What is a Good SAT Score?

I was recently asked by a student what a good SAT score was. The answer depends on the student and the colleges to which they are applying. From the perspective of many colleges, a somewhat lower score for a student from a small rural public school might be similar to a higher score from a student at a top private high school.Β  This sort of approach is more common with private colleges than public ones. Public colleges tend to use more guidelines of grades and test scores in forming a freshman class.

But the real answer to what is a good SAT score really depends on the colleges to which you apply. Find the middle 50% of test scores for the colleges to which you are applying. If your SAT scores fall into that middle range you are generally going to be competitive for admission. To find the middle range of test scores you can look at the College Navigator web site. Find the college you are considering and click on the admissions tab. This will give you information about acceptances and rejections as well as average SAT and ACT test scores. Note that I said you would be competitive for admissions. If you are looking at some of the very selective colleges, test scores alone won’t tell you your chances of admission.

For most colleges, if your SAT scores put you in the top 25% of their average test scores, you will have a good chance of admission. Similarly, if your test scores put you in the bottom 25% of the average SAT scores, admissions will be more difficult.Β  But remember, very few colleges will make a decision for acceptance or rejection based solely on your SAT scores.


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  1. Jessica says

    what is a good ACT score? the highest i’ve gotten is a 30, but i don’t know where that is in relation to other students.

  2. Todd Johnson says


    Whether a particular score is good depends on the colleges to which you are thinking of applying. Generally a 30 composite on the ACT is considered a good score. Nationally, a 30 puts you in the 96% of all students taking the test. This score would make you competitive at almost every college in the country.


    Todd Johnson

  3. Todd Johnson says


    As I mentioned in the previous comment, the question of what is a good score depends on what particular colleges you might be considering. A 174 is a good score, particularly as a sophomore. However, it would most likely not be high enough to qualify you as a National Merit semi-finalist next year when you take the PSAT as the qualifying exam for National Merit.

    How much higher your score would need to be for National Merit depends on your state of residence.

    Take some practice SAT and ACT tests to see on which test you do the best and then concentrate your efforts on improving your score on that test. All colleges will accept either the SAT or ACT so you want to focus on your best test.

  4. Todd Johnson says


    A 200 on the PSAT is very good. You don’t say where you live but it is probably not high enough for National Merit Semi Finalist status but it is close in several states.

    Congratulations on a good score.

  5. Yunan says

    A 208 as a sophomore in Virginia. Would that be good enough for a college such as…say, UVA or William and Mary?

  6. Todd Johnson says


    A 208 as a sophomore is an excellent score. However, there is no way to say whether such a score is good for any particular selective college because there are so many other factors that are considered for admission. Very selective colleges consider many factors for admissions including what your grades are, the classes you took to get those grades, how well you write and your involvement in extracurricular activities.

    If you have very good grades in a fairly difficult curriculum then you would probably be competitive for the colleges you mention.

  7. Lexie J says

    Hi, I’m a junior in my high school and I just come from a small town, so I don’t know exactly what is a good score to get on a SAT, but here’s what I got (essay not included):

    Critical Reading-420

  8. Todd Johnson says


    Nationally the average score on each of the sections is about 500. I don’t really like the term “good” score because as I said in the article, it really depends on you and the type of college you are interested in.

    Your scores may be good for you and the colleges in which you might have an interest. If you would like to get higher scores then I would suggest you look at this post from my blog on preparing for standardized tests. http://www.collegeadmissionspartners.com/college-testing/prepare-for-sat-act/

    Otherwise, if you are satisfied with your scores just look at colleges where your scores are similar to other students who attend that college.

  9. BC says

    SAT test scores as a Junior are:
    CR 580
    Math 680
    Writing 560 (Mult. choice 59) (Essay 7)

    Would this be ok to get into a top public school?

  10. Todd Johnson says


    SAT test scores alone can’t determine whether you are going to get into a particular college. Although test scores are important for most public colleges, your grades and the classes you took to get those grades are more important at most colleges.

    The other issue with your question is what is a top public school. “Top” based on what criteria. Rankings in US News or other rankings? “Top” based on what people around you think?

    Public colleges favor students who are residents of their own state. So your scores may be fine for a public college in your state but not high enough for a public college in another state. There is no way to say with just the scores.

    I would suggest you take a look at the College Navigator website, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/ and look at the middle range of test scores of the colleges you have an interest in. If you are in the middle with your scores, you will be competitive if you also have strong grades.

  11. Chobbs says

    Hello, I am a sophmore in California and I received a 23 on my composite ACT score. Is this good or bad?

  12. Todd Johnson says


    A 23 on the ACT is fine. The national average is about 21 and the California average is 22. Typically, most students will go up several points between sophomore and junior year on the ACT. If you want to prepare for the junior year ACT I would recommend you look at this posting on preparing for the SAT/ACT.

    Don’t worry about whether your test is good or bad. Just do the best you can and then look at colleges with scores similar to yours. And remember that there are over 700 colleges in the US that are test optional.

  13. Jon says

    My son scored a 1520 on his PSAT, a 1550 on his last SAT (Math and Reading), a 35 on his ACT, and a 780 and 770 on his SAT 2’s. He is taking a full IB diploma, and has a weighted average over 100%. He is in the top ten of his class, President of the History and Math Honor Societies, and a bench player on Varsity football. My wife is freaking out about safe schools, but is he a realistic Ivy Leaguer in your professional opinion. Iknow it is ultra-competitive now-a-days, but I am leading him in the right direction?

  14. Todd Johnson says

    Your son’s test scores and grades make him competitive for the Ivy League schools. That being said, it is generally understood that over 80% of applicants to these schools are competitive. It takes much more than grades and test scores to get into the Ivy League colleges. The activities you list are fine but generally these schools will be looking for something more to distinguish your son from the rest of the crowd.

    I wouldn’t be freaking out about safety schools but your wife is right that your son needs to have several good safety schools that he would like to attend if he is looking at applying to the most competitive colleges. It is not at all unusual to see students with your son’s qualifications rejected by the most competitive colleges.

  15. Gabriel Q Martinez says

    Mr. Todd Johnson.
    I am impressed with the care and diplomacy which you extend students and families asking about good s.a.t. scores. Pointing out the differences caused by where you go to high school as well as where you want to go to college etc. must be very helpful.
    Long story short, I left school when I was 13 to work for my fathers rock hauling business and did not make it to college. Life comes first, he used to say. However, now in my 40’s I am writing a screenplay, and I wonder if you could humor me, take off the kid gloves, and give me some s.a.t. scores that would make ANYBODY sit up and take notice. For that matter, what is perfect?
    Your help would be appreciated,y quien sabe? maybe I can get you a screen credit. All in good fun, thank you in advance Mr. Johnson.

    Gabriel Martinez

  16. Todd Johnson says


    There are three sections to the SAT. A perfect score on each section is 800. Therefore, a “perfect” SAT score is 2400.

    This score will make anyone take notice. However, that doesn’t mean that a perfect SAT score will necessarily get a student into any college. The most selective colleges in the US regularly reject students with perfect SAT scores because scores alone are not what the colleges are looking for.

    Rather,colleges are looking for students that are likely to make a contribution to the campus. Yes, students need good grades and good test scores at the most competitive colleges but they also need to have a strong resume of extracurricular activities and strong writing skills.

    I hope that helps.

  17. Tara says

    I got scores of 33 on the ACT and 2120 on the SAT, but my GPA, even weighted, is only 3.86. I’m pretty good in most other areas, and I’m taking three more AP courses my senior year. I’m not concerned with getting into a good enough school, but I know that there’s no way that I can easily pay for one of those lovely expensive liberal-arts schools I’m interested in. I also won’t qualify for need-based financial aid.

    Would my reach-like schools, like Lewis & Clark and Pitzer, be willing to provide merit-based financial aid with these scores?

  18. Todd Johnson says


    Your ACT score is above the 75% of both Lewis & Clark and Pitzer so you would be competitive for merit based aid. There is of course no way to tell for sure at these schools whether you would get merit aid. Average merit aid is a little higher at Lewis & Clark than Pitzer and Lewis & Clark is much less selective than Pitzer.

    I would recommend calling the financial aid office at each school and asking for the typical grades and test scores of students receiving merit aid this past year. They will emphasize that this is not an indication of what might happen this year but in most cases it will tell you how competitive you are likely to be for merit aid.

  19. Renoka says

    Hi im a sophomore and i recently took the practice SAT test.I got my scores back and I had
    Grammer: 57
    Essay: 6
    Compared to other students my age, are these good scores. I live in New York City and would like to go to John Jay college

  20. Todd Johnson says


    Your scores are above the 75% range for students currently at John Jay college so I would say they are good scores. Of course SAT scores are just one part of the admission considerations but it looks like your SAT scores should be good for John Jay.

  21. Greg says

    Hi, I am a senior and my SAT score is an 1820. Is this score competitive enough to get me into the University of Florida (I live in Florida)? I feel I can do better and I am taking the test again next week.I’ll list some information that would help you answer my question.

    My father is an alumni
    I am heavily involved in extracurricular activities and community service
    My GPA is a 3.8


  22. Todd Johnson says


    While there are no guarantees in college admissions it sounds as if you will be competitive for admissions at the University of Florida. The middle 50% of their SAT critical reading scores is 570 to 680. The middle 50% of their SAT math scores is 590 to 700.

    The extracurricular activities and community service are good to have but most large public colleges rely heavily on your GPA and test scores.

    Just make sure you have some other colleges that you are applying to that might be somewhat easier to get into.

    Good luck.

  23. Roy Smith says

    I am junior. My SAT score is 2070. Is it a good score for scholarship and admission in a good school? I like to major in Bioscience.

  24. Todd Johnson says


    A 2070 would be considered a good score at most colleges. Whether it is sufficient for merit scholarship money or admissions depends on the colleges you are considering.

    For merit scholarship money you should focus on colleges where your SAT score is above the 75% of their average test scores. However, also keep in mind that, depending on your financial circumstances, you may qualify for need based aid. Look at the webpage for basic financial aid to understand how financial aid works. http://www.collegeadmissionspartners.com/resources/info-to-know/financial-aid-basics/

  25. Jenny says


    My scores for the SAT were
    Math: 750
    Reading: 670
    Writing: 660
    Are they good enough for schools like Johns Hopkins, Emory, and Northwestern?

    I am also taking SAT II subject tests. I’m not sure if I should send them in, because it appears that anything less than a 700 is not helpful to your application…

  26. Todd Johnson says


    Your SAT scores are generally in the mid range of test scores for the three colleges you mention so yes they are fine. Of course, test scores are just one part of the application process for highly selective colleges.

    Northwestern and Johns Hopkins both recommend that you submit SAT subject test. Generally, when colleges say they recommend something, I tell students that they may be at a disadvantage if they fail to submit the scores particularly if you have taken the SAT. If you have taken the ACT then I think you have a stronger argument for not sending the Subject Tests.

  27. Anna says

    Hi, I’m currently a junior and I’ve gotten a 2110 on the SAT
    (Reading- 680
    and a 33 on the ACT.
    Also, I currently have a 4.6 GPA, or 4.0 unweighted, and don’t have excessive extracurricular activities, but I am greatly involved in and contributive to all the activities that I AM involved in.
    Considering these factors, do I stand a good chance at getting in to Northwestern, U of Chicago, or the ivy leagues?

  28. Todd Johnson says


    Your grades and test scores are very strong and they will make you competitive for the colleges you mentioned. Colleges like these that are very selective generally require a certain level of grades and test scores to be competitive. But they are looking for much more than just grades and test scores. They will also evaluate the courses you have taken and whether you have challenged yourself with your classes.

    They will also want to see your activities and your level of involvement. They will closely evaluate the essays you write for your applications. These are just a few of the other issues that may come into play with selective college admissions.

    The other thing I would mention is that while you mention some very good schools they are also very different. Northwestern and the University of Chicago are both great colleges in Chicago but they are very different schools. Most students who would be happy at one of these colleges would not be as happy at the other. And the 8 colleges of the Ivy League are also all very different colleges.

    You need to determine what you are looking for in a college and then find colleges that meet your needs.

  29. Alice says

    Hello! I’m a junior in Virginia and I just found out that I got a 220 on the PSAT. I was wondering if I had a chance of making Semifinalist status? Thanks!

  30. Todd Johnson says


    I did a quick check and it looks like the cutoff score for Virginia this year is 218 so you should be in the running. I have not confirmed this with National Merit but you could do so by calling them to confirm the cutoff score for Virginia.

    Congratulations on a great PSAT score.

  31. Leah says

    Hi, I’m in eighth grade in Virginia. I am in a gifted program and was given the opportunity to take the PSAT. It was such a good opportunity, I couldn’t resist. I have talked to my guidance counselor and I was told that my scores are good for my lack of knowledge. My scores are;
    Critical Reading 470
    Mathematics 440
    Writing Skills 460
    I am wondering where I stand with juniors and seniors. Thanks!

  32. Todd Johnson says


    Good for you for doing well in school. The middle 50% score for the SAT is about 500 for each section. Your scores are very solid for an 8th grader.

  33. Zach says

    I’m looking at MIT (or a school of equal notoriaty). Here are my stats:
    unweighted GPA – 3.80
    Weighted – 4.61
    Top 10% of my class
    SAT – 2080
    Math 770
    CR – 650
    Writing – 660
    I have a number of extracuriculars (4 of which I hold or have held a presidential position)
    I have many state/national level awards (gold presidential service award, National AP scholar, etc.) and many awards from my school (highest scorer on the AMC 11, Excellent band member, etc.)
    In addition to this I will have between 1 1/2 and 2 years of college credit from AP courses when I graduate high school.
    Honestly, what do you think my chance are?
    By the way, what are the chances of becoming a national merit scholar (commended student)with a PSAT score of 198 in North Carolina?

