Didn’t get a high SAT score? Worried you won’t be accepted into your dream school? Never fear! There are plenty of things you can do to help yourself get into college, even if your SAT score isn’t as high as you’d like. A low SAT score doesn’t always mean you can’t go to your dream school either. Read on for eight things you can do to make yourself more desirable to the college or university of your choice, or a school that is just as good or better!
- Take the ACT. The rumor has it that the ACT test is “easier” than the SAT. Even if that’s not true, what is true is that different students do better on different types of tests. Overall, the ACT is slightly shorter than the SAT, and the number of questions and time limit differ between corresponding sections. Even the order of the sections is different. If you find yourself burnt out before the Math portion of the SAT, for example, you might be happy to find out that the Math portion of the ACT is much earlier in the schedule. Since all colleges and universities in the United States accept both tests, there’s no reason not to give the ACT a try.
- Take the SAT again. You can technically take the SAT as many times as you’d like (and can afford to). According to the College Board, 63% of the students who retook the SAT in 2018 scored higher the second time around. Think about it. You’re less stressed because you know what to expect and already know what areas you need to improve in. You’re also more aware of time restraints the second time around. You can use the months between testing days to take more practice tests as well. It can’t hurt to try again!
- Beef up other parts of your application, like your extracurricular activities, and get a stellar letter of recommendation. Most schools want to see that you’re a well-rounded student and person. Let’s face it, some of us just aren’t good at taking standardized tests, no many how many times they’ve made us take them in school. Show your potential colleges that you can manage your time by getting straight As while volunteering with a local organization or playing trumpet in the jazz band. Or show them your dedication to your future career by getting an internship with a software company over the summer. Use your extracurriculars to make contacts who will give you glowing letters of recommendation.
- Write a great college admissions essay. You might not think that the essay matters, but sometimes it really makes the difference in whether or not you’re accepted. Not only does writing a stellar essay show that you have great communication skills, you can also use it to explain why other aspects of your application aren’t as strong. For example, maybe you were struggling with a serious illness that prevented you from studying for the SATs as much as you would have liked. Perhaps you experienced a trauma during your junior year of high school and your grades slipped as a result. I’m not suggesting that you use your admissions essay as a way to make excuses for yourself. However, many of the Common Core prompts invite you to consider how you’ve grown because of the challenges you have faced in your life. So, don’t whine or complain about your struggles. Show that you have grown as a person because of them. Colleges want to know that you have valuable skills and characteristics, so make it clear how your difficulties have helped you acquire them.
- Make a good first impression with admissions representatives. If you’re able to meet face-to-face with an admissions representative from your dream school, make it count. Practice your interview skills ahead of time and shake hands politely, but also show them aspects of your personality that they might not see on paper. If an admissions representative reads your application and remembers you, that personal connections might just make the difference. They might even advocate for you to their colleagues.
- Look for colleges that have lower SAT score requirements, but don’t give up on your dream school! While you’re busy studying for the ACT or loading up your resume in hopes of getting into the perfect school for you, look at other schools as well. There are plenty of amazing universities out there, and not all of them require a 1600 on the SAT. Apply to a couple of them “just in case.” Of course, make sure they’re a good fit for you and your personality first.
- Look at SAT-optional schools. Did you know that some colleges don’t require SAT scores at all anymore? Some institutions of higher learning are finally acknowledging that doing well on a standardized test doesn’t necessarily mean a student will do well in college. Before you consider retesting, check some of them out and add them to your “just in case” applications too.
- Finally, think about attending a different school for a year or so before transferring to your dream school. Many colleges don’t look at standardized test scores, or put as much weight on them, from transfer students. It may be worth checking out your dream school’s policies about transfer students.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to make yourself more desirable to colleges, even if your SAT scores aren’t that great. By taking another test, beefing up your extracurriculars, making personal connections, and researching less exclusive schools, you’ll be sure to find yourself at a college or university that is a good fit for you!