Looking at your SAT scores can be puzzling for many high school students, especially the first time taking the test. It can be tough to know whether your scores are good enough for your colleges and whether you need to take the test again. What qualifies as a good score on the SAT will be different for every student and very dependent on your future goals for college.
As you go along in your college search process, you want to pay attention to the numbers that you see in college ranking and admissions materials. You’re looking for the 25-75th percentile SAT scores for each college. These will give you a good idea of where most students fall. While there will always be exceptions, both extremely high scores and students who get in on other qualifications even with lower scores, this is a good guideline. You may also inquire about perks for higher scores, such as merit-based grants or being able to test-out of required classes during your freshman year of college.
For example, Harvard University’s 25-75th percentile scores are 2100 – 2380 and Stanford University’s 25-75th percentile scores are 2000-2310. University of California San Diego‘s 25-75th percentile scores are 1700 – 2030. Identifying these numbers before you have to decipher your scores will help you to understand where you need to be to attend your top choice schools. If you have goals in mind, it will be easier to decide if your SAT scores are good enough to be your final scores, or if you need to take the test a second or a third time and try to improve.
If your scores fall right in the average for your top choice schools, you may still wish to improve them in order to increase your chances of acceptance. If you’re well above the scores you need, you may feel comfortable with your current scores and choose to be done taking the SAT.
It’s also worth paying attention to the breakdown between subject areas. Colleges generally want to see people with balanced scores, not extremely high scores in one section and significantly lower scores in another. Some variation between the scores is normal, especially if you have a much stronger interest and talent in one area. If the scores are too lopsided, however, you may want to spend some time studying for your weaker subject and take the test again to improve your scores.