How Important is Your SAT Score?

How important is your SAT score? This is the million dollar question that all students want to know. Let’s imagine that your admissions application is worth 100%, and you need to get 80% to be accepted into a certain university. If students knew that the SAT was worth 10% of their application, then many students with strong GPAs, essays, extracurricular activities, and teacher recommendations would probably be able to be admitted to this university without even having to take the SAT!

Unfortunately, college admissions doesn’t use round numbers and clear cutoffs to admit (or not admit) students. Instead, the college application is a holistic process that takes into account every aspect of your application in an attempt to determine if you would be a good fit at a particular school. Another unrealistic premise in the above example is that the SAT is only worth 10% of your application. In fact, at many universities — it is worth much more.

I could argue that your SAT score is the biggest factor determining your acceptance into elite universities and Ivy League schools. Why? Because your SAT score gets your first foot in the door. As much as college admissions officers deny using the SAT as a “screening” tool, let’s face it — you aren’t getting to a Harvard with a 1500 (unless you’re a star athlete, have cured cancer, etc.). There is no other part of the application that is 100% comparable from applicant to applicant other than standardized test scores. Even your GPA can be excessively high or low due to grade inflation or grade “deflation” (if you want to call it that) at the particular high school you attend.

Let me make one point clear: your SAT score doesn’t guarantee you acceptance into any college. But it can sure help — UC Berkeley isn’t turning down too many students with 2300+ on their SAT. But of course, the SAT is only one aspect of your application. In order to be admitted into the Harvards and Stanfords of the world, you need every part of your application to be strong — a high GPA and SAT score, a difficult and challenging course load, a dedication to community service, a passion for your extracurricular activities, stellar teacher recommendations, and outstanding essays. It’s certainly no walk in the park.

However, a high SAT score can in some ways make up for some aspects of your application that may not be up to par. For example, if your GPA isn’t as high as most applicants, but your SAT score is much higher — that may show college admissions officers that you do have the intellectual capacity to succeed academically.

And finally, another hidden benefit of a high SAT score is that it increases your chances of winning scholarships. Merit-based, need-based, and university-specific scholarships often use SAT scores as a major factor in determining which students they will offer money to. In fact, I won over $230,000 in college scholarships because of my SAT score! Click here to find out more about how to win scholarships. So when it’s all said in done, your investment (both time and financial) in SAT preparation will be rewarded with both college acceptances and solid scholarship dollars!

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Shaan Patel, who scored a perfect 2400 on the SAT, is the author of McGraw-Hill’s bestselling SAT 2400 in Just 7 Steps and co-creator of Veritas Prep SAT 2400.