Do Your SAT Scores Really Matter for College?

By Emma Diehl · August 15, 2023 · 5 minute read

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Do Your SAT Scores Really Matter for College?

In recent years, many colleges have changed their college admissions testing policies, making standardized tests like the SAT optional, and placing more emphasis on other factors, such as GPA and essays. One reason for the shift is a growing concern that these tests tend to unfairly reward students with more wealth and access to test prep courses and tutors.

The SAT might be dropping as a requirement for admissions to some colleges, but the number has an impact beyond just getting into a school. Read on to learn how SAT requirements are changing, but why taking the SAT and submitting your score can still be helpful.

How SAT Requirements Are Changing

The number of colleges dropping SAT scores as a requirement for admission is growing. However, policies vary from school to school and from admission year to admission year, so students might want to double- and triple-check before assuming that their dream school doesn’t want to see their standardized test score.

A “test-optional” policy allows applicants to decide whether or not they want to submit their SAT or ACT scores to a college. This means that you can take the SAT (or ACT) and, based on how you do and how those scores compare to the average SAT score of admitted students, can decide whether or not you want to submit the score with your application.

Less commonly, colleges will have a “test-blind” or “test-free” policy. This means that even if a student submits SAT or ACT scores, the school will not consider them during the application process.

While some schools no longer require or consider their applicants’ SAT scores, others are making it easier to put your best foot forward with scores. Many colleges and universities, including the common application, now allow applicants to submit their SAT superscore.

An SAT superscore allows you to mix and match individual section scores from different test dates to come up with a “superscore” that is higher than the SAT score from a single sitting.

For some, this takes off some of the pressure of standardized testing. It means if a student feels off on one section, they can use a higher score from a previous test to get their best score possible.

Two other major recent changes to the SAT come from the College Board (which creates the test) itself: The SAT no longer contains the essay or subject tests. This means you no longer have the option to take — or submit — these tests.

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How SAT Scores Still Matter

Colleges and universities might be changing their guidelines about requiring SAT scores, but standardized tests still matter not only in the admissions process but beyond.

Here are some reasons why the SAT and a student’s score still matter:

•  Avoiding the SAT could limit options. A student’s target school might not require an SAT score, but what about their safety or reach options? Bypassing the SAT test altogether could end up limiting a student in where they can apply to schools. With no test score at all, they may be limited to schools that don’t require an SAT score, potentially missing out on another great option for them. Forgoing the SAT test completely could mean dramatically cutting off a student’s options before the application process even begins.

•  Considered, but not required. Some schools no longer require SAT scores for applicants, but will still consider them if submitted. Sharing SAT scores can help give admissions officers a more comprehensive picture of the applicant. In addition, if the school is particularly competitive, a strong standardized test score could help a student stand out.

•  Scholarship eligibility. Some universities and nonprofits require an SAT score when applying for merit scholarships. Without an SAT score, applicants might be ineligible, losing out on an opportunity to get funding for education.

•  They’re just a piece of the puzzle. SAT scores aren’t the only thing college admission boards consider. They’ll also look at a student’s GPA, extracurriculars, essays, recommendations, and more. No applicant is just a number, and the SAT score is only one small part of a student’s profile. Oftentimes, the score serves only as a screening tool in the beginning and is considered less and less the further a student progresses in the admissions process.

•  Testing out of college courses. Applicants might not need SAT scores to apply to a school, but providing them might make them eligible to test out of core classes. In some schools, SAT scores might determine placement into, or out of 101 classes all students are required to take. Testing out of these courses could lead to graduating faster or spending less on higher education.

While students might not need an SAT score to get into their dream school, preparing for and taking a standardized test could help them secure admission, scholarships, and entry into higher-level courses.

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Another Number that Matters: Financing Your Tuition

A student’s SAT score isn’t the only number they’ll have to consider during the admissions process. Another important figure is the cost of tuition, and students will have to start thinking of how they can pay for their education.

On top of federal student loans and scholarships, students might consider private student loans. These are educational loans available through banks, credit unions, and online lenders. Unlike federal student loans, private loans typically don’t come with benefits like income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness options — which is why it’s best to apply for federal student loans first.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.

Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


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