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?

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.

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.

Helen Cella

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

More and more schools are not requiring them

Jolyn Brand
Owner & CEO Brand College Consulting

Yes, test scores are still very important!

Especially in larger colleges, an applicant's test scores are still very crucial. If a student didn't do as well as he hoped for, some colleges will overlook that with a great GPA and overall well-rounded application (activities, community service, sports, etc). But, for most students, the higher those test scores, the better!

Nicholas Umphrey

SAT relevance

I have my own personal opinions about the SAT (and ACT for that matter) and what it measures and how it applies to college success. All assessments measure something and they provide data and numbers so that colleges can attempt to gauge a student's collegiate potential. However, there are exceptions to every rule. Almost all educators cannot get through college without learning about Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligence Theory. Gardner believes that eight abilities meet these criteria: Spatial, Linguistic, Logical-mathematical, Bodily-kinesthetic, Musical, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, and Naturalistic. I am a big believer in this theory and as a school counselor, I can apply these types to individual students. The SAT and ACT only measure a couple of these. They are, I will admit, important aptitudes to have when entering college. My issue with standardized tests is that it convinces kids they are not smart enough for college. For example, an artistic student may have great spatial and kinesthetic intelligence in creating art, but the SAT may convince them to forget about university and join the Navy. In essence, the SAT allows colleges to compare a student from Bangor, Maine with a student from San Diego, CA with hard data and numbers. However, if you look at these two hypothetical students one may have a 3.0 average and good recommendations, while the other may have a 2.0 and luke-warm recommendations. Guess which student admissions counselors will choose? The SAT measures potential, but grades and your established track record as a student and person will prove to be most crucial to your admission decision..

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

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

The SAT is still required for admission to a number of schools. Depending on the institution, more or less weight may be given to your score. Research continues to demonstrate there are issues with standardized tests, that can't be ignored. For this reason, the list of test optional schools continues to grow (see At some schools, SAT scores may factor in to merit aid awards.

Carita Del Valle
Founder Academic Decisions

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

Yes, the SAT is extremely important in today's admissions game. Not only is it tied to entrance into the various programs across the country, there is a direct relation to the amount of merit aid you may receive because of your testing numbers. That being said also take note of various college and universities that are testing optional or no testing at all. If this is the place for you, then taking a SAT may not be the best use of your time.

Andrew Hill

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

Absolutely. The SAT is the most taken college admissions test in the world. It is a standard that is extremely valuable because of this. Some states and countries use it as a proficiency exam to exit high school. The new writing section is valuable to admissions as well. This allows for a writing sample in a standardized condition and allows for a check against the regular essays to see if they are actually the student's own. It is also a very pure way to get a glimpse of how one is as a writer. There is a saying on the East Coast that if you want to go to a "real school" you take the SAT.

Mike Kent
Founder / Director CollegeMax Counseling

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

Like it or not, many colleges do rely on standardized tests as one of the top three criteria for admissions according to NACAC, a national college advising organization. That said, individual colleges and universities treat the tests differently. Some are test-optional and don't even consider them much. Remember though, that the SAT and ACT still serve an important function, and that is as a means to evaluate students on a level playing field across so many different high schools across the country. They also serve a purpose when it comes to things like scholarship consideration and course placement. Bottom line is that you should always do as well as you can on the SAT or ACT, but remember that it is only one criterion for admission.