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10 Great Colleges for Students with Low SAT Scores

Let's face it -- some strong students just don't do well on standardized tests. More and more schools are recognizing this fact, and the list of test-optional colleges continues to grow.

Other excellent colleges require standardized test scores, but their average scores are well below what we see for the Ivy League and elite liberal arts colleges.

Of the 10 colleges and universities in the list below, many are highly selective schools with test-optional admissions policies. Others are colleges that offer top-notch academics, but are likely to admit students with mid-range SAT scores.

1. Mount Holyoke College

Founded in 1837, Mount Holyoke College is the oldest of the "seven sister" colleges, and it consistently ranks as one of the top women's colleges in the country. Mount Holyoke features a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa and a beautiful campus where students can enjoy the college's botanic gardens, two lakes, waterfalls, and horseback-riding trails.

2. Sarah Lawrence College

Sarah Lawrence has an amazing 6 to 1 student / faculty ratio and students will find that teaching truly is valued more than faculty research. The application process does not consider standardized test scores at all; in fact, Sarah Lawrence was a leader in the test-optional movement. The college's quaint campus has the feel of a European village.

3. Bowdoin University

Bowdoin is the most selective college on this list, so applicants will need an impressive academic and extra-curricular record. The school was awarded a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for its excellent in the liberal arts and sciences, and the school recently changed its financial aid practices so that all new students will graduate debt free.

4. Arcadia University

Located just 25 minutes from Center City, Philadelphia, Arcadia University features small classes and one of the best study abroad programs in the country. Visitors can't miss the stunning historic landmark, Gray Towers Castle.

5. College of the Holy Cross

Holy Cross has an impressive retention and graduation rate, with well over 90% of entering students earning a degree within six years. The college was awarded a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for its strengths in the liberal arts and sciences, and the school's 10 to 1 student / faculty ratio means that students will have a lot of personal interaction with their professors.

6. Hampshire College

Hampshire College has never been fond of conformity, so it's no surprise the school has test-optional admissions. If you like to think outside the box, if you enjoy debate, if you'd like to design your own major, if you'd like to be evaluated qualitatively, not quantitatively -- then Hampshire might be a good choice.

7. Smith College

Smith is one of the top women's colleges in the country, and it also features test-optional admissions. Smith is a member of the five college consortium along with Amherst, Mount Holyoke, Hampshire, and UMass Amherst. Students at any of these five colleges can easily take classes at the other member institutions. Smith has a beautiful and historic campus that includes the 12,000 square foot Lyman Conservatory and the Botanic Garden.

8. Washington College

Founded in 1782 under the patronage of George Washington, Washington College has a long and rich history. The college was recently awarded a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for its many strengths in the liberal arts and sciences. The college's scenic location provides students with opportunities to explore the Chesapeake Bay watershed and the Chester River.

9. University of Iowa at Iowa City

Iowa has strong programs in nursing, creative writing and art, to name just a few. Some of the University of Iowa's graduate programs are consistently ranked among the top in the country. The Iowa Hawkeyes compete in the NCAA Division I Big Ten Conference, and historically the football, basketball and wrestling teams have enjoyed great success.

10. Ursinus College

Ursinus is a highly selective college, but they do not require SAT scores if an applicant has a strong enough GPA and high class rank. Ursinus is a top-rate liberal arts college with a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, a 12 to 1 student / faculty ratio, generous financial aid, an excellent observatory and art museum, and a new performing arts building. In 2009, the college was ranked #2 for "up-and-coming" colleges by US News & World.