I recently got my SAT score back, and I'm not all that happy with it. I got a 1270 for reference. I'm a good student all around, I have a 4.0 UWGPA, I will have taken 10 AP classes and 7 honors when I graduate, and my EC's are pretty good. This test just stressed me out and I couldn't focus for some reason.
All the schools I'm applying to are test optional, should I do that? Or does a bad score look better than none?
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Well first off, good job! Not just for achieving that score but for wanting to work with it and use it further. My first piece of advice would be to try and take the SAT again. (if you don't have an opportunity to do so, I suggest you skip to the next paragraph :) If you take the SAT multiple times, you have the opportunity to combine your best scores into one superscore. Taking the SAT one more time may lead to an even better score. Just make sure you study and really go for it! But despite that...
With your current score, it would be best to research the schools and their parameters before you decide to go test-optional. See what the median score is. If your score is lower than the median, go test-optional! From what I'm seeing now, you have really good credentials and a vigorous level of difficulty throughout your high school classes. Applying test-optional does not put a damper on your college application. That's why there are essays and other questions they ask you, to get to know you better beyond your test score and evaluate whether you would be a good candidate for that college.
Lastly, if the schools made their applications test-optional, that means that they don't put as much emphasis on SAT and ACT scores, at least not as much as schools that require test scores. Don't sweat the small stuff. If you want to take the SAT again, go for it. If not, focus on those essays! (That's what colleges really love to look at. Think of the combination of all of your essays like a portfolio)
Whatever you decide to do, I wish you the best of luck!!
I disagree with the accepted answer because, despite all colleges going Test-Optional this cycle, there is enough factual evidence that more admits had test scores to submit versus the opposite. At Georgetown and MIT, during the early rounds, 90%-93% of early admits had test scores. See a very small sample I recently collected of test scores vs no test scores in the admit pool
School / % of Admits with Test Scores / % Admits without Test Scores
University of Pennsylvania 76% 24%
University of Notre Dame 69% 31%
Vanderbilt University 61% 39%
Boston College 61% 39%
MIT 93% 7%
Boston University 58% 42%
Wellesley College 50% 50%
Georgetown University 90% 10%
University of Virginia 72% 28%
Wesleyan University 59% 41%
Duke University 56% 44%
Emory University 69% 31%
Middlebury College 50% 50%
Rice University 80% 20%
Washington University 59% 41%
Also, keep in mind that schools that historically were always test-optional like Bowdoin, UChicago, Pitzer, etc still get a lot of test scores no matter what. It's always been like 60%/40% or something similar.
This realization that test scores DID have a positive impact on the Class of 2025 in spite of all colleges attempting to make it more equitable on the surface prompted the changes in the CV chancing engine. Therefore, you will see that submitting a 50% middle range test score may improve your chances of getting into your list of colleges by 10% to 20% depending on how that college processed applications this cycle.
I'll give you an example. I have a friend who has the same high GPA and course rigor and ECs as me for the most part. But she actually was a legacy at both Yale and UPenn unlike me. We started test prepping after 10th grade but she also had an upper hand since her parents are wealthier and could afford a test prep tutor and Kaplan as well. I just used books I bought on Amazon and had my dad coach me with a hard schedule. We both signed up for the same Aug test but she got 300 points lower than me. Instead of taking any advice from me or my dad, she just rationalized that it didn't matter anymore since she was a legacy at 2 Ivy League schools. She said she was going to keep studying but really didn't. So she took it a second time and made no improvement. By the time Covid 19 changed the testing policies, she just said she was going to apply test-optional. So she applied to the Ivys, the top Publics and a lesser publics. She didn't get into any Reaches, any Targets, and is a lesser public college. What's the lesson, don't assume that test-optional makes it easier. It makes it harder because now you have to compete with an application pool that is 50% larger.
I would seriously consider switching to the ACT as a first step and seeing if you find it easier than the SAT. If if you take a practice ACT and do well, switch to that. In spite of getting a great SAT score, I did even better on the ACT and it helped me get into the college of choice and some great scholarships and honors including the US Presidential Scholar Semi-finalist.
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