Is the SAT still as important as it used to be? If so, how?


Our counselors answered:

Is the SAT still as important as it used to be? If so, how?

Sheila Smith

Is the SAT still as important as it used to be? If so, how?

If you’re looking for financial assistance, definitely. SAT scores play a role in decisions about merit-based scholarships—even at some test-optional institutions. Decisions about awarding merit scholarships usually include an evaluation of a student’s high school grades in conjunction with his or her test scores. Some merit scholarships just have a baseline cut-off: If a candidate has a GPA that’s above X combined with an SAT or ACT score better than Y, then he or she is automatically granted the scholarship.

Nancy Smith

Is the SAT still as important as it used to be? If so, how?

Over 800 four-year colleges don’t require SAT or ACT scores at all. That number is growing and now includes some top-notch liberal arts institutions. College admissions officers swear up, down, and sideways that they care more about an applicant’s grades, recommendations, essays, extracurricular activities, and pet fish Murray than they do about his or her test scores. So no, I don’t think they matter as much now as they used to, but I still recommend every student take them. Sure, SAT scores aren’t the end all be all of college admissions—but they still remain an important part of the process.

Richard Smith

Is the SAT still as important as it used to be? If so, how?

They do and applicants should still plan to sacrifice at least one Saturday morning of their junior or senior year to the standardized testing gods. The vast majority of schools still requires an SAT or ACT score from each applicant. And among the best schools in the country, only a few are “score optional.” Nineteen of the top 25 liberal arts schools, and all of the top 25-ranked national universities (as ranked by US News & World Report) still require standardized test scores. For applicants looking at public universities, almost all the flagship campuses of the best state schools ask applicants to submit SAT or ACT score.

Sharon Smith

Is the SAT still as important as it used to be? If so, how?

Even "score optional” schools don’t let applicants off the standardized-test hook entirely. Many of these colleges require a battery of other scores (usually AP or SAT II subject tests) to make up for the absence of SAT or ACT results. While the precise role of SAT scores in the admissions process varies from school to school, the general consensus is that test scores do play an important role in the decision-making process at most institutions. With that said, they’re not nearly as critical as your high school transcript. Admissions officers want applicants who have taken a challenging curriculum and excelled at those courses. They’re also looking for students who have interesting extracurricular activities and stellar recommendations.

David Smith

Is the SAT still as important as it used to be? If so, how?

Those involved in the admissions process claim standardized tests give them information other metrics can’t, namely, how a student measures up to candidates from other high schools. That said, SAT scores are always looked at in conjunction with the rest of a student’s application—not as a separate, free-standing indicator of academic success. A high SAT score can serve as a sort of tie-breaker in the application process. If there are two students who have the same grades, equivalent extracurricular activities, similar backgrounds, and the same caliber of recommendations, schools will go with the candidate with the higher score. This is partially due to a genuine belief among colleges that the SAT does measure something useful. It might also have something to do with the fact that median test scores for admitted students are one measure used by college rankings. Whatever the motive, the bottom line is that a better SAT score can certainly give an applicant the leg up in the tough college-admissions process.

Nina Berler
Founder unCommon Apps

Is the SAT still as important as it used to be? If so, how?

I have had this conversation with admissions professionals, and they tend to think that the SAT isn't as important as it used to be. There is so much information on each candidate that the SAT is but one piece of data. Most colleges look at the transcript first and look for a progression of difficulty from year to year. Course selection and success in courses really matters most. Some colleges (e.g., NYU) are now SAT optional because they have so much information on a given student. I want to make sure that students know what to expect on the SAT but that they can show a target school that they have a strong transcript and a few activities about which they are passionate. Between those items, recommendations and essays, colleges are armed with information.

王文君 June Scortino
President IVY Counselors Network

It is not the number one ticket to college admissions

SAT is used alone with other accomplishments subjected to different applicant pools. SAT is also normally used for scholarships. the studen'ts GPA is the single most important evidence alone with the curriculum selection and challenges of the courses.

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions Mavens

Is the SAT still as important as it used to be? If so, how?

The SAT (along with the ACT) is still pretty important when it comes to college admissions. However, there is a growing list of colleges (many of them highly selective) which are now test optional. "Test optional" means that they do not require students to submit their standardized test scores. For a list of schools which are currently test optional, go to Some of the most selective test optional schools include Bowdoin College and Smith College.

Megan Dorsey
SAT Prep & College Advisor College Prep LLC

For Most Students, It’s as Important as Ever!

In the 20 years I have worked in the field of test prep, I’ve frequently heard speculation that the SAT is going away. For good or bad, the SAT is still an important part of the college admission process. There are more selective schools (as opposed to open-admission schools) joining the test-optional movement every year. But unless your entire college list is made up of these institutions, your scores still matter for general college admission, admission to honors programs, and scholarship applications. For most students, SAT scores are still important, so take some steps to maximize your scores.

Owner Ellen Richards Admissions Consulting

Standardized testing in need of serious review

For years, students applying to college have taken standardized tests that are sent to colleges to be considered as part of their applications. In the past decades, these tests have come to the forefront of a debate on their necessity fairness and relevance. Standardized tests treat students like the machines used to grade them – as though people were designed to function at the push of a button. Standardized test makers assume that students all fit into a mold and work against students who are “wired” a bit differently. Students who do not think the way the test makers expect have an extreme disadvantage. In order to remain a relevant aspect of the college admissions process, standardized tests must be considered in conjunction with other factors. In addition to the concern students have about their college applications, standardized testing can damage students in pervasive ways. The term “test preparation” is equated with “studying.” The concept that students don’t “study,” but instead “prepare” for these tests, undermines students’ ability to focus on their real education. While preparing for a standardized test that offers them no lasting benefit beyond strategies specific to the test, students lose focus on their schoolwork and lose sight of what really matters. Resulting from a myopic perspective that influences students to place more importance on the test than necessary, students rob themselves of the opportunity to explore their innate talents and aspirations. Focusing on achieving a score that grants a student entrée into a particular school does not prepare them to function once they get there. While test scores remain a necessary evil when striving to gain admission to all private middle and high schools as well as college, students should not sacrifice self-knowledge and personal goal-setting on the altar of the perfect test score. These tests have morphed from providing a measure of intelligence and academic achievement into a testament to how well a student prepares and conforms to universal guidelines. A drastic shift in attitude towards standardized testing has occurred in the last few years. Many thirty-somethings recall the time when no students studied for standardized tests – they simply showed up for the test and took it. Done. Over. No questions asked. As a result, the test scores functioned as an accurate assessment of a student’s problem-solving ability because the test takers were on an even playing field. Today, test-taking strategies as and test prep companies make sure the results provide detail about how well students can memorize, and, frankly, the size of their parents’ bank account, considering the amount of money most invested in the process. Those students will perform better because they are coached, not necessarily because they know the material. In fact, one could argue that test scores often separate the “haves” from the “have-nots.” The bottom line: students are judged based on their scores. Some assume poor performance on standardized tests account for laziness or their lack of ability. Perhaps a better alternative to measure students would be to offer and assessment at the beginning of the school year and again at the end, such a system could not only gauge how much the student learned during the year, but could serve as an assessment of the school’s performance, as well. As it stands, standardized tests do not predict a student’s success in school or in life – so we must ask ourselves, “What is the point?” As parents, educators and future employers, we need to know if a student is an intelligent, well-rounded problem solver. If standardized tests are to maintain any sort of efficacy, they must be updated to a format that reflects how students learn today, as well as how well they will perform tomorrow.