Do Community College Students Need an SAT or ACT score to Transfer?

Preparing to transfer to a new college or university can seem daunting. You’ve got transcripts to gather, credits to validate, and scholarships to apply for. In the midst of all that, it’s natural to be wondering… Do I also have to worry about taking the SAT or ACT again? 

The answer is: it depends. This isn’t as simple as a yes or no question that you can check off your list of things to do. But, with a little guidance, you can quickly determine what applies to your unique situation and how you can best proceed with the application process.

When Transfer Students Do Need an SAT or ACT Score

Let’s look at the most difficult answer first – when you do need a test score to apply as a transfer student. Typically, only the most selective and prestigious schools or very small private liberal arts colleges are going to require an SAT or ACT score of every incoming student, regardless of whether they’re true freshmen or transfers with existing college credit. In these cases, you will be able to find this information clearly stated in the application checklist as well as on their admissions requirements. 

When Transfer Students Might Need an SAT or ACT Score

Sometimes schools will require an SAT or ACT score for transfer students who don’t meet a minimum number of completed college credits. The threshold in these cases is normally pretty low, so if you’ve finished two years of community college and are transferring to a larger university to complete your degree, you’re likely going to be exempted. Similarly, larger universities will often waive the SAT/ACT requirement for students who have been out of high school for more than five years. And, they’ll even waive the test requirement if you can prove that it represents an “undue financial burden.” You’ll need to work closely with your admissions counselor on these exceptions to understand exactly what documentation they require in lieu of an SAT/ACT score. 

Even if you qualify to exempt this requirement based on the factors described above, you may still need an SAT/ACT score based on your degree program. Courses that demand a more intense level of admissions requirements, like nursing or engineering, may still require incoming transfer students to submit an SAT/ACT score as part of their application. 

One important rule of thumb in these gray-area cases is that the better your grades are, the less your SAT/ACT scores will matter. If you’re unsure how this will play out in real life, ask your admissions counselor for a transfer student profile. This composite depiction of their average incoming transfer student will often give you a range of the middle 50% of incoming scores and their accompanying GPA. If your scores are better than average, you’re probably fine! If not, you might need to consider retaking either of the standardized admissions tests. Again, your admissions counselor will be your best asset in determining the right path for your unique combination of scores, grades, credits, and any other mitigating factors. 

When Transfer Students Do Not Need an SAT or ACT Score

Many community colleges have strong transfer articulation agreements with public and private universities in their state or region. These important relationships clearly define the transfer process and create a valuable pipeline of transfer students who understand the requirements and pathway to a smooth transfer experience. In the majority of these cases, the university does not need an SAT/ACT score because of the relationship between the two schools. In many instances, this is considered a “guaranteed admissions policy.”

Although there’s no single answer to this important transfer question, there are many resources to help you navigate YOUR answer. As we’ve seen, the further you are from high school, the less important these standardized admissions tests become. The more credits you’ve earned, and the better you’ve performed in those classes, the less weight those tests will carry in your application. And, the stronger the relationship between your current or previous college and the school you’re applying to, the more likely you are to breeze past the SAT/ACT requirements that freshman applicants will have to navigate. 

You’ll want to ensure this question won’t become a roadblock in your educational journey, so do your own research on the school’s website and then build strong relationships with advocates in the admissions department.