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The SAT and ACT Scores You Need to Get College Scholarships

Every year, college gets more and more expensive. The average cost of college tuition per year is $9,970 for in-state students at public colleges, $25,620 for out-of-state students attending public colleges, and $34,740 for students attending private universities - that’s a lot of money (and doesn’t even take into consideration the other expenses that come with a college tuition, such as the cost of housing and books)! These prices are so high, in fact, that about 70% of college seniors graduate with an average of over $30,000 of debt from student loans that they used to pay for college.

With all of these statistics, you are probably looking for a way to help ease the burden of paying for college, and scholarships are a great way to do this. Scholarships aren’t just given out for exceptional extracurricular accomplishments or for playing sports - they’re given out on the basis of SAT and ACT scores, too. Let’s review a few of the ways you can apply for SAT and ACT scholarship money, and just how high of a score you’ll need to become eligible for them.


List of SAT and ACT scholarships

National Merit Scholarship: Although not technically related to the SAT, the National Merit Scholarship is one of the most popular scholarships high school students apply for. It has been around since 1955, and any student who takes the PSAT exam (while currently enrolled as a high school student) is eligible for the scholarship. The PSAT exam, which is separate from the SAT but is run by the same organization, is taken by most high school students their sophomore or junior year of high school. Many high schools distribute the PSAT for their own students on their own campuses, so check with your school to see if they offer you the chance to take the PSAT there. If you are interested in the National Merit Scholarship, check with your high school to see if they administer the PSAT on site. If your school does not offer a time to take the PSAT on their campus, encourage them to do so. They can register to offer the PSAT at your school right here.

Additional Scholarships: Besides the National Merit Scholarship, many other scholarships exist that are not as well known to students but that also offer merit based on a student’s SAT or ACT scores. A few examples of these are:

Scholarship Name Award Amount SAT Score Needed ACT Score Needed Deadline to Apply
CIA Undergraduate Scholarship Program $18,000 1000 21 July 31, 2018
Deana’s Wish Memorial Scholarship $2,000 1100 24 March 1, 2019
Lloyd M. Fujie Scholarship for Accounting Major Students $2,500 1500 21 March 18, 2019
Matt Logies Memorial Scholarship $5,000 1500 24 March 12, 2019
MSLP Governor’s Best and Brightest Scholarship N/A 1440 20 March 15, 2019
Pacific Gas and Electric Company Asian ERG Scholarship $2,000 1500 25 February 1, 2019
Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholarship $30,000 1000 21 February 1, 2019
Texas Armed Services Scholarship Program $4,000 1070 23 Varies

In addition to these specific scholarships, other scholarships may require you to “demonstrate outstanding academic achievement,” and earning an exceptionally high SAT or ACT score is a great way to do this. Examples of such scholarships are the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation Scholarship, which awards $20,000 scholarships to 150 students each year, and the Elks National Foundation Scholarship Program, which grants scholarships up to $50,000 to 500 students each year. With so many scholarships at your fingertips, earning free money towards college may be as simple as getting a strong SAT or ACT score!


Certain schools award SAT and ACT scholarships automatically! Depending on which schools you are looking to apply to, you may be offered an academic scholarship award automatically based on your SAT or ACT scores. The following schools offer these types of scholarships:

  • Baylor University
  • Clemson University
  • Colorado State University
  • Florida A&M
  • Florida Gulf Coast University
  • Georgia State Univeristy
  • Louisiana State University
  • Texas Tech University
  • University of Arizona
  • University of Mississippi
  • University of Nevada, Las Vegas
  • University of Oregon
  • University of Tennessee
  • University of Texas, Arlington
  • Utah State University

If you are planning to apply to any of these schools, it will benefit you to try to get a high SAT or ACT score to achieve a scholarship towards your tuition. Of course, schools can change their scholarship requirements on a year to year basis, so be sure to check with the schools you are applying to and ask what their individual scholarship requirements are.


How SAT/ACT scores factor into other scholarship funds

As we have touched on, thousands of different organizations offer college scholarships for a multitude of reasons - some are based on ethnicity, some are based on religion, some are based on community service, and others are based on specific extracurricular involvement, such as musical theater or writing. Many of these scholarships, in addition to having requirements based on one of the reasons mentioned above, also have academic requirements, and some of these academic requirements include holding a certain SAT or ACT score. This means, unless you have already researched scholarships and know all of the scholarships you are interested in applying for do not require any sort of academic merit, it will be a good idea to aim for a high SAT or ACT score anyway. This way, you will be covering your bases in case you decide to apply for a scholarship later on that does have some sort of academic or test-related requirement.


How to apply for SAT and ACT scholarships

A simple online search is a great way to begin your scholarship search (this can apply for any scholarships, not just SAT and ACT scholarships). Use a basic search engine such as Google, Bing or Yahoo to get lots of scholarship information from various different sources. It will be helpful to make your search as narrow as possible by searching for scholarships that are applicable to your unique profile. For example, if you got a great score on the SAT, are of Hispanic heritage, and play field hockey, your search might look something like “college scholarships for SAT scores, Hispanics, and field hockey”. This will provide you with the names of scholarships that apply to your unique profile, and that you will have the greatest chance of success applying for.

There are also several great scholarship search engines out there, including, fastweb, and the CollegeBoard’s BigFuture Scholarship Search. Simply search for the type of scholarship you are interested in applying for (in this case, SAT or ACT scholarships), and these sites will quickly pull up information about scholarships that are applicable to what you are searching for. Now all you have to do is simply follow the application instructions for scholarships you find - provided you have the SAT or ACT scores to backup your eligibility, of course.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “What if I am eligible for more than one SAT and ACT scholarship? Can I only apply for one?” Fortunately, there is no limit to how many scholarships you can apply for, as long as you meet their eligibility requirements - in fact, applying for as many scholarships as possible is actually encouraged, as this will increase your odds of getting more money towards college.


When do you need a high SAT or ACT score by?

The answer to this question depends entirely on which scholarships you are applying for, as each one will have a different deadline to adhere to. Many scholarships have application deadlines in January (which is around the time that many general college applications are due), but some scholarships have deadlines as early as September, and others still others have deadlines as late as March.

Additionally, some college scholarships can have deadlines up to a year before you actually apply. This variation in application due dates just goes to show how important it is to start your college research as early as possible - the earlier you know which schools you want to apply to (and whether or not you will need financial aid to attend those schools), the sooner you can look into applying to scholarships that suit your unique student profile.


What if you don’t have a high enough SAT or ACT score to obtain a scholarship?

If you don’t have an SAT or ACT score high enough to be eligible for scholarships like the ones mentioned above, there is still time to achieve it! The first place to start is to decide exactly which test to take, the SAT or the ACT. After you have determined which test you will be more successful at, you can focus your efforts on preparing for that exam.

Another good way to start working towards a higher SAT or ACT score is to check out the various free test prep resources that you can find on the internet. While these are no substitute for taking an SAT or ACT prep course or working with a tutor, free resources are a good way to practice your SAT and ACT skills during your free time, and maybe brush up on a few concepts that you might need help with. And if you decide that you need a more focused approach to your prep, Veritas Prep has got you covered.