Do I need to take the SAT or ACT Test?

Maybe, but probably not. Four year colleges and universities are falling into one of three categories:

1. Test Blind – this means that the college does not require tests scores and will not consider test scores as a part of the admissions process. This is the category for all of the University of California (UC) system and the California State University (CSU) system. Test scores that are submitted to these schools could be used for class placements, but not admissions.

2. Test Optional – there are many private colleges and universities in California, as well as out-of-state public and private colleges, that will look at test schools, but they are optional to submit. Our recommendation is to research the school’s admissions page to determine whether or not a test is required.

3. Test Required – there are some schools that still require a test score. Generally, they are private schools and out-of-state. It is critical that you research at the admissions requirement of very college or university that you are considering.

Note: Community Colleges do not require SAT or ACT test scores for admission


We do not currently administer the PSAT for high school students. Students who are interested in taking the PSAT should check with their local school district to see if they are being offered or go to the College Board website to see where the test could be taken or use the School Search tool to find a local school. The College Board advises students to make arrangements with a local testing site 4 months before the test date.

  • Students who cannot find testing but are relying on PSAT scores to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship should instead reach out to the organization directly to see how they may qualify without a PSAT score.
  • PSAT Practice Resources

For more information:
College Board Website
Practice Resources


Students who wish to apply to 4-year colleges or universities may need to complete a standardized exam (SAT or ACT). Most colleges or universities will accept either score; however, your student should double check with the college admissions office to see if there is a preference or if it is still required. Many colleges no longer require SAT/ACT test scores. Students should check with their individual colleges to see what specific test scores are required, if any.

The SAT and ACT will cover similar topics. The main differences between the two standardized tests are:

    • The ACT includes a science section.
    • The SAT includes a math section that does not permit the use of a calculator.

For a comprehensive comparison of the two tests, please review this Princeton Review resource.

Test Registration

COVID-19 Updates

PSAT – Many schools in California are still closed and may be unable to administer the PSAT exams this year. Students who were relying on PSAT scores to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship should instead reach out to the organization directly to see how they may qualify without a PSAT score.

SAT/ACT – Students are still able to sign up for the SAT or ACT. Testing dates have been added and testing locations are following CDC guidelines for test administration. Keep in mind that many colleges are waiving the SAT/ACT admissions requirement for this school year. Students should check with their individual colleges to see how admissions has been impacted.

College Board Codes
You might be asked for The Cottonwood School’s College Board Code. The codes are used to prevent confusion during the college admissions process and help ensure that test scores, transcripts, and student records go to the right places.

College Board Codes are used for:

  • College applications
  • Financial aid applications
  • Test registration
School College Board Code
The Cottonwood School 053639

Fee Waivers

Low-income students qualify for SAT and ACT fee waivers. If you believe your student qualifies for a SAT or ACT fee waiver, please contact your counselor when your student is ready to register for a test. Students will need updated household income information (NSLP form) in Pathways in order to qualify for a fee waiver. Students who qualify for a fee waiver are also eligible for college application fee waivers.

For more information on college application fee waivers, please review the College Board FAQs. Not every school accepts fee waivers; students can find a comprehensive list of colleges that accept fee waivers on the College Board site.



If your student has a 504 or IEP and will need testing accommodations for either the SAT or ACT, please notify the student’s Case Manager and High School Counselor immediately. Depending on the accommodation, testing accommodations may take a few weeks for the College Board to approve.

If your student will need testing accommodations, please follow the steps below:
1. Fill out the ACT Consent to Release Information Form or SAT Consent for Accommodations Request Form. If you would like to have a school request accommodations on the student’s behalf, then the SPED department will need the family’s permission.
2. Share the completed release form with the Case Manager and send the ACT/SAT Testing Accommodations Request form to the Case Manager. Please have the student’s Case Manager fill out this form as soon as possible.
3. Please wait for a response from your high school administrator. You will receive an update once accommodations have been requested and approved by the College Board.