  34. Todd Johnson says


    Congratulations on being a strong student. As I am sure you know, MIT is extremely competitive for admissions. Your critical reading score is slightly below their 25% level. Last year their admission rate was only about 13% and whenever the rate is that low, admissions is unlikely. While you certainly will be considered you should also have some other colleges that you are applying to that are a more likely choice.

    The cutoff for North Carolina this year was 214. My guess is you will be close for commended students.

  35. Brandon Agosto says

    So I’m a collegebound senior that has already taken the SAT three times and I already assured myself that would be enough. I’m very much interested in the University of Florida and it seems the only thing that could stop me would be my low sat scores. I have a 4.8 weighted GPA and I’m ranked in the top 10% in my graduating class of 900 seniors.
    Here are my scores:
    Critical Reading- 580
    Math- 460
    Writing- 620
    Essay- 10
    I know my math scores don’t add up to my others and my essay score really surprised me but I’m not so sure if that will help. I guess my question is, how much will my low scores affect my chances of getting into the University of Florida?

    Thank you in advance.

  36. Todd Johnson says


    Most state universities weight grades and test scores most importantly. Your grades are good but your math score is low. No one other than the admissions staff at the University of Florida can say what your chances of acceptance are. To be safe you should make sure you are also applying to some colleges where your chances are more likely.

  37. Jenny says

    Hello again, Todd.

    I just submitted my applications for Northwestern and Johns Hopkins, and I’m feeling TERRIBLE about the supplement essays. Sadly I’ve been looking around at other essays (not for ideas, it’s too late) and realize how short mine are, or that they are not as in-depth as other people’s are. How much do these supplement essays weigh in? Everything else, like my main essay, ACT/SAT II scores,grades,and teachers’ recommendations, I feel confident.

  38. Todd Johnson says


    Whether an SAT score is good depends on many factors including the colleges you are considering. Just for reference, the average score on all 3 sections of the SAT is 1,500. If only two tests, critical reading and math, are considered, the average is 1,000.

    I hope that helps.

  39. Todd Johnson says


    Your scores are all above average. But the issue is how they compare to the colleges in which you might have an interest. If you know some colleges in which you have an interest you can go to http://www.collegeboard.com and search for that college. The information on each college includes the middle range of test scores for that particular college. If you are in the middle range of test scores, assuming you have strong grades, you will be competitive for admissions to that college. Of course, the more selective the college, the more difficult admissions will be since they consider much more than grades and test scores.

  40. Ann says

    Oh, I forgot to add my age. I’m thirteen. I’m in eighth grade, and had to take these for summer camp, not college. I don’t know at all what colleges I have interests in, I’m saving that for after I know what high school I’m going to next fall. Are they “good” scores for a thirteen year old?

  41. Raymond says

    Hello, I got my SAT scores back. I’m in 8th grade, 13, but I took the SAT when I was 12. Are these good scores? Because I did terrible in Critical Reading and Writing, but do you think they can improve over time?

    570 Critical Reading
    720 Mathematics
    560 Writing


  42. Todd Johnson says


    Most students do score higher as they get older, particularly when the test is taken early as you did. As you continue to read and write it is likely that these scores will go up. Many students can also improve their test scores on the SAT through practice tests, and other test prep.

  43. Lina says

    Raymond, I think I know you. :p

    I also took the test right before I turned 13. I’ve decided to keep my scores and not retake when I get to high school. If I do keep them as my only scores, will colleges care that it was in eighth grade?

    They were 800 math, 800 CR, 720 writing. There’s not much in the way of improvement to be had there except the essay.

    So hopefully colleges disregard test dates? Or if they don’t, will this be viewed in a positive light? πŸ˜€

    Whee~ Thank you.

  44. Todd Johnson says


    Congratulations on very good test scores. Whether a college will accept those scores differs depending on the college. Some colleges don’t care when you took the SAT or ACT while some will want a score within the past 2 years.

    My guess is that most colleges will not care when you took the test. However, keep in mind that at the most selective colleges, test scores and grades alone are not enough for admissions. They are also looking at other items such as your extracurricular activities, your essays, any volunteer activities, those sorts of things.

    Get good grades in high school and get involved in some activities in which you have an interest and you should be a strong candidate for college in a few years.

  45. Steve Demitrius says

    Hi I’m a junior. I took the SAT for the 1st time this year. I got an 1820: 610 reading, 580 math, and 630 writing with a 10 on my essay. I go to school 6 days a week during the spring and fall semesters and 3 days a week during the summer semester. I have a job that I will have held for 2 years this June. I’m going to take the Math 2 SAT in June. I also need to take another SAT subject but i’m not sure which one to take. I’m going to have between 45 and 55 college credits by the time I graduate from AP/CIS courses and other programs. I’m also looking to have 100 hours or more of volunteering by the time i graduate.
    I’m interested in UC Berkeley, Suffolk and Penn state. Should I take the ACT too? I’m kind of discouraged that my friend who goes to berkeley now got a 2040 on her SAT and a 34 on her ACT. Should I let that bother me?

  46. Todd Johnson says


    I would suggest that you take a practice ACT test rather than an actual scheduled exam. You SAT score is about the same as a 26 to 27 on the ACT. If you do better than that on your practice test you might want to schedule an ACT test.

    I can’t give you specific advise regarding particular colleges because there are too many other issues involved in the looking at who is a good candidate for a particular college. I will say that you should ignore what your friend got on her test scores. Test scores are important for admissions to many colleges but there are many other factors that come into play as well. Grades are the most important factor in college admissions so the most important thing you can do is to keep your grades up and take challenging courses.

  47. Raymond says

    Wow, Lina, you found this site too. πŸ˜›

    Thanks, I will try to read more and improve my scores. πŸ˜€

  48. Chris miller says

    my name is chris. I scored a 33 on the act a 2100 on the sat and have a weighted gpa of 4.15. I am in the ib program and am in nhs. I was at least a national merit commended student, am an eagle scout, and I have won several awards including a Masonic lodge award. I played 6 sports in high school, 2 varsity. I have had a summer job for two years. I was wondering if I have a realistic chance of getting into the ivy league schools.

  49. Todd Johnson says


    You have strong academic credentials and will be competitive for an ivy league college. The problem with the very selective colleges is that the majority of students applying also have very strong academic credentials. You will need something to distinguish your self from every one else to be the strongest candidate for a very selective college.

    Most colleges will like that you are an eagle scout because it shows dedication and maturity. The job also shows that. Most of your other background is nice but nothing special for the highly selective colleges.

    These colleges are looking for students with a passion. It doesn’t matter what that passion is as long as it is your passion. You need to figure out what your passion is and how to communicate it to the colleges.

    Finally, a comment on the Ivy League. These are some good colleges but they are all very different from each other. You need to figure out what you are looking for in a college and then find a college that fits your needs. That may or may not be an Ivy League college. For example, a student that likes Columbia is not very likely to feel the same way about Dartmouth. And vice versa. They are just two very different colleges that happen to be in the same athletic league.

    Also, there are many very strong academic colleges outside the Ivy League and in my opinion, many of those will give students a better undergraduate education than they may receive at an Ivy League college.

    Don’t apply to colleges based on a name. Find the best colleges for you, whichever that might be.

  50. Maria says

    What kind of colleges are “matches” for an ACT composite score of 30?? I’m also taking the IB; predicted score anywhere from 33-37.

    Im interested in physical therapy / health & nutrition / sport exercise -science but I’m an international student. How competitive are the places available? I heard its really hard to study these courses in the US if you’re not an US citizen

  51. kevin says

    780 math
    690 writing
    640 CR

    32 ACT

    would these scores be considered good enough to get into USC?

  52. Jimmy Stacker says


    I am looking at Boston University. My father works there and my three siblings all attend the school now. I am a junior in high school and am not so sure I can follow in the same path as my family. I am big into community service, clubs, and athletics. Should I be worried about getting into BU if I apply early decision?

    Math: 550

    GPA: 3.2

  53. Todd Johnson says


    There is much more that goes into finding the right college than just your test score. Location, size of college, social atmosphere are just a few of the considerations. To get an idea of what colleges have a composite score of 30 as their average you can look at the college navigator website. http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/

    Keep in mind for admissions, however, the colleges also consider more than test scores. They will look at your grades, classes taken, rigor of your school, your extracurricular activities and other factors when deciding admissions.

    Competition for international students applying to selective colleges in the US is more intense than for US students because there are not as many spots available. Financial aid is also very limited for international students. If you do not need financial aid, it will be somewhat easier to gain admission but still very competitive.

  54. Todd Johnson says


    There are many factors that colleges consider besides test scores in making admissions decisions. Your test scores fall within the middle 50% of scores at USC so you will be competitive based on test scores alone. However, at most colleges, the biggest factor in admissions are your grades and the courses taken to get those grades. Colleges will also look at other factors like your extracurricular activities and essays in making admissions decisions.

    At those colleges that admit small numbers of students, including USC, even if you have good grades, test scores and involvement in activities, I still recommend that you have some other colleges as options that are more likely to admit you. It is best to keep your options open at this point.

  55. Todd Johnson says


    Your grades and test scores are low for Boston University. However, as I have said before, colleges look at many factors besides grades and test scores. Having a parent who works at the college and having siblings that attend the college will most likely help. Applying early decision will also help. Having good extracurricular activities will help. Whether all of that will out weigh your lower grades and test scores is only for BU to say.

    I would say apply but also apply to some colleges where you have a more solid chance of acceptance. If you get into BU, great. But if not, you will still have good options if you do your homework.

  56. bri says

    I’m a junior and I got
    590 in math
    590 in reading
    and 570 in writing with an 8 on the essay for my first time taking the SATs
    should i take them again? i’m really interested in Champlain College which doesn’t focus much around SATs, but my GPA is a 2.8 so I kind of need the extra booth

  57. Todd Johnson says


    I generally recommend that students take a standardized test twice to see how they do. However, if you are going to take the test again, I would recommend doing some prep work as you can sometimes improve your score by understanding the test better.

    Grades are more important than test scores for most schools and there are plenty of colleges that are willing to accept a student with a 2.8 GPA. Champlain certainly does accept students with these types of grades and test scores. I would also make sure you have some other colleges on your list that are similar to Champlain.

  58. Thinh N. says

    Mr Todd Johnson,
    i found this is a very useful site to know more about SAT score. I want to ask for your recommendation.
    I am a junior right now. Actually, I am a transfer student ( just on last November, 2009). I just only enroll here for junior & senior year. My GPA is 4.13 ( weighted) or 4.0 ( unweighted).
    SAT score: 1680. CR: 390 Writing: 510 Math 780 Essay: 8
    I am going to retake SAT I again in October
    I have outstanding team member for 2 honor math contest. I’m in the band, too. Are they counted as extracuricular activities ?

    I want to apply for UC System ( university of California), especially UCSD . Are my scores considered good enough ?

    Thinh N.

  59. Thinh N. says

    Mr Todd Johnson,
    i found this is a very useful site to know more about SAT score. I want to ask for your recommendation.
    I am a junior right now. Actually, I am a transfer student ( just on last November, 2009). I just only enroll here for junior & senior year. My GPA is 4.13 ( weighted) or 4.0 ( unweighted).
    SAT score: 1680. Critical Reading: 390 Writing: 510 Math 780 Essay: 8
    I am going to retake SAT I again in October
    I have outstanding team member for 2 honor math contest. I’m in the band, too. Are they counted as extracuricular activities ?

    I want to apply for UC System ( university of California), especially UCSD . Are my scores considered good enough ?


    Thinh N.

  60. Todd Johnson says


    Your participation in band and math contests are extracurricular activities. I am afraid I can’t really give an opinion on your chances for the UC system including UCSD. There are many variables that come into play in the decision of who gets admitted to a particular school. I can tell you that while your math score is very good, your reading and writing scores are both below the 25% range for UCSD. Your reading score in particular will most likely be a problem for a selective college. You also don’t say if you are a resident of California as the UC system gives strong preference for in-state students.

  61. Max says

    Mr. Johnson,
    I’m a Junior who recently just finished my first SAT. I got a 760 Math, 660 Reading, and 620 Writing (Essay 8, Multiple-Choice 63), and I’m a student of New Jersey. I generally have a mid-B average and a 3.3-3.7 unweighted GPA, a bit higher weighted. I don’t really do many extracurricular activities, just varsity Bowling. I just want to know your professional opinion on how well of a chance I’d have at places like Sacred Heart U in Connecticut, or Swarthmore in Pennsylvania, my two main choices.

  62. Todd Johnson says


    There are too many factors that go into the college admissions process for me to say what your chances might be at a particular college. Colleges are most interested in your grades and the classes you took to get those grades with test scores being somewhat less important. Colleges are also concerned about such issues as your extracurrucilar activities, your background and how well your write.

    I can tell you generally that your test scores are very good for Sacred Heart and above their 75% range. Your grades are also probably competitive for Sacred Heart assuming you have been taking college prep classes and some AP classes.

    Swarthmore is much more competitive for admissions and while your math score is in the middle 50%, your reading and writing scores are below their 25% range. Your grades are also on the low side for Swarthmore. Based just on grades and test scores I think Swarthmore will be a reach.

