5 months ago
Admissions Advice

Should I retake or try for ACT?

hi yall. I took the international may 8th SAT and scored 1500 (710,790). this was my first attempt.

my teachers and counselor were a bit disappointed and asked my to retake or try the ACT.

the thing is I have to travel internationally to take the test and once I get back I need to quarantine for 2 weeks. This whole process is both mentally and financially draining. I have to pay 7500 dollars including traveling and quarantine fees. and I spent 3 months preparing for it.

should I retake ur try the ACT in fall if I have more spare time? or should I add my situation in the additional info section? tysm!


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3 answers

Accepted Answer
5 months ago

If you think that you are going to have to spend another 3 months preparing for it to get a 1550 score plus $7500.00 and add'l 2 weeks of quarantine, I truly believe it's better for you to focus on other parts of your application file.

My suggestion is to find the weakest area of your total narrative and put that time and energy into propping that up so you are a well-rounded competitor across different parts of your application.

For example:

a.) If you are not the best writer, focus on crafting and wordsmithing the best possible essays that express your true voice and character. Many international students consider using essay writing services but I would err on the side of caution using such individuals to write your essays because these days the competition is fierce at all the top schools. Admission officers can detect a ghostwriter a mile away, so you want to present a unique set of essays that you personally wrote. You can have your friends and trusted acquaintances edit them or put them through a CV essay review.

b.) If you have a gap in your academic record or feel that there is a class or two missing from your ideal transcript, then use this time to take an online class either an AP or IB or a College course. For instance, say you are applying to MIT and haven't taken Physics or applying to Havard and have only 1 lab science class and have not taken US History or European History, now would be a great time to take those classes over the summer and get As in them. You can take them through online High Schools, AP accredited schools, or just take them through eDx.org or colleges themselves.

c.) If you are applying to Harvard, and have complete no Varsity sports or have limited athletic ability, now is the time to find an athletic interest so you don't get a "poor" rating on your athletic ability when you apply. I think many Int'l students think that applying to the best schools is only about grades and test scores. This is not true. About 20% of Harvard's incoming class are recruited athletes so it helps if you have some kind of athletic interest and skill. Even if you are a great swimmer or tennis player, perhaps it would be useful to attending an American sports clinic to improve your ability.

I don't know you or what your strengths or weaknesses are. So use this time to figure out what you need to work on and use the time you would have exhausted trying to get your SAT to score up, to make your application tighter and better.

Lastly, don't take this the wrong way but one of the key problems with standardized testing is that it creates an inequitable playing field for all college-bound HS seniors. Recently I read in the Harvard Kennedy School Blog an article that said the following. "The probability of attending an elite private college is 77 times higher for children in the top 1 percent of the family income distribution, compared to families in the bottom 20 percent." Your post clearly highlights that you are a person of privilege if you can afford $7500 to take a standardized test and perhaps more than that to pay for 3 months of specialized tutoring. All elite colleges are cognizant of this 1st world problem and that is why they made a conscientious attempt to level the playing field by making admissions more holistic without the requirement for submitting test scores. Being wealthy is no fault of your own. But be aware that all Ivys and Elite colleges are going out of their way during this pandemic to admit as many BIPOC low-income students as possible. They can afford to do that and it gives them good optics.

This year - 17% of Dartmouth and Brown Admits were 1st generation meaning neither parent graduated from college, 34% of Cornell admits identify as coming from a marginalized group, 18% of UPenn students were low income, 22% of Princeton admits were 1st gen and 68% identify as persons of color. The stats are similar at all the top Elites and Liberal Arts colleges as well.

Therefore, if you were to take the SAT multiple times and incur these extraordinary costs just because you or your teachers and counselors feel you need to achieve some magical score, I would say that some admissions officers may bucket you into a group of wealthy elite applicants of privilege. I'm not suggesting that that would be a plus or a minus but just be aware that how you present yourself in your application file has consequences that are irrevocable. Whether you are foreign or and American, I think an admissions officer would prefer to see a test score of 1500 from the 1st attempt versus 1540 after 3 attempts that are super scored. I could very well be incorrect on that matter.

I'm sure you will make the best use of your time to secure a place at your school of choice. Good Luck

5 months ago[edited]

An SAT score of 1500 is an amazing score! If you really want higher standardized testing scores, retaking the SAT is probably the better option, since you are already familiar with how the test works and can focus on studying specific areas through programs like Khan Academy (it's free!). You're more likely to score better on a retake of the SAT than on your first time taking the ACT.

However, given your situation and how mentally and financially draining it is to take either test and given that 1500 is a great score, I don't know if it's necessary to retake the SAT or take the ACT. If you know you can score higher than your margin of error for your score (higher than a 1540), then maybe retake if, but if not, then it's probably not worth it. Explaining your situation in the additional information section is definitely one way to go about it, but make sure you focus more on "I overcame these challenges to have access to standardized testing" and not "feel bad for me because I got a lower score than I wanted" because colleges like the first point of view much better.

TL;DR You'll probably score higher if you retake the SAT, but your score is great, so retaking it is completely up to you and probably won't impact your application much if you do.

5 months ago

It all really depends on what type of school you think of attending, first of all, what @ajdekon said is totally true, a 1500 SAT is enough to get you basically into any great school. The problem is that this score is just 20 points shy of the average SAT score. Given your current Circumstances, you will be completely fine to apply to any school you could possible want to attend.

TL;DR: You could score higher if you wanted, but it's not worth it, as it wouldn't do much.


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