If taking tests is not your strong suit, but your determination to attend college is robust, you don’t have to spend months studying and fretting over taking and scoring well on the SAT to achieve your dream of attending college.
There are many SAT optional colleges, and some that don’t require a student to submit an SAT score as part of the application process. You may also consider colleges that regularly accept students with an SAT that is below the average score of about 1,000.
How to Read an SAT Score
Understanding how to read SAT scores can be difficult. There is a main score and a percentile ranking. Some universities only require a passing SAT score, while some colleges forgo this standardized test altogether. Instead they consider the student’s GPA, extra-curricular activities and more.
Know the rules that the college you hope to attend has in place for applicants. Your main score and percentile ranking may not be as important as you have been led to believe to attend a good school that can offer all you need to secure your future in the field of your choice.
Even a mediocre score may seem low if you are planning a career in science, engineering, medical or a math-related field. You may want to shoot for a relatively high score of 1,200 or above on the SAT for college admission as well as to show future employers if needed. If your math sub score is relatively high, many test-flexible schools will take that rather than the total SAT score.
What Is a Bad Score on the SAT?
If you score less than 1,000 on the SAT, you may want to retake the SAT to increase your score. Those who studied for a month or two before retaking the SAT improved their score by between 20 to 30 points on average.
The SAT score percentile range based on your score can change dramatically for every 50 points. For instance, a 950 puts you in the 31st percentile, while a score of 1050 puts you at the 49th percentile.
A score of 1,000 lands you in the near 40th percentile, while a score of 1,100 places you above average in the 58th percentile. A score of 650 or below is the bottom 1 percent, while a score of 1,350 and above places you in the top 10 percent.
How to Improve Your Score
A serious student who reaches out for study help tends to increase the score by nearly 100 points. Students can double or triple their average score bump from 20 to 70 points more if they do not study alone.
- Hire a tutor
- Take AP classes
- Take online practice tests
- Join high school study groups
- Join community study groups or classes
What Is an Average SAT score?
The standardized test is designed to have an average of around 1,000, and 1,068 is the current average SAT composite. You need to score 500 from both sub scores or more to reach this average. The sub score for reading is 536 on average, and the math section comes in at 531.
A score below 1,000 isn’t too terrible. While it is below the average, there are many good schools that provide above-average course work, depending on your education goals.
Calculating the Numbers that Matter
The SAT is just one number that college boards consider when going over a candidate’s application. There are many universities that don’t even require that a potential pupil has taken the SAT. They will also look at your:
- Extracurricular Activities
- Educational Awards
- Community Service
There is a list of colleges that either don’t require a student to have taken the SAT, or the institution has embraced a test-flexible philosophy.
Colleges That Don’t Require SAT
If you decide not to take the SAT or prefer not to show your scores unless absolutely necessary, there are a host of colleges that can help you to successfully reach your goal of getting a degree.
With more than 200 colleges out of the nearly 3,000 degree-granting institutions in the United States changing over from strict test-score limits to implementing test-flexible admission policies, you have a good chance of gaining entry into a good school.
- Pitzer College
- Olivet College
- St. Gregory’s University
- Providence College
- College of New Jersey
- California State University – Chico
- University of Wisconsin – Whitewater
- New York University
- University of Rochester
- Middlebury College
- Wesleyan University
- Wake Forest University
- Fairfield University
- Rollins College
- Stetson University
- University of Mary Washington
- Drake University
- Baldwin-Wallace College
- Whitworth University
- San Jose State University
- Elizabethtown College
- Lebanon Valley College
- University of Scranton
- Catawba College
- Belmont Abbey College
- Keiser University
- Olivet College
- Dunwoody College of Technology
- Oklahoma Wesleyan University
- St. Gregory’s University
SAT Optional Colleges
There are many colleges that are open to accepting students who either haven’t taken the SAT or choose not to offer their total score as part of the application process. Many SAT optional colleges may still require to see part of your SAT.
This works well if you are pursuing an English degree and have a high score on the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing part. Subsequently, if you are planning on pursuing a math degree and have a high math sub score but low EBRW score, the school will put more weight on the information you give that applies to the major you plan to get a degree in.
These test-optional colleges can still be very competitive. They're looking for the best of the best while also understanding that a student may have difficulty taking tests or may not be able to afford all of the standardized test fees that come with studying for and taking the SAT. They may require you to show your academic abilities by writing essays, assembling a work or education-related portfolio or submitting any Advanced Placement tests you have completed.
Examples of Test-Flex Colleges
- Bowdoin College: Located in Brunswick, it has a low acceptance rate that hovers around 15 percent. This makes it a competitive school to get into. Most applicants will submit their SAT score to stay competitive, but the college admission’s officers will look at what the individual student will contribute to the school. Be specific in what areas you plan to study and your college goals. It was the first college to eliminate standardized testing and allow a student to submit their subject test scores rather than their total test score.
- Colby College: This school in Waterville has a nearly 16 percent acceptance rate. It has an average SAT score of 1410 for its first-year students. The lowest is around 1300. The college has embraced a test-flexible admission’s policy to expand its roster of diverse students with a wide-range of capabilities to strengthen the school’s already impressive student body.
Colleges That Accept Low SAT Scores
If your SAT score is simply low, there are hundreds of colleges to apply to. From interior design to medicine and engineering, there are a plethora of premiere education institutions that don’t base a student’s acceptance on a test score alone.
- Asbury University
- College for Creative Studies
- Minneapolis College of Art and Design
- Maryville College
- Columbia International University
- Kettering College of Medical Arts
- Flagler College St. Augustine
- Fisk University
- Ave Maria University
Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing about education, jobs, business trends and more for The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Today’s Parent and other publications. She graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from UNLV. Her full bio and clips can be seen at www.vegaswriter.com.