    I hope that helps.

  63. Tom says

    I am currnetly a Junior in high school. I have a 4.0 gpa and I took 3 AP classes this year and will take 5 next year. I received a 2030 on my sat. The breakdown was 710 math 670 reading 650 writing. I wanted to know if my sat score hurts me for admission to the Ivy League schools or the next tier right below like Duke and Georgetown.

    Thank You

  64. Todd Johnson says


    Your SAT scores are good but most successful applicants to the most selective colleges are generally a little higher on the SAT. Your GPA and classes appear to be very strong and are competitive.

    However, for the most selective colleges you need more than grades and test scores to be a strong candidate for admission. Your extracurricular activities, leadership indications and application essays can also have significant impact on your chances of admissions even with great grades and test scores. Other factors for admissions include whether you are a recruited athlete, do you have a hook at a particular college, do you have some of geographically difference and other factors such as these.

  65. austen says

    I am a rising senior in Alabama with an unweighted gpa of around 3.8, an ACT score of 33 and an SAT score of 2030 and 1970 and have taken almost all the AP classes my school has to offer (only ones left are AP physics, calculus and art). I plan on taking the SAT II this summer and the SAT a final time in August or so. I am president of National Honors Society and an active member of Key club and have played the piano for 9 years. I just moved from Florida which is why my extracurriculars are slightly lower, butat my old school, I was part of newspaper,math club and tutoring programs. What are my chances of getting into Emory, Vanderbilt, Rice, UNC at Chapel Hill, etc. Thanks!

  66. Todd Johnson says


    You are a good student and would be competitive for those schools but I do not give opinions on someone’s chances at a particular college. Selective colleges like those you list are all looking first at the grades you have and the classes you took to get those grades. They also look at your test scores but good grades and test scores alone will not get you into a selective college. They also consider your extracurricular activities, your personal background, volunteer activities, your essays and other factors. Selective colleges are looking not only for strong students but also interesting students that will make for an interesting class. This means different things for different colleges.

    Because of all of these variables there is no way someone can give you a realistic estimate of your chances at a particular selective college with out much more information.

    Look at the mid range of test scores and also apply to some colleges where your grades and test scores are in the top 25% of test scores for that college. Assuming good essays and presentation on your application, that should help you find colleges where the chance of admission is more likely.

    Making sure you have a range of selectivity of schools to which you apply will make sure you have some good choices in your senior year.

  67. Ana W. says

    Hi there!
    I am asking for advice about my chances of getting into certain schools. These are my stats so far (this is the summer before my senior year):
    SAT: CR-670, Math-640, Writing-800 (total: 2110)

    3.8 weighted gpa

    swim team captain, club founder/ president, language club vp, active volunteer, nhs member

  68. Ana W. says

    haha whoa I just forgot to say which schools I am interested in.

    I have my heart set on Brown and Georgetown. I am a Texas resident, but not in the top 8 percent so my chances of getting into UTexas are sort of slim, although I still want to apply. I am also interested in the University of Washington, American University, Washington University in St. Louis, Northeastern University, and all of the Ivys. Thank you for all of your help:)

  69. Todd Johnson says


    I don’t give chances for students at particular colleges because there are too many factors to consider than can be discussed on a website.

    You do have good grades and test scores but the Ivy League colleges, Washington University in St. Louis, and Northwestern are all very selective in admissions. They might be appropriate for a reach but I think it is wise to have other less selective colleges such as some of your other choices.

  70. fran says

    my son scored a 2210 on his SAT. CR=800,math=640 and writing=770. Ae these socres competitive for top universities? He will also be NMS commended student has a GPA of 3.5 or higher is also NHS, NYSSHS first robotics as well as several clubs and community service. Should take the Sat again as this was his first time taking it?

  71. Mariah says

    Hey. I just took my SAT and my scores were: Reading – 540, Writing – 640 (MC:61, Essay: 10), & Math – 580. I participate in Model UN, Key Leader, Bible Club, & Audio Drama Club. I’m a freshman at an early college high which is a five year program, but I’m going to graduate a year early. I’ll have two years of college credits at graduation. I’ve taken all advanced and college classes. I’ll also have at least 400 volunteer hours by graduation. I have a 4.0 GPA. Now I have a few questions. How much can I expect my SAT scores to improve over the next few years? From what I’ve told you, what schools do you think I have a good chance(at least a 75% chance) of getting accepted into? Would MIT be a completely unreasonable option?

  72. Todd Johnson says


    Your son’s SAT scores are very good, particularly the reading and writing scores. Most colleges do superscore the SAT so I would recommend taking the SAT again to see if he can get the math score up somewhat.

    While test scores are important, colleges look at the grades and the courses taken to get those grades as the most important factor in admissions. So he also needs to make sure he keeps his grades up.

  73. Todd Johnson says


    Good to see you are planning early for college admissions. As a freshman your SAT scores are fine. Most students scores will increase as they progress through school although there is no way to say how much a particular student will improve. I would suggest that you get a copy of the SAT real tests from the College Board and practice on these tests over the next few years. Most students can improve just be understanding the type of questions asked on the exam and figuring out why you might get a particular type of question wrong. Focus on understanding why you get that type of question wrong and you have a better chance on the actual exam of getting those questions right.

    At this point it would be a total guess to say what colleges would be appropriate in 3 years. Keep your grades up, improve your SAT scores and have strong extracurricular activities to show your passion and leadership and you will be a strong candidate for most colleges.

  74. fran says

    what does being a commended student by the National merit scholarship do for a college bound student?

  75. Ahmed says

    i have a GPA of 3.7 (on a 4.0 scale), however my SAT score is pretty low (1680). What will colleges look at the most? and what colleges should i apply to?

  76. Todd Johnson says


    Generally, being a commended student in itself doesn’t do much for college admissions. It does indicate that you did well on the SAT which is good. There are a few colleges that might give some scholarship for a commended student.

  77. Todd Johnson says


    Most colleges give more weight to grades than test scores. To find the best colleges for you, you need to figure out what you want from a college. Size, location, academic competitiveness, that sort of thing. Once you know what you are looking for in a college you can look at the College Navigator website. http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/

    That website lets you look for colleges based on your criteria as well as your test scores.

  78. Thu says

    Hi.I just got my SAT score back and received a 1820.
    My GPA is 3.9 and I’m taking a lot of AP courses and doing well in them too. My extracurricular activities are moderate.
    I’m looking at Emory and Johns Hopkins as possible schools for college application. What are my chances?

  79. Todd Johnson says


    Unfortunately, I am unable to give you your chances because there is much more to the admissions process than just grades and test scores. I can tell you, based on your SAT scores alone, that your scores are in the bottom 25% of students accepted to both Johns Hopkins and Emory. This is not to say that you might not get in but you would need something else in your application that would offset the SAT scores.

  80. Joanne says

    My daughter who is entering 9th grade in the coming fall just took SAT I and got the follwing –
    reading – 570
    math – 720
    writing – 600
    Do you consider this is a fine score for a 8th grader and expect she will have much improvement during her high school years? Her dream college is Wellesley and Univ.of Chicago. Thanks.

  81. Todd Johnson says


    For a rising 9th grader those are good scores. Based on the typical student, she is likely to improve on her reading and writing scores but since the math score is already high, it will most likely not improve as much.

    Keep in mind that competitive colleges like Wellesley and U of Chicago do not look at test scores alone. Grades and the courses taken to get those grades are more important than test scores. Also, the very selective colleges like this also consider many other factors including the application essays, extracurricular activities, leadership, diversity including geographic and ethnic, and volunteer activities to name a few.

    The best thing is that your daughter has more than 3 years to work on all of these issues and search for the best college for her needs.

  82. Barry Grant says

    My son scored a total of 1280 on the SAT. He hopes to get into one of the CSU campuses in/around the SF Bay Area, but I’m concerned his scores may not been good enough… He’s an average student, but with much more ability than his grades/test scores reflect… Does such a test score limit his options to mostly junior colleges? I appreciate your help…

  83. Todd Johnson says


    You don’t say whether the SAT score was on just the math and reading or also included the writing. Either way, with the increased competition on many colleges including the CSU’s may be a reach depending on his grades and the classes taken. I can’t really comment without knowing more information.

    However, California is lucky to have some very good 2 year colleges and many of them place students into very good 4 year colleges in California and elsewhere. The goal is to find the best college for him whether it be a 4 year college or a 2 year college.

  84. Vic says

    Are this bad or goos score for SAT????Critical Reading 330 5%
    Math 420 20%
    Writing 330 5%
    Multiple Choice 28 (score range: 20-80)
    Essay 8 (score range: 2-12)

  85. Todd Johnson says


    SAT scores are relative so good or bad is not really the issue. The issue is how do your scores compare to other students who are interested in the schools in which you have an interest. As you point out, the scores listed are less when compared to other students who have taken the test.

    I would also mention that some students just do not do well with standardized testing. For them, a test optional college may be the best choice. A list of those colleges can be found at http://www.fairtest.org/university/optional

  86. Ashley says

    I’m a junior in high school and I just took the SAT. I got a 1790 overall but my grade point average is low- 2.7. Do I even have any hope of getting into a good 4 year college?

  87. Todd Johnson says


    You absolutely have a great chance of getting into a good school. Now, it may or may not be a school you have heard of before, but with almost 3,000 4 year colleges in this country there are “good” colleges for every one.

    I will tell you, however, that the number one factor that colleges consider in the admissions process are the high school grades and courses taken to get those grades. So, get serious about school and work this next year to get your grades up. The higher your grades, the more options you will have when you are looking to find the best college for you.

  88. Kelsey Thompson says

    I will be a senior at a Catholic College Prepatory school. I am currently #1 ranked in my class. My weighted GPA is a 4.42 and my unweighted is a 3.9. I continue to take a rigorous load of classes this coming year. I am very involved in my school(academic decathalon, several clubs with officer positions, senior class officer, and several, several hours of community service). I have also won state and district competitions in art and two national medals in the national Spanish exam. Art is my passion and I have continuted this throughout highschool. MY SAT superscored is Math 730, Reading 670, and writing 790. SAT MATH II-800 and Spanish 750. I took the ACT twice. The first time was a 32 composite(reading 32,math 33, english 34, science 28, writing 32) The 2nd ACT was 33 composite(reading 34, math 35, english 29, science 32, writing 27)
    I was initially very excited when I saw the 33 from the second ACT test but then was very disappointed at the writing score and even the english score. Both dropped, writing alot, but the reading and math really increased which pushed the score to a 33. My writing SAT was a 790!
    Should I be concerned about this and perhaps not send this 33 ACT score out? Art is my passion and math is my strongest skill. I am going to be applying into architectural schools such as Princeton and Rice, so I am worried about my scores. I am also looking into USC because I have heard they have a strong achitectural college but I would need some merit aid scholarhsips to cover costs of much of the tuition.
    Thank you for you comments.

  89. Todd Johnson says


    All of the test scores you mention are much above average and in most cases would be considered very good. I would not worry about sending the second ACT score and would send both ACT scores. Colleges understand that your subscores can vary from test to test and the fact that you have a strong composite score will be the main issue.

    That being said, you are looking at some very competitive colleges and programs and grades and test scores alone are not enough. Your grades and test scores are competitive for the most selective colleges and they will not be the reason you get accepted or not accepted into one of these colleges. The decision to accept will be made on the rest of your application and essays and whether you fit what a particular college is looking for at a particular time.

    Make sure that you have some less selective colleges that you are applying to as well so that you have some choices next April.

  90. Kelsey Thompson says

    Thank you Mr.Johnson for your comments. They are greatly appreciated! Kelsey

  91. Tina Huang says

    Hi I am going to be a junior this following school year I have not taken the an official SATs yet but I have taken a practice test to see where I am at and these are my following scores
    Critical Reading 580

    Math 590

    Writing 590 with essay 11/12

    Total 1760

    I know I need to improve these scores dramatically because I want to get into an ivy league school. I have a 4.00 unweighted GPA I’m on the varsity swim team and varsity water polo team. I created my own club at my school that donates money and supplies to African countries and has done over 100 hours of community service. I am also an officer in my class leadership. What are my chances of getting in an ivy league college at this rate if I manage to boost my SAT scores dramatically?

  92. Todd Johnson says


    If you can get your SAT scores up you will be competitive for the Ivy League type colleges. The key word here is competitive. Even those students with perfect grades and perfect test scores are not guaranteed admission to colleges that are this selective. There are many other factors that come into play such as your extracurricular activities, your writing ability, your leadership skills and many more.

    I would also suggest that you view your college choices different than just looking at the Ivy League colleges. You need to determine what you want from a college and then find colleges that fit your needs. The 8 colleges of the Ivy League are all good colleges but also very different from each other. For example, a student that would like Columbia’s core program is not likely to like the open approach of Brown, and vice versa. The atmosphere of Dartmouth is very different than Princeton. Don’t just look at schools based on the name of the college.

  93. Samuel says


    My name is Samuel and I will be a sophomore this year. These are my scores in each subject:

    Critical Reading: 500
    Math: 520
    Writing: 610 (Essay: 8)

    I have been studying a lot for the SAT this summer and I know I need to get my score up. Do you think I can get into Indiana University of Bloomington? How about Northwestern? UCLA? I have a 3.9 GPA and I’m involved in student council, spanish club, key club, JV tennis, and I have 50 hours of volunteering.. I will get that to 200 hours soon. My question is 1) what are my chances of raising my score from a 1630 to a 2000 with studying (my goal score)? 2) What colleges do you think I can get in to by the time I apply in a couple of years? 3) i had an SAT tutor at one point but it was expensive.. do you think I should get one again?

