Your SAT scores matter an unreasonable amount.
Some students spend dozens of hours a week fine-tuning their grades into their near perfect specimens just to be shot in the foot by their mediocre SAT scores.
A college looks at the good grades and thinks, “Oh… That’s good…” just to look at the SAT scores and say, “nope.”
Years of hard work get tossed aside because of a couple of hours of mediocrity. This is a clear case of “Life Ain’t Fair.”
Now… most colleges understand that SAT scores can be deceiving. Most colleges are very forgiving about a low score. And “most” is the key word here.
Most Of The Time: Don’t Worry
Most students shouldn’t worry if they have an average SAT score. In fact, most students should be pretty comfortable with a low SAT score. It’s okay. There is a good college that would anxiously accept your money. They’re businesses just like any other. They want your business. If you aren’t too picky then you’ll find plenty of options.
The following section is for student’s trying hard to compete for tight college spots. Later I’ll get into the average student’s guide to SAT scores.
Here is when you should worry…
1. Are you trying to get into a very specific college?
2. Is that college highly selective?
3. Are you going to need serious financial aid?
The more of these questions you answer yes to, the more you need to worry about your SAT scores.
If you answer yes to question 1 but no to questions 2 & 3 then…
You don’t have much room for mistakes. You need to be sure that your SAT scores qualify you for that college you’re competing for.
If you answer yes to question 2 but no to questions 1 & 3 then…
You again don’t have much room for mistakes. Fortunately, since you’re not trying to get into one specific college, you can apply for all your options and you might be able slide into one of them.
If you answer yes to all three questions then…
This would be like if you’re applying for Harvard and only want to go to Harvard. But… you’re completely broke. At this point, you need to get a killer SAT score. Plenty of perfect scores still don’t get accepted to top colleges… This can’t be your handicap. You don’t necessarily need a perfect score but you probably need a whole lot of luck.
The Average Student’s Guide To SAT Scores
SAT scores should be thought of as a percentile. The exact number might make a smart student feel smart but what makes a student competitive is the percentile.
SAT’s are just a standardized test like any other. They’re not a great judge of a person’s competence or intelligence. They’re just narrow ways to categorize students.
Since these tests work in percentiles, half the people taking them will be above the 50th percentile, half will be below it. It’s about how people stack up against each other in this narrow band of standardized test-taking competence.
SAT scores may be a requirement to get into a college but honestly… thinking about them will do you more harm than good.
Of course… half the people taking them will be in the bottom half. Half people are below average height too. That doesn’t mean much outside of basketball. Most people understand that but it does really suck to find out you’re shorter than average.
If you’re not competing hard for a spot then treat SAT scores just like you would someone measuring you and saying you’re shorter than average. You wouldn’t ask them to measure you twice to be sure. You wouldn’t be massively offended. You may make decisions based on it (like not join the basketball team,) but it’s just a basic fact.
In this narrow band of competence, your score is whatever your score is. It’s almost completely meaningless. Step up and prove how pointless these tests are if you’re worried about it. Don’t fight to live up to a dumb standard.
Most schools are okay with average and some below average scores.
You’re Not Competing If It’s Not Ivy League
This isn’t completely true but believing it will help you quite a bit.
Most students are way too worried about competition for the school they want to apply for. Most students shouldn’t worry for 2 reasons.
1. You shouldn’t be picky about the college you go to.
Pickiness is a curse. Once you get to a college, you’re going to love stuff and hate stuff about it. It’s going to be an unpredictable situation. There is no reason to make it more difficult by pretending you know exactly what you want and what to expect.
Pick a ton of college options. Apply for all of them if it’s easy enough. Be comfortable with most colleges.
The reality is: if you’re not going for an Ivy League degree then most potential employers don’t know the difference.
2. The standards are pretty lax in most schools.
Are your grades close to the average grades? Yes. Then you’re probably going to get into the college.
Average scores have lower and higher ends to them. If you’re a little below average then you’re competitive. As long as you’re not picky, you’ll find someone to accept you.
And quite frankly…
Rejection Isn’t A Bad Thing
Don’t worry about rejection whether you’re competing for a tough college or applying for an easy one.
Rejections happen for hundreds of reasons. The person checking the application could have just been having a bad day. It just doesn’t matter.
In fact, if you’re applying for top-notch universities, rejection is a sign you’re competing with the best. If you get accepted then you probably put more effort in than required. If you apply for 10 schools and get rejected by 9 of them then it’s clear you put in the perfect amount of effort. And in the end, you’re going to look just as good on your resume.
Those rejections will never show up again. The only thing that matters is the 1 acceptance.
SAT scores matter for only a small minority of students.
A lot of people make a lot of money telling you otherwise but don’t fall for the marketing. Most of the time, they’re just a number.
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