Few parts of a college application cause more anxiety than the SAT. Those four hours spent filling in ovals and writing a rushed essay can carry a lot of weight in the college admissions process. If you look through the college profiles and find that your scores are below average for the colleges you hope to attend, don't panic. The tips below can help you reach your goals.
Depending on when your application deadlines are, you might be able to take the SAT again. If you took the exam in the spring, you can work through an SAT practice book and retake the exam in the fall. A summer SAT prep course is also an option (Kaplan has many convenient online options). Realize that simply retaking the exam without additional preparation isn't likely to improve your score much. Most colleges will consider only your highest test scores, and with Score Choice, you can submit the scores from your best exam date.
2. Take the ACT
If you didn't perform well on the SAT, you might do better on the ACT. The exams are quite different -- the SAT is an aptitude test meant to measure your reasoning and verbal abilities, while the ACT is an achievement test designed to measure what you've learned in school. Nearly all colleges will accept either exam, even if you live in a geographic region where one exam is more widely used.
Most selective colleges have holistic admissions -- they are evaluating all of your strengths and weaknesses, not relying entirely on cold empirical data. If your SAT scores are a little below average for a college, you can still get accepted if the rest of your application shows great promise. All of the following can help compensate for sub-par SAT scores:
- A strong academic record -- Do you have high grades in challenging courses?
- Glowing letters of recommendation -- Do your teachers extol your talents?
- Interesting extracurricular activities -- Are you a well-rounded person who will enrich the campus community?
- A winning application essay -- Is your writing clear and crisp? Does it reveal your passion and personality?
- A strong college interview -- Let the college know you as a person, not as a test score.
Here's some of the best news on the SAT front: over 800 colleges don't require test scores. Every year, more and more colleges have come to recognize that the exam privileges privileged students, and that your academic record is a better predictor of college success than SAT scores. Some excellent, highly selective colleges are test-optional.
- Explore Test-Optional Colleges and Universities
- Some Top Test-Optional Colleges: Bard College, Bates College, Bowdoin College, College of the Holy Cross, Connecticut College, Denison University, DePaul University, Dickinson College, Furman University, George Mason University, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Mount Holyoke College, Pitzer College, Sarah Lawrence College, Sewanee: The University of the South, Smith College, Stonehill College, University of Arizona, Ursinus College, Wake Forest University, Wittenberg University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI)
The hype surrounding college admissions might have you believing that you need a 2300 on the SAT to get into a good college. The reality is quite different. The United States has hundreds of excellent colleges where an average score of about 1500 is perfectly acceptable. Are you below 1500? -- Many good colleges are happy to admit students with below average scores. Browse through the options and identify colleges where your test scores seem to be in line with typical applicants.