  94. Todd Johnson says


    You have good grades and extracurricular activities but at this point it is way too early to give ideas of what colleges might be appropriate for you. Historically, many people have increased test scores as the take the scores later in their high school career. Raising your score almost 400 points would not be typically but if you study for the test in the next few years it is possible.

    SAT and ACT test tutors can help but to start I generally recommend a different approach. First, take a practice test of the SAT and ACT to see on which test you do best. You can find free practice tests of each at the website for each test. Then when you know which test you do better on, focus your efforts on that test. Every college now days will accept either test.

    After you decide which test to focus on, buy the official test prep book from that company, the ACT or the Collegeboard for the SAT. The official test guides will have real old tests which are more accurate to test with than those used by other organizations. If you study from those books and take a number of practice tests, you will probably determine that you don’t need a tutor or that you only need a tutor in a particular topic. Once you know where you need the most help, the tutor can give you more focused help. This is more helpful and cheaper since you don’t have to worry about getting help with the whole test.

  95. Matt says

    Hi Todd. This summer I attended the Junior Statesmen Summer School at Georgetown. This was a 3 week summer school where I took a course on American Government. I received a grade of 98 in this college level course. Will this help me in the admissions process and as a follow-up will it help me at Georgetown specifically?

    Statistics: 2120 SAT 710M 740 CR 670 W
    32 ACT
    4.0 unweighted gpa
    3 AP courses (8 by graduation)
    scores of 5,5,4 on AP Exams
    I will be a senior in the Fall.
    Any advice overall would be fantastic.

  96. Todd Johnson says


    Congratulations on doing well in the class at Georgetown. There may be some small benefit to doing well in the class because it shows that you are ready to do college level work. However, your grades and classes taken in high school along with your test scores and other activities will be far more important in the college admissions process.

    Keep up your grades in senior year and make sure that you have a good range of colleges to which you are applying.

    Typically, classes taken at a college while a high school student do not have much, if any, impact on admissions decisions. Where it can be helpful is the knowledge you have gained about Georgetown after having been there for 3 weeks. You should now have a much better understanding of that college and be able to express your new found knowledge when discussing the college on your college application.

  97. Lindsey says

    Hey Todd. I took the SAT in June at the end of my Junior year and got 2100. It looks good averaged, but my individual low and high scores differ by 170 points. Is this weird? Do I still have a chance at getting into any selective colleges?

    Math – 610
    Writing – 720
    Critical Reading – 780

    How much is that low math score going to hurt me? I really don’t want to retake the test. Should I? I have a 4.0 gpa but am not involved in any extra-curricular activities through my school (it’s really small school in a small community with few opportunities for… well, anything. Is this going to count against me?) I am a half-way decent photographer though (do colleges care about that?)

    Oh, and I have taken two AP classes (I passed the second one with a 3) and plan to take three more in my senior year (my school’s AP program is just getting started though, and as a result a lot of the scores have been low, so it’s unsure wether I will actually pass any of them.) Any advice is appreciated, thanks!

  98. Todd Johnson says


    The range on your SAT score is not weird. Assuming you do not have an interest in going into a field that depends on a lot of math, the score should not be a huge problem for most colleges. Your GPA is more important for almost all colleges.

    The biggest concern I have is your lack of extracurricular activities. The selective colleges, like all colleges look first at your grades, the classes taken for those grades, and in most instances your test scores. However, to distinguish between all of the strong students who are applying, they then look to many other factors including your extracurricular activities to decide who to admit.

    A selective college is a college that does not admit most of the students that apply. I think you will have a good chance at many selective colleges. However, for the most selective colleges, those accepting less than about 35% of the students who apply, your chances may be less because of your lack of activities. Depending on where you are located, you may get a bump in admissions for geography. I would make sure that in your application somewhere you explain why you don’t have more activities.

    Again, there are many factors that go into play with selective college admissions and you may have something that helps balance out your lack of activities. I would suggest that you just make sure that you are applying to some colleges where the chance of acceptance is good if you are also applying to the more selective colleges.

  99. Sam says

    Hi. Im am currently a senior and starting to think about where exactly I want to apply for college.

    I was commended for the PSAT, have a GPA of 4.48, SAT score of 2230 (740 reading/760 math/730 writing) and an ACT score of 32 (though I am retaking it). I have gotten all 5’s on my AP tests (AP bio, Ap European History, AP US History and AP CA III).

    I am very involved at my school in Thearer/Forensics (i was a national qualifier), environmental club (member of the ecomeet state champion team), Stuco, Categories, Academic Decathalon and Comedy Troupe, NHS.

    Am I a viable candidate for IVY league schools such as Yale, Cornell, Brown? I know these would be reach schools.

    What would better help me stand out and seem exceptional?

    Any comment will help!

    — Sam

  100. Todd Johnson says


    Given the grades, test scores and activities you mention, you would be competitive for colleges like those you mention. As you note, however, there are many good students who do not gain admission to those highly selective colleges so make sure that you are applying to some other colleges as well where your chances of admittance are greater.

    The biggest factor I would mention to strengthen your chances of admittance to a highly selective college is to focus your application and essays on your most importance activities. Highly selective colleges are generally looking for individual students that have a particular focus. Yours might be debate and ecology for example. The higher your level of accomplishment in those activities the more competitive the student often is. So, doing debate at the national level is much more impressive than being the best in your city.

    I hope that helps.

  101. Adi says

    Hi. I first gave my SAT in November, scoring a 2180 with a 790 Math, 740 CR and 650 WR. I was disappointed with my writing score but realized that I could definitely improve it on my second go. However, on my second go in May, I only focused on the WR: scoring a 780 WR, but dropping to 700 in CR and 690 in M. I was obviously very disappointed with my math score since it’s my strongest subject – but I knew before hand that colleges ‘superscore’. In view of this, my superscore is a 2310. But I am very paranoid about whether the drop in Math and CR will be used against me. Do colleges simply superscore as they say they do and not take any drops like that above into consideration? Or do they have reservations of one’s superscore if it happens like that above?

  102. Todd Johnson says


    Colleges that superscore the SAT, and most do, really will take your highest individual test scores. What you did by focusing on only one section is fairly common so the colleges will not worry about that.

  103. birdgirl says

    I wanted to know if I have a better chance at getting into college if i do joint enrollment with kennesaw state univ, than if i take AP courses at my high school instead.


  104. Todd Johnson says


    It can vary from college to college but in general terms, no, you will not have a better chance of admission doing joint enrollment with a college ad opposed to AP classes. Some colleges actually prefer the AP classes because the tests for those are standardized for all students. Colleges do not always know how strong a college course is, particularly if they are not familiar with the other college.

  105. Amrutha says

    Dear Mr. Johnson,
    Hi. My situation is probably more complicated than one of your normal High School Junior. My family moved to India 4 years ago due to outsourcing.. but I plan on returning to the USA for my college education. That being said, it has always been my dream to go to UMich, Ann Arbor. I recently took a SAT I practice test and got a scored of 1830 and have an unweighted GPA of 3.6. I have also interned with physiotherapy at a hospital and teach underprivileged children. Is this good enough? Also, would I be able to get in-state at UMich?


  106. Todd Johnson says


    Unfortunately, there is no way I can give estimates of a particular persons admission chances based on the limited information we have. Your admission chances will depend on many factors including the classes you have taken for your GPA. You will need stronger than normal grades and test scores if you are not a Michigan resident although they do admit many strong students from throughout the world. Based on the limited information your SAT scores look on the low end of the scores accepted by Michigan so I would try to get those scores up.

  107. Sidharth Moktan says

    Dear Mr. Johnson,

    I just got my SAT score and this is what I scored:

    Critical Reading- 670
    Maths- 710
    Writing- 660

    I am an international student and I will be applying early decision to Colorado College. I was wondering what my chances were for admission and financial aid. I need the financial aid to cover almost the entire tuiton fees.

    I have a good high school record. I scored straight A’s in the A Levels exam and I was ranked first among one hundred students in my school. I do not have a huge variety of extra curricular activities that I was involved in but I am a National Lawn Tennis Player in my country. I came third in the National Tournament last year.


  108. Todd Johnson says


    Unfortunately, there is no way I can give you an estimate of your chances based on limited information. There are too many variables that might come into play with admissions in general and international admissions in particular. I can tell you in general terms that getting substantial financial aid as an international students is difficult at most colleges because of limited amounts of money that the colleges have for this purpose.

  109. Mary says

    Hello! I am a senior in high school now, and i just got back my SAT scores.
    I got a
    630 in writing (9 on the essay)
    640 critical reading
    550 math

    I have a 3.2 GPA, 2 jobs now (I have had at least one job at all times since the summer in to sophomore year)
    3 years marching band (percussion
    3 years pit orchestra (violinist)
    4 years orchestra
    2 years of 2 different small ensembles
    2 years participation in a private orchestra
    4 years member/ 2 years secretary of my senior youth group at temple
    +4 years volunteering once a week in Sunday School with a kindergarten class

    I think my common application essay is pretty good… Do you think I have a shot at being accepted to Boston University, Northeastern University, Rutgers (I live in New Jersey) and/ or University of Colorado at Boulder?

    thanks so much in advance,

  110. Todd Johnson says


    Unfortunately, as I said in the comment before yours, there is no way to give admissions chances based on limited information. For a rough idea look at your test scores to see if they are in the middle range of scores for the colleges you are considering. You should also look at the range of GPA’s that the college admits to see how you compare. Grades and the classes taken are the most important factor for admissions at most colleges so this factor is very important.

  111. Sara says

    Hi! I’m a senior in high school and I am in the midst of applying to colleges. The thing is, I have been concentrating on muscial theater my whole life and have been a student at several performing arts magnet high schools, therefore my focus and classes have been centered around the arts. I have also switched school multiple times in my high school career. I have a 2.82 GPA, 510 SAT Verbal score, 460 Math, and 530 Writing. I have been taking mostly honors and AP classes. And after all of this, I have finally come to the realization that I do not want to go into musical theater; i want to go in to medicine, majoring as either a pre-med or a physician assistant student. I know “good” scores depend on what colleges you are applying to, but do you think I have a chance at getting into a decent program of either one of those majors? If so, are there any schools you recommend me applying to?

  112. Todd Johnson says


    Medical schools don’t care about your high school background so you just need to establish your self in college. Medical schools also don’t care what you major in. Instead they have particular classes you need to take but you can major in any subject. So don’t feel that you have to major in premed.

    You should seek appropriate colleges using one of the college search engines. I would recommend College Navigator. Once you have identified colleges that are appropriate for you, look for those colleges that have strong chemistry and biology programs. Look at this website to get the idea of some colleges that are good with medical school placement and good science programs. http://www.insidecollege.com/reno/home.do

  113. Pat says

    Dear Mr. Johnson,

    I just got my SAT score and this is what I had:

    Critical Reading- 800
    Math – 800
    Writing- 720

    I am a junior now. This is my first SAT test. Do I need to retake SAT to improve my Writing score if I am interested in Ivy League colleges. I know SAT score is only one of many factors for the college admissions.


  114. Todd Johnson says


    I don’t tell students whether they should or should not retake a test in most instances. I will tell you that in my opinion, even if you retake the SAT to try and get a higher writing score, it will not make any difference in your admission chances at selective colleges. In other words, you have as much chance of acceptance with a 2,320 as you do with a 2,360 or 2,380. It may seem counter intuitive but with many colleges that post this type of information, you actually have a better chance of acceptance than someone with a 2,400. I think this may be because students with good, but not perfect test scores, are often more interesting students than those with perfect scores.

    My suggestion would be to focus on everything else that affects admissions to a selective college.

  115. Ashley Jackson says

    Dear Ms. Johnson,
    I am a Junior and these are my scores:
    SAT Reasoning Test
    Critical Reading 520 56%
    Math 400 15%
    Writing 420 25%
    Multiple Choice 40 (score range: 20-80)
    Essay 8 (score range: 2-12)

    Are these any good? Thank you.

  116. Todd Johnson says


    As you indicate in your comment, your math score is about the average score of all students taking the exam while your math and writing scores are lower than the average student. The scores, however, are only relevant to who you are and the type of colleges you are considering. These scores would most likely not help you at a competitive college but most colleges in this country are not really competitive. In other words, most colleges accept the vast majority of students who apply. There are also many colleges that don’t require standardized tests. If you have strong grades but lower test score then a test optional college may be a good choice. While test scores are important at many colleges, your grades and the classes you took to get those grades are the most important factors.

  117. Eshwar says

    i am in the 8th grade and i took the sat
    my scores are

    i was wondering if my scores are good or bad.
    when i grow up i want to go to northwestern or U chicago.

    how can i improve my reading?

  118. Todd Johnson says


    It is difficult to say what an early SAT score may translate into several years later. For the highly selective colleges you will need scores substantially higher but it would be expected that your scores will go up quite a bit as you get older.

    The best way to improve your reading score is to read everything you can. Good books are excellent for improving your reading scores but magazines and other literature can also help.

    At this time you do not need to worry about which colleges might be appropriate for you. Get good grades, get involved in activities and you can worry later on about the things you want to find in the right college for you.

  119. Meg says

    Hi! I am a sophomore at a high school in New York, and I just got my PSAT scores. I got a total of 213, and I was wondering if this is a good score for this exam?

