How do SAT Scores Affect College Acceptance?

wiseGEEK Writer

Scholastic aptitude or assessment test or SAT scores may have a variable effect on college admission. First, it should be noted that not all colleges ask for an SAT and may instead ask students to take American College Testing or the ACT. Moreover, not all schools require either one of these tests, and in these instances SAT scores may have very little to do with whether a person is admitted to a particular college.

A typical answer sheet for a multiple choice standardized test, like the SAT.
A typical answer sheet for a multiple choice standardized test, like the SAT.

It is true that a number of colleges do require ACT or SAT scores, and it may be possible to substitute one for the other, depending on the college. Scores may be part of the way a school determines student acceptance, though this isn’t clear-cut. Many schools will specifically state requirements for consideration for enrollment, and these typically refer to a specific SAT score that must be achieved to be considered for entrance. The score is usually not the only determinant for acceptance and schools also evaluate grade point average, types of schools attended, community service, awards, and things like college entrance essays.

A No. 2 pencil for use with the SAT.
A No. 2 pencil for use with the SAT.

When SAT scores are part of enrollment determination, students can often ask in a straightforward manner what minimum scores are considered. This can be useful when deciding colleges to apply to. Students should also determine the other factors that go into acceptance like minimum grade point average, as either a lot SAT score or low grades could make a student ineligible for admission. Applying to schools with greater guarantees of acceptance makes good sense and can be economical, as schools ordinarily charge an application fee.

Some of the schools that don’t accept SAT scores or don’t value them when it comes to enrolling students include many junior and community colleges. In fact, students concerned about doing well on SATs might do well to consider community colleges as an alternative. When a student transfers after sophomore year, they usually only need their college grades to get into schools, even very good schools, and may be able to bypass SATs.

A few four-year universities also don’t evaluate ACT or SAT scores. These schools may take the stance that such standardized tests are prejudicial in some manner and not reflective of a student’s potential. Quick searches online may reveal these schools, though enrollment or admission requirements can change yearly. Students are best served by speaking directly with admissions departments to find out current requirements and any minimum standards they might need to meet to be eligible to attend.

At certain schools, it’s a given that ACT or SAT scores must be extremely high. Most of the Ivy League Schools have lofty standards applied to enrolling students. In these sorts of universities, it could be said that SAT scores must be impressive, and such scores should be combined with sterling grades and an excellent history of community service.

SAT scores are required for most college applications.
SAT scores are required for most college applications.

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Discussion Comments


I don't know whether schools should or should not put emphasis on SAT test scores and other test scores, but either way is fine as long as students with low and average scores can still get an education.

Students with low scores may not get into the colleges on the top of their lists, but there are other avenues. Junior colleges and community colleges are great ways to get your after-high-school education started.


Sporkasia - I know there are many schools where I wouldn't have done well, and I didn't even consider applying to them. However, a low SAT score doesn't mean a person wouldn't be motivated to become a better student once he was accepted at a top-notch school. Besides, good SAT scores don't guarantee that a student will do well once he gets in school.


Most of the time, SAT scores are a good indication of the type of student a person is and how he will do at a particular university. The tests are good for students and universities. It's better that a student learns before he enrolls that he doesn't have what would be expected of him at a college to which he has applied.


Fortunately, I went to a state school where I needed only minimum SAT scores to get in. I think test scores are overrated, and I'm not just saying that because mine were average.

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