to 2.99 respectively, using multi-factor admissions criteria—a combination of 21 additional factors like first-generation status or employment that differed by campus.​ In addition, impacted campuses or programs could conduct a further review with the supplemental factors. The CSU application was adjusted to support multi-factor admissions.

T​he new index will continue to use applicants’ high school GPA as the primary factor in the formula, but will incorporate secondary factors to replace the test scores. These may include completion of college preparatory coursework beyond the minimum requirements; school context, such as the percentage of students receiving free/reduced-prices meals; and other student attributes or activities like extracurriculars, community engagement or first-generation status.

In addition to reworking the index, the final changes to the admissions process will refine the supplemental factors impacted campuses and programs use in multi-factor admissions.

Future Applications

Prospective students will not see any change in applying to the CSU with this decision. There will still be a section on the application where they can submit SAT and ACT scores, alongside AP and IB scores, but the test results will only be used for college level math and English course placement for admitted students.

However, students will again be expected to have graded “a-g” courses. The CSU accepted “credit” or “pass” grades for classes completed from the spring 2020 term to the summer 2021 term.

Rolling Out the Change

Following a final decision, use of the new minimum eligibility index will be phased in over the next few years.

Current high school juniors: Nothing will change for the incoming class of fall 2023, applying in fall 2022. The index will still be based on the applicants’ high school GPA, with the option of submitting ACT and SAT scores.

Current high school sophomores: For the incoming class of fall 2024, the admissions office will calculate the results of both indices—the old using GPA and optional test scores, and the new index still being developed. If a student qualifies for admission under either index, they will be admitted.

Current high school freshmen: The incoming class of fall 2025 will only be considered under the new CSU minimum eligibility index.

Check back for updates when a final decision on the minimum eligibility index is made. Until then, explore the proposals, research and FAQs regarding the discontinued use of the ACT and SAT in admissions, or review admission requirements at Cal State Apply.