  120. Todd Johnson says


    That is a relatively strong score for a sophomore. To compare, if you had a score of 700 on each section of the SAT, comparable to a 2100, you would be in about the top 5% of students taking the SAT.

  121. Jack says

    Hello, Dr.Johnson.
    I am in 11th grade right now. I was quite pleased with my December sat scores
    800 math
    760 CR
    670 grammar
    2250 total
    My subject tests are passable as well
    math ii 800
    chemisty 800
    biology 770
    however, I messed up very badly on the PSAT because I was tired the day taking it (comparedto results of last year). Even so, my extracurricular math is at the national/international level and I do lots of community service along NHS.
    What should I do to strengthen my application for next year, if I wish to get into a top rated school and how will my bad PSAT affect it?

    ps, because I am in a Hispanic US territory, AP tests are not covered well by teachers, and I doubt I can pass the tests with flying colors.

  122. Todd Johnson says


    The PSAT has no affect on the college admissions process so don’t worry about it.

    Grades and the classes taken to get those grades is the most important factor in college admissions. The most selective colleges are looking at grades and test scores as an initial screening. However, those things alone won’t get you in. There is no one thing that will get you in. There are several things that may help.

    The biggest issue is whether a student has a particular focus. It doesn’t matter what that focus is but you need to have something that you are passionate about. You mentioned that you are strong in math. If you have done well in math competitions at the national level that may be your passion.

    Volunteer efforts are often important and can be helpful for most students.

  123. Karen says

    I find your information very helpful and would like your advice if possible. My son is a junior and just received his PSAT score. Last year, as a sophmore, he earned a 221. This year he earned a 227. According to our research he should be in contention for National Merit semi-finalist, correct? We live in Maryland and typically the cut off scores are between 220-221. His counselor told him that although he has the highest PSAT in the school (600 juniors), it is not an “automatic” that you will be identified as a semi-finalist. I am confused, as I thought as long as you surpassed the cut off score you would be selected. Can you clear up the confusion?

    Other information: He is in a S.T.E.M magnet program and took 1 AP class as a sophmore and has 5 AP classes this year (and will take 5 his senior year). His SAT score his sophmore year was 730 CR, 720 M, 620 Writing (he admitted he bombed this section). He is taking the SAT again in June and the subject tests in May.

    Any illumination would be greatly appreciated!

  124. Todd Johnson says


    You are correct that Maryland has recently been in the 220-221 range for semi finalist status. I think the confusion comes from two issues.

    First, it is true that no one knows for sure what the cutoff score will be for a particular state until it is announced. It is conceivable that the cutoff score for Maryland next year could be above 227. The scores are established for the state and not a particular school so even though your son had the top score in his school that is no guarantee of semi finalist status. I think the chances that Maryland’s cut off score will go up that much is extremely unlikely.

    Assuming that the cutoff score is below 227 your son will be a national merit semi-finalist.

    The second issue is that not all semi-finalists are named to be finalists. The vast majority are but there are several factors that National Merit considers in deciding who will be finalists. These include your SAT scores, having a strong academic record and being recommended by your high school. Semi finalists also need to submit an application listing their extracurricular activities and an essay.

    I hope that clarifies the issue.

  125. Laura G says

    My sophomore daughter took the PSAT this fall and received scores of 56 reading, 56 writing and only 36 math (I think these are multiplied by 10 for SAT comparison purposes). She has a 3.4 GPA and is taking AP and Honors and college prep classes at a highly ranked public high school. Extra curriculars include musical theater and volunteer work with animals. She has her heart set on selective private liberal arts colleges but we have ruled out Ivies. Any advice on how we can pull up her math scores before spring of her junior year?

  126. Todd Johnson says


    Take a look at this post I did some time ago about preparing for the SAT and/or ACT.

    That should get your daughter started on the right track of improving her scores. Keep in mind that every college in the country accepts either the SAT or ACT. Some students do better on one test than the other which is why I recommend taking a practice test of each to see which one she does better on.

    If that doesn’t seem to be helping to increase here math score then you might want to consider tutoring for just the math section.

    Finally, there are many colleges in the country, including some highly selective ones, that have gone test optional. If she is one of those people that just doesn’t test well on this type of test, one of these colleges might be a good choice. Here is a current list of those schools that are test optional although the list is increasing all of the time.


  127. kayal says

    Hi I was wondering how well I would have to in the sat to be considered by harvard, yale, princeton and stanford. I am not from USA, but singapore. Right now my sat practice test scores are around 2200. but i heard that not being from us hurts my chances a lot. do i need to get like a 2400 to even be considered?

  128. kayal says

    I was wondering how well I would have to in the sat to be considered by harvard, yale, princeton and stanford. I am not from USA, but singapore. Right now my sat practice test scores are around 2200. but i heard that not being from us hurts my chances a lot. do i need to get like a 2400 to even be considered?

  129. Todd Johnson says


    The important thing to understand is that when you are dealing with the most selective colleges, test scores are just one small part of what they look at in making admissions decisions. If you are scoring in the 2,200 plus range your test scores will be competitive for these colleges.

    However, everyone applying will have good grades and test scores. It is the rest of the application that determines who will get admitted. Things like your activities and how strong you are may make a difference. Nationally or internationally ranked in badminton? You will probably be more competitive. Your essays may make a difference. Your location may make a difference. These colleges like diversity. If no one else applies from Singapore you will have a better chance. If 5,000 people apply from Singapore, not so good.

    It is true that coming from outside the US will make admissions more difficult but the same standards apply. The more you can make yourself stand out because of your accomplishments, the stronger the candidate you will be.

  130. Connie says

    I’m a junior in high school. I took my SATs in september and got a 750 on math, 750 on reading, and 680 on writing. I’m looking at very competitive colleges (ivy league, highly competitive small liberal arts colleges), and I’m wondering if it is worth retaking the SAT? I most likely will be able to boost the writing into the mid-700s, and there’s a good chance I will boost the math score as well. However, I really hate the SAT and do not want to retake it! Will it make a big difference to break 2200?
    Additionally, I’m wondering if I stand I good chance at getting into these selective colleges? I have a weighted GPA of 4.35, and a course schedule full of APs and honors classes. I play lacrosse and am on the recruitment circuit, but obviously academics are my priority, so the influence of coaches won’t necessarily get me into the schools I want to go to. I also play tuba and soccer.

  131. Todd Johnson says


    If you think you can break 700 on the writing section I would recommend that you retake the test. I understand that you don’t like the test and I am not a huge fan of standardized tests either. However, most colleges, including the very selective ones, superscore the SAT. There for if you can get your writing section up above 700, even if you for some reason don’t do as well on the other two sections, your superscore would still improve. I generally advise my students to take the SAT two times for that reason.

    It sounds as if you will be a competitive candidate for many selective colleges. However, everyone applying to these colleges have strong grades and strong test scores. It is the rest of your application that will make the difference on who gets accepted and who won’t.

    Being a strong lacrosse player may very well help as the most selective colleges are looking not only for smart students, but students who can offer something else. Lacrosse may be what you can offer. I also like that you are a tuba player because I also played tuba in high school and was actually recruited for that. What works for you though is that you are a girl playing the tuba, something that sets you apart from many other students and in this case, that is a good thing.

  132. Josh says

    Dear Todd,

    I have average grades in the Cambridge program in Washington. (3.35). If I add an SAT score over 2000, a very positive grade trend and a strong application, might it be good enough for a school like USC or Northwestern? Thanks for any help!

  133. Todd Johnson says


    There are too many variables to say if you might have a chance at colleges like USC or Northwestern. Your grades and test scores are low for those schools but if you have something else that might be of interest to the colleges that could help.

  134. Dan says


    I am in 8th grade and I got a 1730 on the SAT.

    Reading: 600
    Math: 560
    Writing: 570 (Essay: 8)

    Is that good?

  135. Todd Johnson says


    The national average on each section of the SAT is about 500 so to the extent you did better than the national average, yes it is a good score. Since you are only in the 8th grade you have lots of opportunity to work on improving those scores if you are considering selective colleges. Just remember, while test scores are important for college admissions, grades and the classes you take to get those grades are the most important factors.

  136. Todd Johnson says


    That was more than a few years ago and the scores can not be directly compared to today’s scores because of recentering. Recentering is when the SAT changes the scoring to bring the test into the middle. It was last recenterd in 1995. Here is how it works. The SAT likes to keep the median scores on each of the sections around a 500. From the mid 1970’s until 1995 the median score dropped so that the median was closer to 400 on each section. To correct that the SAT recentered in 1995 to bring the median back up to 500. So, for people who took the SAT before 1995 on average they would have 100 points added to their score to try and compare to post 1995 scores. The higher your score, however, the less you would have added.

    Moreover, no one that I knew even considered taking the test more than one time and they only way to prepare for it was to look at the sample test SAT provided. And there was no such thing as superscoring.

    With that long explanation, as best I can recall I had a 720 critical reading and a 730 math. The writing section at that time was part of the subject tests. I think I was in the low 700’s on the writing section as well.

  137. John says

    Will my sat score of 2300 hurt my chances for acceptance at the ivies (I scored 800 in cr, 710 in math, 790 in writing)? I’m asking because my math score is around the 25th percentile for most of those schools.

  138. Todd Johnson says


    The SAT score is fine for the most competitive colleges. While your math score may be on the low side they generally look at your overall score more than the sub scores. The exception would be if your focus is on math and science. Then they might look at the math score a little more carefully and look to see how you did in your class work in those subjects. If your focus is not on math then no problem. If your focus is on math, then I might recommend taking another SAT with the goal of upping the math score. Since most colleges superscore the SAT, an improved math score would work to your advantage even if your critical reading and math score dropped a little.

  139. Bethany Davies says

    Hi todd,
    Im a junior at boiling springs high school in south carolina. I just got my sat scores back and they were:
    Reading: 580
    Math: 540
    Writing: 570
    My act score was a 28. My weighted gpa is a 4.23. I was just wondering what kind of colleges these kind of scores could get me into..
    much appreciated,

  140. Bethany Davies says

    i want to be a pediatrician. I want to get into a really good college so I can from there get into a great medical school.

  141. Todd Johnson says


    The issue of finding the right college for a particular student is one that takes some time and is not something that can be done with limited information. It is not just a question of grades and test scores but also issues like size, location, academic competitiveness, and the students academic strengths.

    There are literally hundreds of great colleges that would like to have a student like you. What is critical is finding the best college for your needs that also does a good job of preparing students for medical school. Finding particular colleges to meet these requirements is exactly the type of help that I provide to students. If you would like to discuss working with me, drop me an email and we can talk further.

    Take care.


  142. Austin says

    Hi, I’m currently a sophomore with a 4.0 GPA at a private highschool in Washington. When I took my PSAT earlier this year, I had a selection index of 196. Right now, I’m struggling over the decision of whether or not to do running start next year. I’d love to attend an Ivy League school to pursue engineering, but otherwise I’d probably go to the University of Washington. What are your thoughts?

  143. Todd Johnson says


    You need to determine what you really want from college. Do you want to fast track through college? Then running start might work. Do you want a complete education with a more traditional college experience? Then taking AP classes while in high school may be a better option than running start.

    On a side note you should not be focusing just on Ivy League colleges as opposing to your state university. The Ivy League is just an athletic conference. There are some good colleges in the league but there are many great colleges in this country and many are considered much stronger for engineering that most of the Ivy League colleges. Focus on what you want from a college and don’t worry about the name of the college. That will help you find the best college for your needs.

  144. Austin says

    I don’t necessarily want to “fast track” through college, but I don’t feel like my school has very much to offer as far as AP classes go.

    That’s a really good piece of advice! Thanks so much. What colleges have the best engineering programs, from your experience?

  145. Todd Johnson says


    If you high school does not offer significant number of AP courses to challenge you then college level classes can be very appropriate. But I would normally look to your high school first and then look to local colleges if the high school classes are insufficient.

    There are many colleges with great engineering programs. They differ widely so it is important to determine what you are looking for. MIT, Caltech, University of Illinois and Georgia Tech are all great colleges for engineering. However, they are all vastly different colleges with their own strengths and weaknesses.

    You need to look at things like location, size and academic competitiveness to find the college that is right for you. One of the colleges I listed may be best for you. But this is just a sampling of the many great engineering programs available in this country. Figure out what you want from a college and you should be able to find a variety of colleges that are best for you.

  146. Tony says

    Hi wht do u think of my chances of getting into USC?

    W:590 C:670 M:780

    SAT 2:

    Above average ECs + grades; double legacy

  147. Todd Johnson says


    Unfortunately I don’t give students chances based on limited information because there are too many variable in selective college admissions.

    In general terms your critical reading score is in the middle of their pool and your math score is on the high end. Your writing score is on the low end.

    Grades and extracurricular activities will be very important and if they are above average you would most likely be a competitive candidate for USC.

  148. Shailene says

    Hi, i’m a junior in highschool and was given the opportunity to take the PSAT a 2nd time after my sophomore year, so i took it. My projected SAT score range was from 1140-1480, is that good for a Junior?

  149. Todd Johnson says


    I can’t tell from the score range you give whether this is a two section or three section SAT. If a two section score it is above the national average. If it is a three section SAT it is below the national average.

    More importantly, if you are a junior you should not be worried about the PSAT. You need to actually take the SAT or ACT.

