Average SAT Scores at the Top 30 U.S. Universities

Throughout high school, students are told they need to get a “good” score on the SAT to gain admission to college. However, the phrase “good score” can be confusing to students who are planning to apply to a top school – just how high of a score do you need to get into the top colleges in the U.S.? We’re going to break down the SAT scores you need to best position your application to each of the top 30 universities in the U.S., and explain why you should care about achieving that “good” score.

How much do colleges care about SAT scores?

It is true that SAT scores are only one factor that colleges consider in evaluating your candidacy for admission. Other factors that colleges look at include your extracurricular activities, leadership involvement, and how well you fit with the school’s student culture.

One big factor that colleges consider when evaluating a student’s application is their academic achievements, and this is where SAT scores become very important to admission. An SAT score provides the college with a benchmark to view how well an applicant stacks up against the school’s current students, and thus, whether or not that applicant will be able to keep up academically once on campus. Basically, having a high SAT score shows schools that you can stand up to the rigors of college academics, especially if some of your other academic scores (GPA, class grades, etc.) are not very high.

What else do SAT scores do?

SAT scores are a great source of scholarship money for many students. There are many scholarships out there that are solely based on SAT scores, so if you can achieve a high score, you become automatically eligible to get some of these scholarships. Scholarship money will become crucial for you when you are eventually accepted to college, so getting an SAT-based scholarship will give you a leg up in budgeting for your college tuition.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at SAT score statistics at the top 30 U.S. universities:

SAT Statistics for the Top 30 U.S. Undergraduate Universities*

School Location 25th Percentile SAT Score 75th Percentile SAT Score
Princeton University Princeton, NJ 1380 1540
Harvard University Cambridge, MA 1470 1570
University of Chicago Chicago, IL 1460 1560
Yale University New Haven, CT 1460 1600
Columbia University New York, NY 1490 1580
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA 1500 1570
Stanford University Stanford, CA 1390 1540
University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA 1370 1520
Duke University Durham, NC 1315 1570
California Institute of Technology Pasadena, CA 1540 1580
Dartmouth College Hanover, NH 1430 1560
Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD 1480 1560
Northwestern University Evanston, IL 1440 1540
Brown University Providence, RI 1450 1570
Cornell University Ithaca, NY 1390 1530
Rice University Houston, TX 1440 1560
Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN 1400 1550
University of Notre Dame Notre Dame, IN 1390 1530
Washington University in St. Louis St. Louis, MO 1500 1560
Georgetown University Washington, D.C. 1320 1520
Emory University Atlanta, GA 1360 1490
University of California, Berkeley Berkeley, CA 1280 1490
University of California, Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA 1280 1500
University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA 1320 1480
Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, PA 1410 1540
University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA 1320 1500
Wake Forest University Winston-Salem, NC 1320 1490
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI 1380 1540
Tufts University Medford, MA 1410 1540
New York University New York, NY 1360 1500

*Based on the 2018 National University Rankings of U.S. News and World Report. SAT scores are based on the new 1600-scale SAT.

What do these SAT scores mean?

The SAT scores listed in this table above are taken from the 25th percentile and 75th percentile of total scores that were achieved by the students at each school. A percentile essentially shows where a student’s SAT score lies along the range of scores received by every other student at a school.

The 25th percentile score is the SAT score that only 25% of students at a particular school scored lower than. The 75th percentile score is the SAT score that only 25% of students at a college scored higher than. So looking at Princeton, for example, 25% of students achieved an SAT score lower than 1380, and 25% of students achieved an SAT score higher than 1540 – this means that 50% of the students at Princeton score between 1380 and 1540 on the SAT.

If you plan to apply to one of these top 30 universities, knowing the SAT scores that most students get will give you a good benchmark to measure your own score by.

Just how high of a score do you need to attend these colleges?

At Veritas Prep, we recommend that high school students aim to achieve an SAT score that lies at least within the 50% range of scores published by their target school. So if you plan to apply to Harvard, for example, your SAT score should lie in the range of 1470-1570. The lower your SAT score is, the more your profile will need to be exceptional in other ways – having a high SAT score increases your odds of success when applying to these top schools.

If you’re planning to apply to one of the top 30 U.S. universities and you don’t have an SAT score within that school’s middle-50% range, fortunately you have lots of great ways to boost your score. Veritas Prep offers a range of SAT prep services, including in-person and Live Online courses, private tutoring, and online self-study options. Every Veritas Prep SAT instructor has scored in the 99th percentile of all SAT test-takers – this means each instructor has achieved an SAT score that is higher than 99% of the scores all other SAT takers have received!