College admission tests, namely the SAT (scholastic assessment test), ACT (American college testing) and SAT Subject Tests, are the bane of some student’s existence. Hours spent in tutoring or prep courses culminate in a 3-hour to 4-hour exam that seems like it can make or break a high school career.
But how important are the standardized tests to college admissions offices, and how does your score affect your application? As COVID-19 continues to impact the ways the colleges and universities are operating, the college application process can seem less certain than ever. In this article, we’ll examine the real importance of admission test scores and other factors that colleges consider during the admissions process.
Why Do Colleges Require Test Scores?
While some progressive universities don’t require test scores, choosing to focus on other aspects to gauge a student’s aptitudes. Most four-year institutions will at least require SAT scores and many two-year institutions will recommend them. ACT scores are less commonly required but are almost always beneficial. Because curriculums can vary so widely between different high schools, standardized admission tests give colleges a way to see if students are capable of handling college-level work.
The importance of scores compared to other factors will vary from college to college, with prestigious institutions like Ivy League schools putting the most emphasis on high test scores. An experienced college admissions consultant can help students with questions on how to best prepare strong applications for a wide range of schools.
What Do Colleges Look For?grades,
Colleges consider a wide range of factors when reviewing prospective students, such as:
- Grades and GPA
- Courses (both college prep and high school classes)
- Standardized test scores
- Extra-curricular activities
- Letters of recommendation
In many institutions, grades and the rigor of classes are the most influential factors in the decision-making process. Some schools may even take a glance at prospective students’ social media profiles to get a more holistic view of them as a person. However, most schools typically choose to focus on other details. Taking advanced coursework in high school, especially IB, AP or college prep courses are a plus, and extra-curricular and volunteer work are also considered. Some schools may have specialized applications with writing components that they consider, while others still will place a lot of value on a telephone or in-person interview.
How Do Colleges Use Standardized Tests?
As mentioned earlier, test scores are rarely the only major consideration when universities review applicants. However, they are important to institutions because they generate data that colleges can use in a number of ways. Test scores can help institutions identify students that could be a good fit; this way, colleges can reach out to students early and convince them to apply, attracting potential students. Colleges will also publish the average range of their students’ test scores to serve as a guide for applying students, though some students may still be accepted even if their test scores are below this range. As you can take most standardized tests more than once, many schools will only require your best score, while others may require all scores or an average.
High scores can be significant for students looking to gain financial assistance, as it can qualify them for merit-based aid or scholarships—especially when combined with other factors such as strong grades and letters of recommendation.
Lastly, standardized test scores may help to determine college course placement. Students that score higher on the math sections for the test may qualify for higher-level courses, just as SAT subject tests and IB or AP credits can help student skip past some requirements.
Every year, schools publish guidelines regarding what their admissions officers seek and place respective weight on. For students aiming to be awarded merit-based aid, however, or those eager to take more advanced coursework in their first year, a high-test score can play a key role in making college faster more affordable.
Rather than a steadfast focus on scores, many institutions are moving towards an emphasis on a more well-rounded assessment of prospective students, especially with regard to extra-curricular activities.