Fall 2021 Application Process

Due to the extraordinary circumstances regarding SAT and ACT testing availability, Occidental will suspend standardized testing requirements for first-year and transfer applicants applying for Fall 2021.  

In the summer of 2019, Occidental adopted a partial test-optional policy for students attending high school outside of the United States for this precise reason - lack of available testing. We are expanding upon this test-optional policy to include all applicants to the College due to the unprecedented circumstances regarding access to standardized testing and the cancellation of several test administrations.  

Occidental has frequently analyzed the value of testing in its admission process and has found that standardized testing is a valuable predictor of student success, but testing has always been just one of many factors in our admission process. As a residential college we prize students who seek engagement with others and with a community. Our classroom setting is discussion-based and collaborative. These features of the Occidental experience have never been measured by standardized tests, and we will continue to value students who are intellectually curious, deeply engaged in their communities, and committed to the mission of the College.

Our policies for standardized testing for Fall 2022 entry and beyond will be reevaluated in spring 2021.

Frequently Asked Questions 

I will have access to standardized testing, but am not sure if I should submit standardized test scores

Occidental is test-optional for all students for Fall 2021.  If you feel that standardized test scores reflect positively upon your academic potential, please submit your scores. If you do not feel that they reflect your academic potential, you will in no way be penalized for not submitting test scores. When you submit your application to Occidental, you will communicate to us whether or not you plan to submit standardized test scores.

My school has decided that all courses will be graded pass/fail for Spring 2020. Does this mean it is more important for me to submit standardized testing?

No. Many districts and individual high schools have decided to implement pass/fail grading for Spring 2020 and we defer to each school to determine what best serves their students. Our holistic evaluation process considers many inputs, not just grades and test scores. Course rigor, particularly during the senior year, will continue to be an important part of our assessment, even if your school has implemented a pass/fail grading policy. As a writing intensive institution, our process evaluates a student’s writing ability, and we will continue to value students who possess strong writing preparation and skills. Students who engage with their community and pursue their passions in substantive ways will similarly shine in our admission process.

Can I still be considered for merit scholarships if I choose not to submit standardized testing?

Yes. While Occidental reserves most of its institutional funds for need-based financial aid, we do offer a small number of merit awards each year. All students will be considered for merit awards, regardless if they have submitted standardized testing scores or not.

Will I still receive need-based financial aid if I do not submit standardized testing?

Yes. Occidental is one of only a few institutions in the United States committed to meeting 100% of a family’s demonstrated financial need. All students who qualify for need-based financial aid will continue to receive it, regardless if they have submitted standardized testing scores or not.

Does Occidental’s test optional policy also apply to international students?

Yes, but international students will still need to demonstrate English language proficiency.  Students can submit the TOEFL, IELTS, or DET to demonstrate English language proficiency, and should also consider an English language supplement in the form of an InitialView or Vericant interview. English proficiency exam requirements are waived if a student has attended an English-medium high school for 4 years.

In what other ways can I demonstrate my abilities and passions to Occidental?

Interviewing is the best way for us to get to know you in our highly personalized admission process. Students may request interviews beginning in late July. These interviews happen virtually, and if conditions permit, in-person in your hometown with alumni volunteers. Students who choose to interview are significantly more likely to be admitted, as we are able to see the person behind the application and learn more about you and your individual interests. Students interested in interviewing should request an interview 4-6 weeks in advance of their application deadline.

Will application deadlines be adjusted for first-years?

Due to the volume of applications we receive, we must maintain our January 10 deadline for Regular Decision first-year applicants. Further information on Early Decision deadlines will be communicated in summer 2020.

Is standardized testing required for students who have been homeschooled throughout high school?

We strongly recommend that external assessments be submitted for applicants who have been homeschooled for the entirety of high school. At least one of the following are strongly recommended: SAT, ACT, SAT II subject tests, AP scores, IB exams, GCSE, IGCSE, and/or A-level results. Many homeschool students also choose to complete coursework at a local community college to demonstrate their success in a classroom setting.

If I choose to submit testing scores, which standardized tests will Occidental accept?

SAT and ACT scores are viewed equally in our process, so students may take either exam and can submit scores from both. SAT II subject tests, AP scores, IB exams, GCSE, IGCSE, and A-level results can also be considered in our review process if you feel they reflect positively upon your academic potential.

If I choose to submit testing, does Occidental require the essay portion on the SAT or ACT?

No. The essay portion is not required.

Does Occidental “superscore?"

Yes. When reviewing standardized test results, we will always look at you “on your best day," meaning that we will always look at the highest scores on each section of these exams. You should plan to send all scores to Occidental, and we will only look at your highest scores when reviewing your academic record. We will always see your highest results on each section of the SAT and ACT.

If I choose to submit testing scores, how should I submit them to Occidental?

Applicants may self-report scores on their application or request official scores to be sent from the testing agency