What is the importance of the SATs? The SAT is a comprehensive exam that is given several times a year. This exam is broken up into three parts: critical reading, math and writing. The scores from these exams have traditionally been used by college admission boards to predict how well a college applicant will do in college. However, recent criticism about the gender and racial bias of these exams, as well as their inability to predict whether an applicant will succeed in college, has led many institutions to drop the requirement for applicants to submit their SAT scores.
For students, this means the old routine of taking the SAT and relying on high scores for college admission may not hold. It's now necessary for students to learn as much as they can about each individual college's admission process and to tailor their applications to each school for the greatest chance of earning admission.
The Importance of SAT Test Scores
Right now, the majority of colleges and universities in the United States still require applicants to submit their SAT scores as part of their college applications. College admission boards look at these scores as a predictor of how well a student will handle the academic challenges of their college.
Generally, schools will have a preferred range of test scores that they want to see. This doesn't mean that the application will be thrown out if a student's score is below this range, but it could mean that applicants with higher SAT scores will have a better chance of being accepted.
Colleges that consider SAT scores during admissions often publish the average verbal and math scores of their incoming freshman classes. You can find this information on the college's Web site or through the guidance department at your child's school. As a general rule, students who want to pursue a degree in science or engineering should have math scores at or above the high end of the college's average. Students pursuing degrees in history, writing, languages or liberal arts will want writing skills in line with the averages. For students interested in performing arts, fine arts or music, SAT scores tend to be far less important than a strong audition or portfolio of work.
What Colleges Want
When a college admission board receives a student's application, it is looking for more than just a great SAT score. The board wants evidence that the student is serious about education and willing to put in the work needed to meet the requirements of a degree program.
The first thing an admission board looks at is the student's high school transcript. They types of classes taken and the student's performance are both considered. Students who take a lot of challenging courses and pass them with flying colors will get preference for admission over students whose transcripts are stacked with study halls and fluff courses, even if the grades are identical.
Extracurricular activities are also considered. Most colleges want students who have well-rounded interests and the ability to balance multiple responsibilities. Students get extra points for playing sports, club activities, volunteering, elected positions and participation in academic teams.
The entrance essay is sometimes the most important element of a college application. The essay demonstrates the student's critical thinking and writing abilities. It also provides the admission board with a little insight into the student's reasons to attend college and interest in a particular school.
A student's SAT scores are often the final component that the admissions board will consider. These scores are used to supplement and develop the admission board's perception of the student. The scores show how well a student can handle the stress associated with taking a standardized test, how much knowledge was gathered during high school and how skilled the student is at applying this knowledge.
SAT Scores Not Required
In the last couple of decades, many universities and colleges have removed the requirement for SAT scores in college applications. Some of the colleges that no longer require SAT scores include Mount Holyoke College, Union College, Dickenson and Bates. Many online degree programs also don't require SAT scores. The California University System is currently considering eliminating its requirements.
When a college does not require SAT scores, the other elements of the student's application become much more important. This means that students will need to develop well-rounded academic profiles if they want to get into schools of choice.
Overcoming SAT Shortcomings
If your child is applying to a school that doesn't require SAT scores or has less-than-ideal scores, the application needs to be fine-tuned to align with a given college's wish list.
Academic records become pivotal when SAT scores are omitted. Students need to evaluate high school courses and determine if they will be viewed as college track courses or fluff courses. Students should aim to take as many AP courses as possible in areas related to what they want to study in college. That means English literature for writing degrees and advanced math and chemistry for science degrees, for example.
Extracurricular activities can also make up for a low SAT score and develop the appeal of a college application. Students should choose extracurricular activities, including afterschool jobs, that will develop particular skills or provide experience for an anticipated career. For example, a student interested in medicine could volunteer at a hospital and participate in science competitions at school. A student interested in writing should work on the school paper or yearbook and participate in speech and debate. To bring it all together, students should include application essays that discuss these extracurricular activities, pointing out what was learned, how the student's involvement led to positive changes in the workplace or group and how the student feels this experience can be applied in academic and professional situations.
Should Students Take the SAT?
It's important for every student who's graduating high school to take the SAT. Even when colleges don't require you to submit SAT scores, they may still look at them or report them in their school statistics. Employers, special student organizations and scholarship programs may also want to look at SAT scores to determine eligibility for programs.
Did you know that colleges receive your scores every time you take the SAT? You might want to take a practice SAT test to ensure you do your very best.
A SAT Test score is an important result for any college-bound high school student, but understanding SAT scores and how to best use the score is a confusing issue.
Learn what AP tests are all about and how they can help your child improve college applications or even eliminate some college courses.