Admission News

College Applicants: What Can You Do if Your Tests Scores are Bad?


College entrance tests, the SAT and the ACT, are always a source of anxiety. The national average score on an SAT is 1500. On an ACT the national average score is 20 or 21. What happens if you do not score average or only score an average score?

Actually, the world does not end. You must remember there are always alternatives and B plans. Here are some ideas that will keep you from getting down on yourself if you do not get the perfect test score.

Take the test again. Most students take the SAT or the ACT at least twice, and some more often. The SAT is offered every month, and the spring of your junior year in high school is a good time to start to see how you will do. The ACT is offered in February, April, May, September, October, and December; and, again, if you take it the spring of your junior year, you will have plenty of time to retake it. But, don’t just keep taking a test over and over. Be sure to take a prep course, practice with practice tests, and use online practices before retaking a test.

Take another test. If you do poorly on the SAT, take the ACT. If the Act doesn’t fit you, take the SAT. Length of sections, the way the test is worded, different readings and questions can all influence how well you do. Most colleges now accept either test as part of their criteria for admission.

Apply to colleges where the average, even a below average score, is absolutely fine. Elite is exactly that—elite. But, there are many good colleges that admit students without stellar test scores, and their students are both successful at the college and in life!

Apply to colleges that are test optional. Test optional colleges do not require applicants to submit college test scores. There are over 800 colleges that have no test score requirement, and that number is growing every year.

Remember you have other strengths. Test scores do not define you, and colleges are willing to look beyond scores. First, some colleges profile test scores, looking at either the math section scores or reading section scores more carefully, depending on the program you are applying to. Second, good grades and teacher recommendations do count. Beyond that, some colleges are looking for a particularly interesting essay or activities list that fit the character of their school.

You always have options, and the college application process is not that strict unless you insist on going to very competitive schools. There is a place for you on a campus somewhere.