  150. Sean McGee says

    I am a junior in California. I’ve taken the ACT twice now, getting a 28 and a 31. The problem is my grades: I have approximately a 2.0-2.5 GPA. I attend an early college high school and do some extra-curriculars. Ive always dreamt of going to CalTech, but I assume my grades are too low. I’m hoping to major in computer engineering. I’m considering going to CSUSB, which is a notable but not exactly prestigious school. Am I setting my sights too low? Are my test scores good enough to outweigh my grades? (I am yet to take the SAT, but I got a 207 on the PSAT in 2010 (not quite qualifying for the NMS) Is there a way I can make myself more appealing to colleges? Thank you!

  151. Todd Johnson says


    You have relatively strong test scores but your grades will definitely have an affect on where you are likely to be admitted. Grades are more important than test scores so the test scores will not offset your grades.

    The best thing you can do is to try and do as well with grades in the time you have remaining in high school.

    You are not likely to be admitted to a highly competitive program like Caltech with your grades. Your best option is to identify those colleges where you are likely to get in and if you do well you may be able to transfer to another college after a year or two. I don’t generally recommend planning on transferring but it is sometimes a good option for students like you who need to prove yourself with your grades.

  152. lauren says

    I am a sophomore in high school, and I got a score of 186 on my PSAT. My weighted average is a 4.0, but unweighted its about a 3.7.
    I know im starting early, but if i kept these up and got a 1860 on my SAT, do you think that I could get into Bucknell or Elon university?

  153. Todd Johnson says


    Every college weighs grades and the classes taken to get those grades as the greatest factor in admissions. However, at this point there is no way to say what colleges might admit you. There are many factors that come into play besides grades and test scores. This includes factors such as what you might bring to a college to make for an interesting class. Keep the grades up, study to do the best you can on the SAT or ACT while developing your outside interests. This will make you the most competitive candidate for any college.

  154. Stanley says

    My SAT scores ranged from 7th grade Jan – 1840
    to 8th grade February – 1920

    to an amazing jump to 2190
    800 CR
    790 MATH
    600 WRITING

    To alleviate stress from my junior year in high school, I wish to keep the 2190. I might also take it one more time with some extra writing practice for an even better result.

    Please tell me how to keep a score when you’re in 7-8th grade. Thank you for your time.

  155. Todd Johnson says


    If you wish to keep a score before 9th grade you need to request in writing that the College Board keep the test. Here is a link to their website where they give the details. http://professionals.collegeboard.com/testing/sat-reasoning/register/special/8th-grade

    While you can keep an early score like this, and you probably should, I would still recommend that you take the test again in junior year. If you did that well on the test in 8th grade, there is a reasonable chance that you will do as well, or better, as a junior. If you do as well or better, great. If not, submit the early score.

  156. Stanley says

    In general, will the colleges take note of the time you took the test? (Will they take into consideration I took that particular exam in 8th grade?)

    If not, they might just see my 2190 and expect my range to be around there.

    This would obviously work to my disadvantage as I expect higher grades by my junior year.

    If this score in fact works to my advantage, I’d like to keep it as a sign of progress. The score itself isn’t too shabby.
    I might also just take the earliest test in 9th grade and get the entire SAT over with.

    With a higher writing score, and hopefully replicating some of the success with CR and Math, I’ll be set in terms of standardized testing.

    *In conjunction with the fact that I’ll take SAT 2 math, Literature, and U.S. history.
    After some courses in Physics, Chem., or Bio. I might take some of those too, as well as a foreign language.

    What do you think of my overall plan?
    Thank you for your time.

    Should I keep my 2190?

  157. Todd Johnson says


    If you only use an 8th grade score the colleges will probably notice. For some this may not be a problem but others may wonder why you didn’t retake during junior year which is the typical year to take for admissions purposes.

    As I said before, I would tell the College Board to keep the 8th grade score but would also plan on retaking as a junior. There is no advantage to taking it in 9th grade as opposed to 11th grade other than giving you time to retake for a better score. Since you already have a good score I think it makes the most sense to retake early spring of junior year and a retake, if necessary in June of junior year.

    Take the subject tests at any time after you have finished the appropriate course for that test. 9th grade is alright for the subject tests if you have taken the course at that time.

  158. Jordan says

    I live in Texas and I was wondering if my stats would be able to get me into my top schools,which are the University of Oregon, University of Houston, Texas A&M, and Louisiana Tech.
    2010 Psat scores
    Crit. Reading: 480
    Math: 630
    Writing: 570
    Weighted GPA: 4.8
    High School: Frisco Centennial H.S. Frisco,TX
    Top ten percent of Jr. class of 387 students

  159. lynn says

    My son got 730 CR, 710 M, 660 W total is 2100 and his GPA is 4.5. Is there a chance if he can get any full ride from UC school? We are from California anyway.
    Thank you

  160. Stanley says

    If I retake the SAT in early 9th grade, the colleges probably won’t mind as much?
    If writing was bumped up up and a good level of consistency was maintained for math and r.c. colleges might take note of the fact that I got high scores in younger years, and likely improved afterwards.

    The whole point of note taking it in my junior year is so that I don’t have to worry about the test. My schedule would be overwhelmed with AP’s and SAT 2 subject tests, in conjunction with extracurriculars and other necessities. If I maintain high 700s for math and english, and break 700 for writing, I feel that there is no need to go any further in my junior year. Hopefully, colleges will have assumed that I improved ever more in those two years.

    As for the SAT 2 subject tests I am taking right now, if I score high enough, I guess I’ll keep some. After the “proper” courses in Stuyvesant, I’ll just retake them and more. What do you think?

    Thank you.

  161. Todd Johnson says

    There is no way to tell with limited information what someone’s chances of admissions are to a particular college. Also, PSAT scores will not be used so it depends on your actual SAT or ACT scores. Your grades are good which is the most important thing. To get an estimate of how your test scores would compare to typical scores at the colleges you list, look at College Navigator. Here is their web address: http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/ If you look up each college you can find the admissions information including typical test scores.

  162. Todd Johnson says


    There is no way to say with limited information what type of financial aid your son might get from one of the UC schools. In general terms, I can tell you that public colleges, including the UC system, are not generally very good with financial aid. This is particularly true with all of the financial difficulties that have been occurring in California.

  163. Kristy says


    I just took the SAT for the first time, as an 8th grader, and I scored:

    Reading 630
    Math 640
    Writing 650 (With a 9 on the essay)

    I know these scores are decent, but I am setting high goals for myself in the future. I really want to bump these up by my junior year. So I was wondering, what specifically can I do to achieve higher on the SAT in the future?

    I was also wondering what I can do activity-wise that would look good on college transcripts. I am a devoted swimmer (i practice 12 hours a week), and I’m in a gifted program…so I don’t have much time for activities. At the same time, I really want to do something that will set me apart from other college applicants in the future.


  164. Todd Johnson says


    There are several things you can do to work on a higher SAT score. First, get the official test book from College Board and take practice tests. Focus on your wrong answers to try and understand the concept behind the question you got wrong. The concepts stay the same from test to test so if you can understand the concepts you are missing, that should improve future scores. Reading anything will generally help your critical reading and writing scores so read, read, read. The SAT is able to be prepared for so taking some time in the next few years to keep reviewing should help. You may want to sign up the the SAT question of the day from the College Board.

    As for activities, there is no good or bad activity as such. Swimming is fine. Colleges, particularly the most selective colleges like to see students with a passion and if your passion is swimming, great. Think about ways to incorporate that. For instance, colleges like to see students who care for others and volunteer. Could you find a way to volunteer that involves swimming? Maybe volunteering at a local community organization to teach younger students swimming. Or teaching swimming to students with a disability. If you get a job, think about being a life guard. If they read your college application and say, “Kristy is a swimmer”, that is a good thing.

  165. Caitlyn says

    I have taken the May SAT, and I have received the scores

    CR 460
    Math 490
    Writing 520(Mult. choice 52) (Essay 8)
    GPA 2.9

    I was hoping to receive slightly higher scores in Critical Reading and Writing only because inside school I excel at those subjects. My math score was quite higher then I expected. I have read your replies to everyones comments and I see that “good” scores depend on the person, but I can not help but wonder if because of these scores, I risk my chances of getting into the college I planned on.. As of now, I am freaking out because of the time I have left to decide on a couple colleges to apply to. Do you think I should take the SAT again or should I try the ACT..

  166. Todd Johnson says


    If you have some colleges in mind I would suggest that you look to see where your test scores fall in the typical range of scores at that college. You can find the range of test scores for most colleges at College Navigator. Here is their website: http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/ Search for the colleges in which you have an interest and then look at the admissions tab that will give you the typical test information. If you are in the mid range of scores, then you probably don’t need to retake the test. If your scores are lower than are typical for that college, then you should consider retesting.

    As for the SAT or ACT, take a sample test of each and so which one you do better on. Then take that test.

  167. Kathy says

    I got 750 score on my Sat subject Math II. My sat I score is 2320 with Math 800. Do you think my math II is good enough for ivy league? If i retake it i expect the higher score. I know the test score is only one of many other factors for administration.


  168. Todd Johnson says


    Your SAT Subject Test math score is fine particularly given your SAT score. Retaking the math test, even assuming you do better, will not have any impact on college admissions including the Ivy League colleges.

  169. Kevin says

    After reading a few of these comments, I felt like I had to put my input into these discussions. I have a friend who just graduated from a highly recognized private catholic school, he scored I believe a 2370 on his SAT (just missing one in critical reading, and this was his first and only try), he was valedictorian, in the national honors society, completed 8 AP tests with 5s on all, took summer courses for his future career in bio-chemistry, he is caucasian, did cross-country and track all 4 years (even though he wasn’t good he was dedicated), and also played front seat in band all 4 years… you may think that this is the perfect kid, but he got declined from MIT… MIT receives hundreds of applications just like his, YOU have to be different… he is going to his 2nd choice school UC Berkley, but he is still disapointed

  170. Todd Johnson says


    You are correct that the most selective colleges regularly reject students like you describe. Grades and test scores alone are not enough for the most selective programs.

    The goal is to distinguish yourself from all of the other strong candidates to these colleges. This occurs most commonly with your activities or your essays. The strongest candidate will have accomplishments at the national level.

  171. Alice says


    My son is a high school students but currently taking college credit. His GPA is 3.5 (junior), he is taking more challenge courses such as Cal 2 and Cal 3 and honor Chemistry, his SAT reading 790, Math 780, writing 650, ACT 34 and he is qualified for Texas NMF candidate, my question is, how much percentage he will be accepted by UT Austin Engineering, I want to mention is, his current school, the average GPA of the graduation student is 3.7. He is below the average but his course is more advanced than the other students. Do you think his GPA will affect him from applying the top school?

    Thank you for your help!!

  172. Alice says

    I don’t think I put everything clear, sorry. All of the students in my son’s school are taking the college credits and those credits will be admitted to all of the state universities in Texas. His subject test Math II is 780 and Biology is 760. the school counselor told my son he won’t get much chance to go to UT austin Engineering. would you please tell me your opinion? thank you.

  173. Todd Johnson says


    There are too many variables for me to comment on a particular students chances at a particular college. However, i can tell you in general terms that grades received and the classes taken to get those grades are the most important issues for college admissions. Although taking a strong course load is good, it will not balance out a lower GPA unless the other students with higher GPA’s don’t have the high level classes.

  174. Josh says

    I know this is a GPA question and not SAT, but could you give your opinion on how important a positive grade trend is for colleges? For example, could a 3.4 GPA with a challenging course load be salvaged with a consistent positive trend? Thanks!

  175. Todd Johnson says


    A positive grade trend is important for college admissions. I can’t comment on your specific question because it depends on your specific high school. At some schools a 3.4 is in the top 10% of the class while in others it is in the bottom 10%. A challenge course load with a positive grade trend is always important but where it places you competitively is hard to say.

  176. Sara says

    In regards to college admissions, i was wondering what my chances would be to a school such as Harvard, Yale, or Stanford. On the SATs, I scored a 2180, Math 800 Writing 730, and CR 650. For SAT IIs, i’m going to take math but i scored 800 in Biology M and 760 in US History. I know my CR score for the SAT Is were not very good, but I want to major in bio and i was wondering if that would affect my chances of admissions? In addition, my sister attends Harvard so i’m not sue if that will help. Also, I’m doing a biology internship at Stanford this summer. The program is called SIMR.

    I’m looking to see if I should retake the SATs, (i’ve already taken it twice), or try the ACT?

  177. Todd Johnson says


    Admissions to selective colleges is much more than a SAT score. Grades and the classes taken to get those grades for instance is more important than test scores. Without knowing much more there is no way any one can realistically say what your chances are at a selective college.

    For the most selective colleges your critical reading score is on the low side and you should consider retaking the SAT. I would suggest taking a practice ACT, not an actual test, to see how you do. If you do better on that test then take an actual ACT. Otherwise, stick with the ACT and focus on improving your critical reading score.

    Having a sister at Harvard may help a little but you still need to get the test score up and have very high grades and strong extracurricular activities. The Stanford program won’t help with admissions to Stanford but it might help you write the “why Stanford” essay which can help in admissions.

  178. Chris Ibrahim says

    Hi Todd,
    I am a junior in high school and I have been wondering if you could help me out. I have scored a 221 on the PSAT and am (hopefully)qualifying to be a Semifinalist. I have scored a 2320 on the SAT I with a breakdown of:
    Critical Reading-800

    I have taken the SAT II in Biology and scored a 720, and have two more results coming soon.

