Oh, and if you don’t want to wait for the monthly posts, please download Preparing for College in High School: A To-Do List for Eleventh Graders. It’s all there.
At many colleges, an applicant’s SAT or ACT scores are just one piece of the admissions picture. Many times, a student’s test scores nicely correlate with his or her transcript, providing a one-time corroboration of the day-to-day achievement. But what if you are one of the students whose test scores are lower than you think they should be?
I encourage most students to plan to take the SAT or ACT more than once, and to take at least one full scale practice exam for each test prior to the real thing. Unless you score at the very upper echelons of either test, familiarity is likely to result in at least modest score increases. If your first test administrations don’t produce the scores you are seeking, then consider your test prep options.
While you are preparing for the tests and planning for subsequent test dates, keep in mind that your
scores should influence the final list of colleges to which you apply, and remain honest with yourself. Look at the scores range for admitted students. If your scores fall outside the middle 50%, your chances for admission are not as high. Not impossible, but spend time thinking about your strengths and making certain that you have explained them well in your application.
Fairtest has a comprehensive list of colleges that do not require (but may accept) standardized test
scores as part of their assessment for admission. Not all applicants to these colleges are students with
test scores below the range for the institution, but if testing is an obstacle for you, it might be worth
looking to see if these colleges and universities meet your other criteria.
Above all, it is important to remember that you are not simply a number between 0 and 2400. Each
student can bring tremendous assets to a college community, and leave after an intellectually and
socially fulfilling experience. Embrace your strengths and try to find college communities that meet
By Whitney Bruce, who has worked in college admissions since 1996. She has served as a Senior Assistant Director of Admissions (Washington U), Application Reader (University of Michigan), Assistant Director of College Counseling (private prep school in St. Louis), and an independent college counselor. She is happy to advise you as you apply to college.