There are many factors involved in the college admission process. However, a student's standardized test score and GPA are the biggest factors in determining acceptance into American universities. According to College Board, the company that administers standardized tests such as the SATs, as more and more students decide to attend college, competition is tougher, and factors such as GPA and SAT scores are becoming more important.
Significance of Your GPA
GPA is an important part of the college admission process. How a student's GPA is used in the process is confusing for some, as many high schools use different scales to calculate one's GPA. The standard scale that most schools use is the 4.0 scale. College admission staffs around the country know that some schools use a plus/minus grading system and others don't, thus, they may weigh and compare your GPA differently, given your school's system.
What is the SAT?
The SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) is one of two major standardized tests that universities use in the admissions process. Most universities require a minimum score based on a student's SAT or ACT performance. Although many universities require or will accept both, the SATs are usually accepted among America's coastal schools. The SAT's purpose is to determine how a high school student will perform in college. The test, administered by the College Board seven times a year, tests a student's knowledge in critical reading, mathematics and writing.
The SAT, typically taken by high school juniors and seniors, has a scaled score system of 200-800 for each of the three subjects. This scoring system was changed in 2005. In 2008, the average scores for high school students were as follows: 502 for critical reading, 515 for mathematics and 494 for writing. Thus, the average total score for 2008 SAT test takers was 1,511.
College SAT Requirements
Although many schools do not have a required SAT score for admission, many have a range of scores that most accepted students have received. Ivy league attendees have high scores. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the 2007-2008 study revealed the average SAT scores for Brown University were 660-760 for reading, 670-770 for math and 660-760 for writing. Average scores for such schools as Harvard, Yale and Princeton were similar. However, requirements for public universities are usually lower. The average scores for the University of California, San Diego were 540-600 for reading, 540-660 for math and 600-700 for writing. While an average score is not necessarily a requirement for the particular university, it gives the student an idea of his or her's chances of acceptance.
A student's GPA is as important as her SAT score for college admission. While not a set requirement, students looking to attend an ivy league or top-tier university will need nearly a 4.0 to be considered, along with possible honor-level coursework, if available. However, many of the larger, less competitive universities may only require only a 2.5 GPA or higher, which is a C+ to B- letter-grade range. To get a more detailed and accurate outlook of your admission chances, check with the particular school for its requirements and statistics.
SAT preparation courses can significantly increase your SAT scores. Although these programs do cost money, many students find these programs necessary to receive a top SAT score. Inquire with your high school counselor's office to determine what courses are offered in your area.
Retaking the SAT
With the SAT being offered seven times a year, students may retake the exam as many times as they like. However, doing so can be costly, and although some schools simply take the highest of the scores, some average all the scores a student has taken. It is best to take a look at the prospective school's policy on SAT scores before retaking the exam.
Matthew MacKenzie has been a writer for over eight years. He attended the University of Montana and majored in political science. Mackenzie received his Juris Doctor from St. Thomas University and is a licensed lawyer. His work has been published on various websites.