    In addition, my weighted GPA is currently a 4.87 and I have scored a 5 on the AP Biology test and a 4 on the AP Euro test, with this year’s results on the way. As far as extracurricular activities go, I am heavily involved in ASB and have been on Key Club Board for the past two years. I have also managed to record over 200 hours of community service and am an Eagle Scout. I have also held down a part time job in a law office for a while now.
    After mentioning all of this, what are my chances at a college such as Harvard or Yale? If you could help I would be so appreciative. Thank you.

  179. Todd Johnson says


    Based on limited information there is no way to say what the chances are for a particular student to be admitted to a selective college. I can tell you in general terms that your test scores are fine. Most colleges look at your unweighted GPA and the classes you have taken to get that grade so I don’t know if your grades are sufficient. They will like that you are an Eagle Scout. Having held a job will distinguish you from many other candidates who have never worked. However, the most competitive candidates for the most selective colleges will typically have some type of national recognition in some activity. While your activities look good on a local level there is not much that stands out. The most competitive colleges also like to see students with a particular passion. If you have a passion you must present this in the most convincing manner on your college applications.

    Don’t focus on particular colleges but rather focus on what you want from a college. Then find colleges that fit your needs. You will also need to have a range of colleges with different selectivity to make sure you have some colleges to consider next April.

  180. Chang Ho Lee says

    Hi. I’m an 8th grader who got an 1820 on the SAT’s. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

  181. Todd Johnson says


    An 1820 is above the national average so that is a good thing. However, the real issue is what your test scores are in several years.

  182. Elio Adib says

    Hello, im a Junior in High School.
    My SAT Scores are :
    Math : 790
    CR : 620
    Writing : 600 with an 8/12 on the Essay Part.
    Do i have a chance of getting into Stanford University ?

  183. Todd Johnson says


    There are many factors besides test scores that go into admissions decisions so there is no way to say if you have a chance at a particular college. That being said, in general terms your critical reading and writing scores are lower than the middle range of scores for Stanford.

  184. GK says

    Hello Todd
    My son has finished junior year and will be applying to college in the fall. He has a SAT score of 2070(M 770, R 700 and W 600) 3.85 weighted gpa, 6 AP classes so far(score of 4 in two, score of 3 in 2, waiting on the other two, all academic classes honors (or AP )unless hons not offered and 24 academic credits so far, piano 7 years, varsity tennis all 3 years, brain bowl 2 years, community service, NASA inspire member sophomore year and summer after, paid science internship at the university this summer. He will be taking more AP classes senior year and dual enrollment also. He plans on taking the SAT again also. What are his chances at University of Florida and University of Miami?
    Thank you

  185. Todd Johnson says


    I don’t make specific comments on a particular student getting into a particular college because there are so many variables that may come into play. One simple example. I don’t know where you live. If you are in Florida, as I suspect, then he will be much more competitive for University of Florida than if he is applying as an out state student. Grades are another example. Colleges generally don’t use weighted grades but rather unweighted grades.

    At least with regard to his test scores, his math and critical reading scores are in the top 25% of the application pool for both schools. So he should be very competitive from that standpoint.

    You might want to check with your son’s guidance office to see if they keep statistics on the qualification of students accepted to different colleges. If they do you can see how similar students from his high school have done with acceptance at those colleges in the past. While not an absolute predictor, it can give you some general guidance.

  186. GK says

    Thank you for the prompt response.Yes we reside in Florida. The high school advised us that weighted academic GPA would be used in public Florida universities and overall weighted GPA for University of Miami and this is one advantage, the school says, for taking the harder AP and honors classes. Have we been told wrong? Also is there a website that tracks GPA for colleges like the college navigator does for SAT.Thank you for the excellent suggestion I ask if the guidance office keeps records of qualifications of past students accepted to the universities my son is interested in.

  187. Todd Johnson says


    Some large state universities use weighted GPA’s but very few private colleges do. The problem is that every high school weights classes differently. For instance, I have seen high schools that don’t weight AP classes at all while others give 3 extra points for an AP class. Top students from these two schools would have very different GPA’s but both would be top students. That is why most colleges use unweighted GPA’s so that they can get a general comparison without worrying about how much a particular high school weights their grades.

    The advantage in taking the AP and honors classes is that the more competitive colleges, are looking for students that challenge themselves with difficult classes. Thus a student with a 3.8 while taking AP classes and honors classes might be competitive at a particular college while a 3.8 GPA with no honors classes would not be competitive and probably would not be seriously considered.

    There is no web site that I am aware of that tracks GPA’s of the incoming classes at particular colleges. There are so many ways to game that sort of statistic that even if it was reported you wouldn’t know if it meant weighted grades, what kind of weighting or unweighted. Some colleges do put what is called the common data set on their websites. The common data set for a college is the information that the college reports to groups like US News from which they make their rankings. One of the areas to report on the common data set is the GPA range of incoming freshman.

    Here is a link to the common data set for U Miami. http://www6.miami.edu/planning-research/CDS1011.pdf

    Look at section C11 and C12 for instance. There is says that the average high school GPA of incoming freshman is a 4.2 which means that they are looking at a weighted GPA, since unweighted can’t exceed 4.0.

    From that you can see that your son’s GPA is below the average but his test scores are above the average. This is where high school specific information is helpful because his high school might be a harder grading high school and that would be reflected if similar students to your son were regularly admitted to U Miami.

    I hope you are starting to see why I can’t predict admission for a particular student based on limited information.

  188. GK says

    Thank you so very much!- that was very helpful and wow! you sure are super quick in responding!

  189. Mo Oshinowo says

    hey i am a 4.0 student going into my junior year, I am an all state basketball player.Top in my class in academics in many club and a 1520 is what i made on the SAT. Im natrually a bad external exam taker so how can i help this so it doesnt hurt my future?

  190. Samantha B says

    I recently received my SAT and ACT scores:
    SAT- Math 550 and CR 550
    ACT- 26

    I really want to go to MIT but my standardized testing scores alone probably won’t help me get in. My GPA is about a 3.7 and I am most definitely in at least the top half of my class.

    I wanted to know if even though my standardized scores aren’t high enough, but if compared to my academic scores, if it would matter as much in the selection process for any college.

    thanks and sorry if this sounds confusing at all.

  191. Todd Johnson says


    MIT is extremely competitive and very high grades and test scores are expected. For instance, 98% of admitted students are in the top 10% of their class and all admitted students were in the top 25%. The middle range of ACT scores was 32 to 35. Although grades and test scores are not the only factors for admissions to a school like MIT, given your grades and test scores it is unlikely that you would be admitted.

    If you are interested in science schools like MIT there are many other options that are somewhat easier to gain admission to. I would recommend that you look at some of these other options when considering where to apply.

  192. Todd Johnson says


    At most colleges, your grades and the classes you take to get those grades are the most important factors. However, test scores are often the second most important factor. You have several options. One is to take practice SAT tests to try and improve your scores. A second option is to take a practice ACT test to see if you do better on that test. All colleges in the US will accept either the SAT or ACT. Your third option is to take a look at test optional colleges. There are about 800 colleges in the US that don’t require the SAT or ACT including some very good academic colleges. Here is a link to the test optional colleges: http://fairtest.org/university/optional

  193. Stephanie R says

    My ACT score is a 26 and I was looking at University of California: Berkeley and saw that their “minimum” is a 27 (my SAT is just the same I have a 590 in CR and they accept 600). I wanted to know if I apply with my score being just under, if that would affect my acceptance chances.

    Thanks so much

  194. Todd Johnson says


    UC Berkeley does not have minimum test score requirements. The mid range of their ACT scores is 27-33 and their mid range of SAT scores is 600-730 in critical reading. That means that 25% of the students they accepted had scores below 27 or 600. Now, the lower your scores the more difficult admissions will be but they look at many factors for admissions and the most important are your grades and the classes you took to get those grades.

    If you are interested in Berkeley, then apply, but also make sure that you apply to some other colleges where you have a stronger chance of acceptance.

  195. Rahul says

    I am an international student with interest in computer science and aiming for admission year 2013-14.I have got SAT scores of 2030
    Critical Reading-630
    Writing-680(essay 8)
    Where do I stand as far admissions in Georgia Univ,NYU.

  196. Todd Johnson says


    Unfortunately, there is no way to predict admissions to a particular college from general facts. There are many factors that go into an admission decision and it can vary from college to college. The biggest issue at almost every college are your grades and the classes you took to get those grades. Your test scores are in the middle 50% for NYU and the middle 50% of critical reading for University of Georgia. Your scores are in the top 25% for Georgia in math and writing.

    Admissions for international students can be even more uncertain because it depends on the country you come from and whether a college wants more students from your country. For instance, NYU gets a large number of international applicants from all over the world in large part because it is in New York. The University of Georgia will also get a number of international applications but in most cases not as many as NYU so it may be an easier admit for an international student. But if Georgia gets lots of applicants from China, and you are from China, you will be competing with a large number of students.

    The best thing you can do to increase your chances of admissions to a US college is to keep your grades up as high as possible.

  197. Jess says

    Hi. I’m a junior in high school and my SAT scores are

    Math: 510
    Writing: 610
    Reading: 700

    Obviously, there is a huge difference between my math and reading scores. I want to get into a competitive school, but my math scores are always in the bottom 25%. Will colleges forgive the 510 because of my high reading score?

    Also, my intended major is English and I’ve taken every Honors and AP English and History class available. My entire transcript reflects success in English and struggles in math.

  198. Todd Johnson says


    Colleges do take into consideration what you interests are. Since your focus is on English and History, a lower math score is not as significant. You have several options with the lower score. One is to look at colleges that put less weight on the SAT and more on your grades. Almost all colleges in the country give more weight to grades and the classes you took to get those grades than test scores. But some colleges, private colleges in particular, tend to be more open to looking past a lower test score in one section if it balanced out by something else. The other option is to look at test optional colleges. There are over 800 colleges in the US that are test optional including some very strong colleges. Here is a list of the test optional colleges: http://fairtest.org/university/optional

  199. vivian says

    Hey there,
    I just received my SAT score back and it’s 2030 (reading: 710, math: 650, writing: 670)
    Would you recommend that I take it again? I want to apply to the more selective universities.
    What is the general increase/decrease in marks if you take the test again? I know it’ll differ from person to person, but from your experience, what is the general average?
    Also, I’m from Canada- does that affect my chances of being accepted?

    Thanks so much! :)

  200. GK says

    Are there any combined law programs like there are combined BS/MD or BA/ MD programs? If so, is there a list of colleges that offer such an option?
    Thank you.

  201. Todd Johnson says

    Test scores are but one part of the application to the most selective colleges. However, I would generally recommend that a typical student try for 700 or greater on each of the three sections of the SAT. It is difficult to say how a student would do on another test but in general terms, most students do not go up much more than 30-50 points. Being from Canada will technically make you an international student at most colleges. In my experience, however, being from Canada doesn’t make much difference one way or the other.

  202. vivian says

    Thanks so much!!
    Also, I’m not sure if I can ask a question about the subject tests… but I’ll give it a go anyway :)
    I have to take 2, and I plan to take the biology one. However, I’m torn between Math 1 and Eng. Lit. Math is not my strongest subject (as you can see from my SAT score), but I’ve heard that the Literature one is quite difficult.
    Your thoughts?

  203. Tami says

    Hi, my name is Tami, and I am a rising junior. My GPA is a 3.0, I’m not in any clubs, and I don’t take classes that are very hard. I took the Sat’s in the Spring and scored a 2200. Is my SAT score high enough for a good university to overlook my GPA?

    p.s. I would like to attend Dartmouth or Columbia University

  204. Todd Johnson says


    The main focus for admissions to any college are your grades and the classes you took to get those grades, Test scores are typically second in importance. Your SAT score is much higher than would normally be expected of a student with a 3.0 GPA and classes that are not difficult. While any thing is possible I think you have a very small chance of acceptance into a college like Columbia or Dartmouth particularly if you don’t have extracurricular activities.

    Colleges are often concerned when they see students like you because students with high test scores and low grades look like they didn’t care about classes in high school. College fear that this lack of concern will carry over to college and they don’t want students who are not willing to work hard while in college. If there is some other reason for your low grades and non difficult class load you must be sure to let the colleges know what it is.

    I would strongly suggest that you lower your sites on the types of colleges you are considering at least for your match and safety colleges.

  205. Brian says

    I am very worried about college admmissions! I have just finished junior year and I was wondering if you could help me out. Currently i am number 30 out of 834 and my SAT score is a 2030. I have taken band for 7 years now and have made a regional band ever since 7th grade. I also participate teach MMA and work with a variety of age groups ranging from toddlers to adults as well as working with special needs children. I am involved in numerous community volunteering programs such as the Red Cross and also volunteer at a local hospital. Seeing as my parents never went to college in the United States, I have no idea how this matches up to other students. Our family does not qualify for financial aid, but I want to save as much money as possible, so would these attributes help towards a scholarship? I live in Houston, TX and I am looking at the University of Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, Rice, and the University of Michigan. Thank you so much!

  206. Brian says

    Sorry, I also forgot to add that my weighted GPA is a 4.68 and my un-weighted GPA is a 3.98. I have taken all pre-AP and AP classes since freshman year.

  207. Brian says

    Sorry again, but I also wanted to add that I am looking at a Business Administration degree and am trying to get into medical school.

