How important is the SAT?

The SAT is the dreaded part of junior year, as we are all told it will make or break our college admissions from the start; at least, we were told that. Very recently, many colleges have made the SAT optional. This choice was made more widespread by everything that happened with COVID, but the truth is, many colleges were already, or in the process of, becoming test optional before 2020. Some famous colleges like University of Chicago have been test optional since 2018, and Cornell and SU announced they would be going test optional starting fall of 2022 (Sorry, seniors!). 

However, how important is the SAT? Well, not as much as some would make it out to be. Colleges look at a wide variety of elements in a student’s life that all determine admission. GPA, extracurriculars, personal achievements/hobbies, extenuating circumstances, grades, and many others. Most colleges pay a little more attention to GPA, because that is the actual representation of how hard you worked throughout high school. You can’t buy your GPA, but paying thousands for SAT prep to improve your score is certainly done. Moreso, many students superscore their results, meaning they take the exam multiple times and combine their 2 best English and math scores. For students who don’t have $71 dollars to pay multiple times, this isn’t doable. 

In addition, standardized testing doesn’t fit well for some students. It’s not easy to sit in a room for 4 hours taking an exam that’s repetitive and boring. The SAT is less about actual intelligence, and more about recognizing patterns, the efficiency to which you can answer a problem, and how fast you can do it. Many colleges don’t put students down to just a number they got on a standardized test- they care more about you as a person, and what you can bring to their college. Your essays, personal statements, and life are all important elements they see during the admissions process. 

Finally, don’t be trapped by the range of numbers of SAT scores you see online for students who got admitted into a certain college. Especially in the last 2.5 years, since colleges have been SAT optional, people don’t submit their scores unless they deem it good enough for that college. Only about 50% of students submit SAT scores to any particular college. And those students got the best of the best scores, leading to a little bit of SAT inflation. Half of people on campuses, which can be a thousand or tens of thousands, may have gotten lower than the “appropriate SAT range,” and are equally as successful and able as the rest.