Hey, high schoolers, scared of bombing on the SATs and not getting into college? Don't worry, a growing number of U.S. schools are scrapping standardized test scores as part of admission.

Washington, D.C.'s George Washington University last month joined more than 850 U.S. colleges and universities that no longer require applicants to take the SAT or ACT, tests that have been a feature of American student life for decades.

Proponents of making the tests optional say the switch can help schools become more diverse and admit students who will thrive even though they may have lagged other applicants on scores.

"It was really about making sure that the right students, students for whom GW would be a great place, were not discouraged from applying," said Karen Stroud Felton, George Washington's dean of admissions.

The test-optional trend has accelerated in recent years, with more than two dozen schools dropping the requirement since the spring of 2014, according to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, which advocates for test-optional admissions. They include Wisconsin's Beloit College and Temple University in Philadelphia.

But defenders of the SAT and ACT tests of math, reading and writing say they level the playing field for applicants and provide an objective measure for scholarships.

Cyndie Schmeiser, chief of assessment at the College Board, the nonprofit that administers the SAT, said research had repeatedly shown it was a strong predictor of academic success.

The SAT is relied upon by thousands of U.S. colleges and universities. It also gives low-income and minority students access to higher education by stripping out subjective factors such as grade inflation, she said.

"The bottom line is that more knowledge is better than less, and especially information like the SAT that is captured under comparable conditions for all kids," Schmeiser said.

About 1.7 million students took the SAT in 2014, up almost 60 percent in 20 years, and 1.8 million took the ACT, according to College Board and ACT numbers.

The United States had 3,026 four-year colleges in the 2012-13 academic year, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Natalie Casimir, an 18-year-old from Troutman, North Carolina, is among the college students who were helped by the new trend away from test scores.

Even with a high school grade point average of 4.0, she said, her SAT score of 1580 out of 2400 had driven her to despair about getting into college. That score would have put her in the 60th percentile of students taking the SAT in 2013, the College Board said.

"I didn't feel like my SAT scores adequately depicted how I perform as a student, because I did really well in the classroom," Casimir said.

But she applied to North Carolina's Wake Forest, which dropped the standardized test requirement in 2008, and got in. Now she is looking at English and political science as areas of study and sees Wake Forest as home.

"I've absolutely loved it," said Casimir, now a sophomore.

A 2014 study of test-optional admissions involving 123,000 students at 33 schools found no major difference in college grade point averages or graduation rates between those who submitted test scores and those who did not.