I am a high school junior that has at least a 3.9 unweighted GPA, I strive for more academically rigorous colleges. I do not particularly aim for ivy leagues, but I may apply to one or two. Most of the schools I have in mind range from a 40-20% acceptance rate. Is it in my best interest to take the SAT and ACT? Or should I only take one in particular? (I scored 1240 on the PSAT without preparation for the exam)
I’m not an expert at this kind of thing at all so take my advice with a grain of salt, but from experience I would say take the sat or/and act. I think if you used good study habits you could get a good score and that couldn’t hurt anything. I wouldn’t know if one particular test is better. Just make sure if you do apply soon because the deadlines to take the test come quick. Please don’t just take my advice on this though and consider your other responses because I am not a professional at all.
A few months ago I compiled all the available data I could find on, how submitting ACT and SAT scores could give an applicant a boost on their admissions. Here is a link to that discussion post. Last year, although 100% of schools were test optional, it is clear as day, if you had a high score and submitted your test as part of your application, you did have a small to significant boost in your admit rate. For instance at UPenn 63% submitted scores but 76% of admits had submitted scores so there was a 20%+ bump.
The bottom line is that there is a positive correlation between having high test scores and doing well in college level classes. Therefore, if you have a 1500 SAT or 33+ ACT score, you remove the uncertainty college admissions officers have with taking a risk on admitting you.
GPA alone is not a very good indicator any more about one's ability to do well in a top rigorous college environment because many public schools have practiced in GRADE INFLATION in order to secure more State and Federal funding. If their students do better, that means they are succeeding in the eyes of the people in charge at governments doling out the funds. The problem is that kids are not so much smarter than they were 10 years ago or 30 years ago, but their report cards state otherwise. This is why the admit stats of so many schools have 3.9+ GPAS. 30 years ago if you were a B-B+ student with 1200s you'd be a sure thing at UC Berkeley or UCLA, not anymore.
My advice to you if you decide to pursue the ACT or SAT is to try to get the highest possible composite score if you are applying to Top 25 colleges. You might think that getting 1350-1400 is doable but they may not really help you if you are trying to get into UVA, UMich, UC Schools, UT, or better liberal arts colleges like Hamilton, Colgate, BC, Bates, Bowdoin, CMC, Colorado College.
There are plenty of resources and blog posts about that on this site that can help you.
I think it's always good to take them. You won't be required to send the scores if they go poorly, and you can always retake the tests to try and get a better score. You essentially have no reason not to, aside from maybe the monetary cost and the effort (the tests can be irritating, but don't back out due to laziness, please! They always go by faster than you'd expect, and spending the time to take them is a fairly small sacrifice to make. Your effort will pay off.) A lot of schools now say they are "test optional," but they do still love to see a good test score. Having a score in or above the expected range for a specific school will help set you above some of the other students who chose not to submit a test score. It's also good to take them for the first time this year, since you're a junior, and that will give you a bit more time to decide whether or not to retake them. Once you reach senior year, deadlines for applications start approaching (especially if you want to try early action), and you may not be able to take the SAT and get your scores back in time to turn in your applications.
Another thing you can actually try to do is retake the PSAT since it is your junior year, and you might qualify to become a national merit scholar. This would be a great achievement to put on your college applications, and it also comes with a good scholarship. (I mention this because my school did not actually notify anyone about this opportunity, so I sadly missed the chance without even knowing it was something I could try for. Only the people who had extra knowledge from some outside source were able to get the memo and sign up for a PSAT retake.) I'd look into something like this, because your score seems to be pretty good without any studying, so maybe with a bit of preparation, you could actually make it.
Anyway, I definitely do think you should try the SAT and ACT at least once to see what you get, and then possibly retake later on if you choose. If nothing else, you'd probably feel a bit left out when all of your classmates start discussing their scores, and you'd have no idea what your score could have been. Taking the tests will certainly never hurt you, and if all goes well, it can help increase your chances of getting into your desired school!
Note, I am a high school senior, so this is written from my knowledge as an applicant, and while I'm fairly confident in the things that I've said, there's still a chance I have a few details wrong
Here is my advice:
1) If you scored a 1240 on the PSAT without preparation on the exam, I say you should take it. That's a great indicatator that you will do well.
2) While this year colleges are allowing kids to apply test optional, it isn't definite which colleges are carrying over this policy to next year (though Omicrom is making it look like the policy probably will be continued).
3) If colleges are all test optional, that means that the kids who are submitting their scores will be the top group, and that's who you'll be compared to. I know kids who got scores from 1300-1400 and didn't submit because they knew their score would pale in comparison if the only kids submitting were 1400+.
My advice would be to take a practice ACT, see how you score, and compare which test you enjoyed taking more. You definitely have the potential to have a great score, so I say take it. If you don't like your score in the end, you just don't have to submit it. Scores are just another part of your application, and submitting no score is better then submitting a medicore score.
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