SAT. ACT. Six letters that every high school student dreads. But in the ever-changing landscape of college admissions, are standardized test scores still important? The short answer: yes. This week, our experts weigh in on just how important those scores are in comparison to the rest of your application.
Question submitted by Chris Kim, Portland, OR
Answer: Test scores matter—or they don’t! It depends on the college
The importance of tests varies widely.
Some colleges do not even require test scores. Visit fairtest.org for a list of colleges with test-optional policies.
However, some colleges on that list require test scores for scholarship consideration. At highly selective colleges, successful applicants often have scores in the top 10% though even at these elite colleges there are exceptions.
For instance, if a student comes from a demographic where test scores are lower on average then the college might put more emphasis on the student’s GPA and leadership activities.
Advice: If you are a good candidate beyond test scores then go ahead and apply.
Answer: Make or break factor: The huge importance of standardized tests
Unless you are applying to a school that is test optional, test scores are usually one of the top three factors most colleges use to evaluate students.
This is their one way to compare students across the country. Yet the SAT and ACT don’t really judge anything except how someone grew up.
Now, that is not to say that you can’t spend time developing your reading, math, and writing skills, and you should. And that’s not to say that you shouldn’t take these tests as many times as you can, and you can. And that’s not say that test prep doesn’t matter, and it does.
But at this time of the year, seniors need to be realistic and find schools that match their test scores. Tremendous talents aside, test scores will often make or break an acceptance to a college.
Answer: That all depends to which school you are applying
Some of the more selective colleges and universities are in a position to require a certain score in order to be considered for admission.
The more likely situation is that test scores are a small part of the application.
Your depth of academic program coupled with the grades you have received say more about your potential than one test score.
And don’t discount the rest of the application that brings you to life: extracurricular activities, personal interview, essays and recommendations. Those are the pieces of the application that should really be important when determining the admission decision.
Answer: Ignore standardized tests at your own peril
At a time when competition for admission is at an all-time fevered pitch, why put yourself at risk for getting wait-listed or rejected by downplaying the importance of test scores?
The SAT and ACT comprise one leg of a three-legged admissions stool: 1) standardized test scores; 2) grades/rank; 3) your “hook” – the one passion or interest that sets you apart.
If any one of these factors is out of balance, your application will be, too. The power is in your hands to shape your own college destiny.
So, prep for the SAT, ACT and PSAT. The payoffs may surprise you.
Answer: Standardized tests vary in importance depending upon the school
Most admission officers will tell you that what you have done for four years is more important than four hours on a Saturday morning, but the truth is that some schools do rely upon standardized tests to help make the process more “objective,” especially when there are more applicants than spots.
Strength of schedule, actual performance in courses and progression over your entire high school career are significant factors in review process. Do your best on the test, but do not go overboard taking the test repeatedly.
It is likely little will change. Control what you can-your daily work.
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