By Anoushka Shenoy
With many universities moving towards a test-optional stance on the SAT and ACT because of the pandemic, it can be difficult for students to determine whether or not their scores are “good enough.” During the 2020-2021 admission cycle, I was a senior in high school trying to figure out if retaking the SAT, with the hopes of improving my score, was worth it given the full-blown pandemic and the newly adjusted test-optional policies. For many students, including myself, the decision to retake or not retake as well as to submit or not submit was made based on multiple considerations.
1. Will my score improve if I retake the SAT/ACT?
From writing application essays to maintaining good grades to keeping up with your extracurriculars, senior year can be a stressful time. If you are thinking about retaking the SAT/ACT, remember that one of the largest factors when trying to raise your score is the amount of time you have to study. Create a study plan to ensure adequate time for improving your score.
2. Does my score add or subtract from my overall application?
Academic markers in a college application consist of standardized tests such as AP scores, SAT or ACT scores, and GPA. If you believe your score on the SAT/ACT elevates your application, consider submitting it. It can be hard to determine whether or not your score adds to the academic side of your application so I have included a prepscholar blog that contains a conversion table of SAT to GPA scores as well as a table for ACT to GPA scores. If your test score is equivalent to or greater than the score correlated to your GPA, consider submitting it.
3. Is your score above the 50th percentile for schools you are considering?
Research the 50th percentile (median) score for all colleges you are applying to and determine whether your score is above or below that number. For example, let’s say my SAT score is a 1230. While School A’s median score is a 1100, School B has a 50th percentile score of 1410. I would submit my scores to School A’s application, however, I would withhold my scores from School B.
4. Do the academic interests or major you have written about in your application align with your subsection score?
While you might have a great interest in math and have written in your application essays about your passion for calculus, a low math subsection score (even with a high overall score) may adversely affect your application. If your prospective major and your subsection score in that subject do not line up, consider retaking the test with a focus on improving that subsection score.
5. Are you looking for merit scholarships/aid?
If you want merit aid, SAT scores can impact your chances of receiving scholarships. There are schools that provide information on guaranteed scholarships provided an accepted applicant has a score within a preset range. Here is an example from Texas Tech’s website for better understanding. Additionally, some schools require or recommend certain minimum SAT scores in order to achieve a competitive scholarship application. Here’s an example from Boston University’s website. After submitting a new SAT score, my merit scholarship was adjusted accordingly by many universities that I had applied to.
6. If you have taken the SAT/ACT more than once, should you submit multiple scores? Colleges love to see upward trends in applicants, be it improved grades from semester to semester or higher scores on tests. If your scores show a sizable improvement, consider submitting multiple scores because it reflects a hardworking applicant who is capable of growth.
You can also simply contact the schools you are interested in. A call to the admissions office or an email to an assigned admission counselor would be a great way to get advice directly from the source.
Navigating the college application process, especially when it comes to deciding whether or not to submit test scores can be confusing, so I hope these factors can help you determine whether or not you should submit your scores.