It can happen -- you get your SAT results and they're WAY lower than you hoped. Don't panic. This isn't the end of the world. You have several options if you want to go to college. You may choose to retake the test, or you can take a path where the scores are less important. Students can do poorly on the SAT and still be successful in college and beyond.
SAT Prep Classes
When retaking the SAT, some students improve their scores by signing up for prep classes. You have many choices. Educational businesses have single-day classes, as well as ones that extend over several weeks. If you have one weak area, you can join a class that focuses on that part. Companies also offer tutoring for students who don’t want to study in groups. Depending upon length and size, classes can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars.
Another option is getting a private tutor, such as a college student or high school teacher. This is especially helpful if you need help on a particular section of the test.
If you are good at studying on your own, you can find test prep materials online. For example, the College Board, which creates the SAT, has free materials on its website. You can take practice quizzes in math, reading and writing that explain the correct answers. You can also find practice exercises for the 20 special subject tests in science, history, language or literature if you are applying to a program that requires one of them. When you’re ready, you can take a full practice test. In addition, the site features a “Question of the Day.” The College Board and commercial websites also sell study guides and online programs. These are much less expensive than a classroom course and can be helpful if you have the discipline to do the work alone.
Some colleges will accept you if you have low SAT scores, but you're required to take a remedial classes in your weak areas. Depending upon where you’ve been accepted, you might need a remedial course at the college’s summer school or a community college before you get to campus. Some institutions let you take non-credit remedial classes as a freshman. If you do this, you won’t be alone. A 2013 study found that about 20 percent of college students take a remedial class during their first year.
If you worry about low SAT scores, you should check the requirements of the schools you're thinking about applying to. More than 800 American schools don’t use SAT scores to decide who gets in. Admissions are based on other standards, such as class rank and grade point average. Many schools find that this leads to a more diverse student body, and it lets in students who can do college-level work but have trouble on standardized tests.
- ESPN: It's All Academic Now
- College Board: SAT Practice
- CBS Money Watch: Great SAT Prep Websites That Won't Blow Your Budget
- The Princeton Review: What's a Good SAT Score or ACT Score?
- Florida Gulf Coast University: First Year Advising Services Handbook
- Mississippi State University: Freshman Admission
- USA Today: 1 in 5 Freshmen Need Remedial Courses, but Do They Work?
- Fair Test: SAT/ACT Optional 4-Year Universities Test Score Optional List
Living in upstate New York, Susan Sherwood is a researcher who has been writing within educational settings for more than 10 years. She has co-authored papers for Horizons Research, Inc. and the Capital Region Science Education Partnership. Sherwood has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from the University at Albany.