So your teen realizes that the SAT or ACT is an essential part of the college application process. (Click here if you still are not certain of your teen’s better exam.) But how important is it REALLY?

Since there is so much hype surrounding the exam, I will share with you the reasons the SAT is important for your teen and how colleges use them. (FYI: ALL colleges and universities will accept either the SAT or ACT scores.)

  1. An SAT score enables your student to apply to a four year college. Even colleges who say the test is optional, prefer to have a test score as part of a student’s application.


  1. When you have a score, it helps direct college choice. Since colleges provide the average SAT score of the most recent admitted class, it makes it so much easier to narrow down viable options.

NOTE: When a college uses the term average score, that’s exactly what it is. So your teen should not shy away from applying to a school somewhat below the ‘average’ score but the other pieces of the application are strong.

  1. Strong SAT scores help qualify for scholarships. Most people are aware of financial need grants but colleges also have offer merit based scholarships. I recently had a student receive $15,000 per year scholarship – $60,000 – as her ACT scores were 4 points above the average!


  1. Colleges are able to find your teen! When students sign into the Student Search Service they will be able to receive information from colleges and available scholarship programs. This will help your teem learn about schools who would be a good match.


  1. The new SAT is has been redesigned to stress the skill sets and knowledge necessary to do well in college. That said, skill set based test preparation is that much more beneficial!


  1. Colleges use your scores to compare you to other applicants. The ACT and SAT are called standardized exams as they are a common gauge for ALL applicants whether they are from a high school in Japan or in York, PA.

SAT scores should align with the high school transcript, i.e, if a student’s GPA is 3.8, and the SAT score is 1010, it looks like the grades were inflated and that the scores better reflect ability – clearly limiting that student’s school options. Whereas a student who has a 4.0 and a 1550 on the SAT looks like a stronger candidate – scores and grades align.

Sometimes a higher SAT score can compensate for a lower GPA – such a student may not be challenged in high school but is college ready.

  1. SAT scores are used to compute annual SAT statistics for admissions. Obviously, schools use a student’s scores to assess academic readiness for college, but each student’s scores who is admitted has those SAT scores factored into the yearly stats.

For instance, here are the stats for students admitted to the University of Maryland for the Fall 2016 semester: The middle 50% of SAT scores ranged from 1260 to 1420, and 29-33 on the ACT. As a result 25% of the admitted students scored below a 1260 on the SAT and 25% scored above a 1420. (The average GPA was 4.11 based on taking some AP and/or IB classes.)

The Ivies – Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc. – appear that much more selective when they typically publish the stats that reveal the SAT/ACT scores are in the 75% or 25% rather than an average score. (75% means those admitted scored higher than that score and 25% means they scored lower.) Looking at these percentile score ranges gives the school an aura of selectivity.

Bottom line, SAT and ACT are major factors in how a schools is ranked – check out US News and World Reports College Rankings – but there are many other schools with    similar admissions rates. (The University of Maryland is considered one of the ‘more selective’ schools in the country and is rated 60 of the major national universities and 20 of the top public schools.)

Hopefully, you have a better appreciation of the true value of the SAT. I look forward to hearing from you if you have any further questions about the exams or the test preparation process.

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