How Much Do My ACT®/SAT® Scores Matter?

How Much Do My ACT®/SAT® Scores Matter?

Getting ready to take the ACT or SAT can quickly get overwhelming. Taking practice tests, studying, and stressing over how well you will do can take a toll. But how much do these scores really matter? Do you need to prepare well or just see how you do? The answer depends on your academic goals and the school you want to attend.

What Is a “Good” ACT/SAT Score?

So, what is considered to be a “good” score for the ACT or the SAT?

On the ACT, your score will be a number between 1 and 36, with 36 being a perfect score. The average score is 20.8. A score of 24 will place you in the 74th percentile, which is considered good. A score of 30 will place you in the 93 percentile, which is excellent.

On the SAT, your composite score (the score for the whole test) will be between 400 and 1600. An average score is one that falls between 1050 and 1060. A score of 1340 falls into the 90th percentile, and anything higher is considered excellent.

The Application Review Process

When a college receives an application for admission, it must be considered along with thousands of other applications. If there are more applicants than there are openings, the applications will be reviewed briefly to determine which ones should receive a second look. At this point, test scores, GPA, extracurricular activities, and honors are all briefly considered. If your test scores are too low, the admissions committee may not consider your application at all.

Once you are in the smaller pool of applicants, the other components of your application will get scrutinized more closely. However, if towards the end of this process your application has just as much merit as another applicant, you will have a competitive edge if your test scores are higher.  

Each School Has Different Requirements

When it comes to SAT and ACT scores, each school has its own requirements. Some schools have minimum score requirements. If you don’t score the minimum, your application will not even be considered. On the other hand, some schools do not even require SAT or ACT scores as part of the application process.

For example, Columbia University, considered a top-tier school, received over 36,000 applications for the 2020 enrollment year. Only about 6 percent of those applicants could be accepted. In order to filter through those applications, minimum scores must be considered. In this case, only those who scored in the 96th percentile or higher even got considered.

However, for a school that has less competition, scores matter far less. Instead, your application as a whole will be considered, and your GPA or extracurriculars will play a bigger role.

Unless you already know the admission requirements of your school, doing well on the ACT or SAT is a good idea. Schools want to see that you know how to properly prepare for a standardized test, so they can accept students who are prepared for the challenges of the college experience. Take time to prepare, and you will improve your chances of having a high score and getting accepted into the school of your choice.

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