  208. Tina says

    Hi My name is Tina, I commented here a year ago and now I need some advice on how I should attack future standrized testing. I’m aiming for Harvard, Princeton, and Georgetown. First I’ll give you a background of my qualifications to refresh

    Weighted GPA: 5.3
    Unweighted GPA: 3.96
    Top 2% of class
    1st SAT scores from June 2011
    CR: 720
    M: 700
    W: 630
    1st SAT subject from May 2011
    Chemistry: 630
    US History: 680
    Varisty Swimmer and Varisty Water Polo player
    Over 250 hours of community service
    One of the 300 girls in the Florida to be chosen as a Girl States Delegate
    Created my own humanitarian organization at school for Africa
    Orchestra for 7 years, all county, Tri M Music honor society
    National Honor Society
    Youth in Government
    Center of International Studies Magnet Program

    Pretty much, I think I got EC covered, my problem is, I’m not sure what to take first next, an SAT reasoning test or an SAT subject. Because with my senior year coming up I’d have to relearn all the material I learned junior year, on top of all the new classes I’ll be taking. So should I take the subject test first in october because it’ll be earlier in the school year where we mostly review material or should I take the reasoning to get it over with because it seems to be more important…?

    My chemistry is extremely low and I plan on taking that over again, but I’m not sure about US history, is a 680 good enough? Or should I retake that? I also need to take math 2 but I’m worried if I take Chem, US history, and math 2 all at once it’d be too much to study for and I wouldn’t score as high compared to if I didn’t retake US history and only math 2 and chem.

    Also for my reasoning scores, they are very ironic because CR is my weakest and Math is my strongest. I plan on taking the reasoning test again to bring up my math and writing, but should I not focus that much on reading? Is a 720 decent enough for the top schools?

    Sorry this comment is kind of all over the place…bear with me here…haha

  209. Tina says

    Uh, it’s Tina again, sorry I reread my last comment and I meant to say my reasoning scores were ironic because USUALLY CR is my weakest subject yet math is my strongest, but it didn’t turn out that way when I took the test.

    Also I took the ACTs which should be coming out any day, but if I bring up my SATs next time will it be necessary to retake the ACTs if I didn’t score so high this time?

  210. Alice says

    Hi, Todd:

    It appears to me that state university does not provide many scholarships for out of state students, some of them even charge out of state students with the same rate like international student. (Like Purdue), in this situation, Is it wise to spent the time to apply any public university (out of state)?
    Another question is, if my son improves his grade on Senior, do you think that will help when he is applying for the college. His counselor suggested him to submit the application form on the begining of August, because the university can’t provide enough dorms to all of the students.

    Thank you for your information, You are doing a great job.

  211. Todd Johnson says


    You are correct that the vast majority of public colleges are very expensive for students who are not from that state. For most students for whom financial aid is an issue, I do not recommend public colleges outside the state you live in unless your state has an agreement with another state to provide lower tuition for some out state students.

    The grade question is a little trickier. If your son already has strong grades compared to other students who might be applying to the colleges he is applying to, the senior year grades will need to be strong but won’t make much difference. On the other hand, if your son struggled with grades his first year or two and his grades are now heading upward, waiting to get at least first semester senior grades can help show that the strong grade trend is continuing. It is true that a some colleges assign dorm rooms based on when you applied, but if there are not sufficient rooms, he can either plan on living off campus or find another college that does not have limited dorm space. That type of situation typically relates to a public college.

  212. Todd Johnson says


    Your grades are good as are your test scores for most of the colleges you list. Rice is very selective although your grades and test scores should make you competitive. Also, living in Houston may help with Rice.

    In general terms it is difficult to say how a particular student might do with admissions to a particular college because there are so many variables. In general terms, public colleges like primarily at grades and test scores while private colleges, like Rice and Baylor, take a more holistic approach and also look at your activities, your college application essays and other factors in making admissions decisions.

    Medical schools don’t care what you major in but a business degree is unusual. The problem is that you need to take certain classes to apply to medical school and most business programs have specific classes you have to take so that it can be difficult it not impossible to take all of the classes you need for both programs.

    The other issue is that in general terms, smaller colleges do a better job of preparing students for medical school because you get more personalized attention. The only college you list that I would recommend if medical school is your goal would be Rice. Otherwise, look at some small colleges outside Texas that have a strong history of getting students to medical school. Also, look at colleges where you will be a strong student and may have a chance at some merit based scholarships. One college I might suggest you look at is Knox College in Illinois. They have a strong history of medical school placement and you may qualify for merit based money based on the information you provided.

  213. Todd Johnson says


    In general terms, to be the most competitive for the most selective colleges you should aim for 700 plus on each of the three SAT sections as well as each Subject Test. Although the subject tests are required at some of these schools I would still focus on the SAT itself first. That being said, the vast majority of students that they don’t accept each year meet these criteria. These colleges are looking for much more than grades and test scores. That is just the beginning. Your extracurricular activities, your essays and who you are, are all important factors. Most of these colleges are looking for some level of high achievement in your activities, often at the national level.

    If you wish to apply to this type of school, just make sure that you have some other colleges where admissions is more likely also on your list.

  214. Alice says

    Hi, Todd:

    Would you please allow me to ask you one more question.

    My son is a long term asthma patient, Is it a good idea if he put it as “overcome diversity”.
    I believe most of the asthma patients have to spent double effort when they are in the high school. and this problem did affect him when he took the test.

    Thank you for your advice

  215. Alice says


    sorry,I made a spelling mistake, it is “overcome adversity”, do you think that is a good idea to put it on essay or application form?

    Thank you again.

  216. Todd Johnson says


    While it is possible to put this type of comment in the application or discuss it in the essay, I would normally not do so. Rather, if one his recommendations can comment on the fact that he has worked extra hard because of his health problem with asthma, it will be better received than if the student raises the issue.

  217. Jordan says

    Hi,I got a 1790 on my last SAT. The one before that I got a 1640. Is my new score good enough to possibly get into UVA? I have taken the SAT 3 times now and have improved each time, but I am not anxious to take it again. Also, should I take the ACT, too?

  218. Todd Johnson says


    There are too many variables involved in college admissions to make a guess on admission based on test scores. If you have taken the SAT 3 times, it is unlikely that you will improve substantially. You might take a practice test of the ACT to see how you do and if you do better than on your SAT test, you could schedule an actual ACT.

  219. Ayla says

    Just to give you a short background before I ask you a few questions. I’m going into sophmore year, and go to a small school. My class is about 30 kids, and I would say I rank in the top 10%. This is with a GPA of 4.0 from my freshmen year. I recently took the online practice SAT. Since it was online, and done in a bit of a rush, I know my scores aren’t the best they could be. But please look over them. My scores were
    CR 480
    Writing 520
    Math 500
    Total 1500
    As far as extracurricular activites, I play four instruments. Two of which (piano and lead steel drum) I’m active in right now. I also do Cross-Country, Volleyball, Basketball, and Track.
    My questions are:
    What are examples to build up my resume? Cause I relize its not just about the numbers.
    Not sure where I’m shooting for yet, but what would be a good SAT score? I’m thinking 650 in each, and 1,950 overall. To get me into about a 30% acceptance rant school.
    Good community service ideas?
    Thank you!

  220. Todd Johnson says


    Several issues. First, regarding the SAT. I recommend students try a practice test of the SAT and a practice test of the ACT to see which one they do better on. Compare the scores and focus on the one which you do better on. To compare the scores use an SAT ACT concordance table. If you google that you will get the table from ACT or SAT. They are the same table. If the scores are similar then focus on the one that felt most comfortable. All colleges will accept either test so focus on your stronger one.

    Second, the more selective the college the more that they are looking for students who have a passion. It doesn’t matter what you passion is as long as you demonstrate it in various ways. For example, say your passion is music. They you might play in the band and you might start a band to play at local nursing homes. You might work at a music store. That sort of thing. This doesn’t mean that you can’t do more than one thing but in looking at your activities when you are a senior you should be able to say, that person is really into ….

    Third, for community service, no one area is better than another. What is important is that you show that you care about something outside your self. I normally recommend with younger students like you that you find something to volunteer at and try to stay at that organization for several years. Even hour a week, every week, for three years will give you 150 hours of volunteering. This is much more impressive than the student who does 150 hours of volunteering the summer before senior year. But don’t worry about number of hours. Worry about being consistent in your volunteering. If you want, you can also do other types of volunteering that might be a couple of hours here or there but you want at least one activity that has regular, consistent volunteering.

    Fourth, keep those grades up. You are doing great so far.

  221. Jerry says

    im in 8th grader in IL. I have a score of CR:420
    im planning on going to uc berkeley, stanford, ucla, northwestern, champaigne and u of i.
    im in a lot of EC.
    and i’m chinese and can easily score a 800 on chinese sat subject test
    what is a reasonable improvement score on my sat? and what are my chances of those schools?

  222. Todd Johnson says


    I am glad to see that you are starting to think about colleges early. However, at this point it is too early to start worrying about what colleges you might attend. While the schools you mention are all good schools they have very little in common. Right now your focus needs to be on getting the best grades you can in high school because that is the most important thing for college admissions. As for test scores, for the type of colleges you mention you would want to have over 700 on each section of the SAT. However, they are so competitive that even with good grades and test scores many students are rejected from these schools. The selective colleges like these are not looking for students who are in a lot of extracurricular activities. Rather than are looking for students who have a passion for one or two things. Figure out what you like to do and then focus on that activity. This will make you much more attractive to these schools than having 20 different activities on your resume.

  223. Alyssa says

    I will be a senior in high school this year and I am considering applying to selective, Ivy League colleges (specifically Harvard, Yale or Brown). I am wondering if my activities/grades and scores are up to par. I also plan to apply to the University of Kansas, Mizzou and Rochester in New York. I would like to major in Journalism or Pre-med to become a pediatric psychiatrist (possibly double major).

    Activities: I am a Varsity cheerleader and a competitive dancer (I have been dancing for 15 years). I am the Editor-in-chief and Features editor of my school newsmagazine (this is my 3rd year on staff). I also write for a website called Catch it Kansas. I am a Quill & Scroll member (2 years), a Stu-Co member, a French club member and an Ecology Club member (all for 4 years). I am the Vice President of National Honor Society (3rd year as a member). I am also starting my second year on the Mayor’s Youth Council in my city (very selective group of 30 high schoolers from across the city).

    Grades/Scores: I have been on the Superior Honor Roll every year of high school. I have a 4.2 GPA (4.0 unweighted). I have straight A’s and am in the Cum Laude program (I take all AP and honors classes). I go to a private college prep school, so I am already earning college credits. I have a 32 ACT score(English-35, Math-31, Reading-34, Science-26) and a 2090 SAT score(Reading:710, Math:680, Writing:700- Multiple choice:77). I was contacted by the National Merit Corporation, and I think my PSAT score of 207 will qualify me as a commended scholar. I am in the top 2-3% of my grade of about 240 students.

    Journalism Awards: 2010 Regionals-Honorable Mention; 2010 State- 2nd place; 2010 Nationals- HM; 2011 Regionals- HM

    I do lots of volunteer work in my community, school and church as well (I am unsure of the total amount). I was chosen to attend the National Cooperative Youth Leadership Camp this summer and to receive a scholarship from the organization. I am also one quarter Hispanic, so I am hoping that will help with admissions and scholarships.

    I am trying to decide if I actually have a shot at the Ivy League schools. What is your opinion? If I do have a chance, I will need to take SAT subject tests ASAP. Also, do you think I should take the SAT for a second time? It was my first time, and I am not sure if a 2090 is high enough. I feel like I could score much better if I prepared a little bit. I was also wondering, how important is applying early decision.

  224. Todd Johnson says


    Grades and the classes you took to get those grades are the most important factors for admissions to almost all colleges including the most selective ones. If you have a 4.0 unweighted GPA you are in a good position for those colleges. Your SAT scores are alright, your ACT score is a little stronger. If you didn’t prepare for the SAT the first time you might consider retaking it after taking some practice tests.

    Your extracurricular activities are good but for the most selective colleges they are not great. Most of these colleges like to see students that have accomplishments on the national level.

    Coming from Kansas will help you somewhat since it is not a state that historically sends a lot of students to the most selective colleges. Being Hispanic will also help your chances somewhat.

    For those colleges that have early decision, it can help increase the chances of admission by two to three times. However, Harvard and Yale do not have early decision. Brown does.

    The three Ivy League colleges are definitely reaches but given your state residency and ethnic background, they are reasonable reaches. Just make sure you also apply to some other colleges you would be happy to attend if you don’t get into any of those three. If that is Kansas, Mizzou and Rochester, then fine. You have a good chance at those three, particularly the first two.

  225. Sum says

    My son is a senior this year and is undecided about his major. He is an International Student doing IB – ranked 1 or 2 in class with a SAT I score of 2340. Has football at national level, has 2 summer internships – one of which is a research internship in economics and policy , learns violin, qualified at regional level math olympiads. He has strong academics – is also nominated and received RPI medal. Writes well – but not published. Does he stand a chance with HYPS ? Would really appreciate some advice!

  226. Todd Johnson says


    Given the acceptance rates at the most selective colleges including Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford, the best I can usually say is whether a student will be competitive. His grades and test scores are good. However, the biggest issue with admissions to these types of colleges is whether a student has a strong extracurricular background in addition to grades and test scores. Recognition of an activity at the national level will make a student more competitive. You don’t say what nationality your son is but this may make a difference also. Coming from a country that sends many students to the US will make it more difficult to get admitted to a highly selective college where many other students are applying. On the other hand, if his nationality is from a country that sends few students to the US for college, it may help his chances of admissions. I wish I could give you a better answer but with the most selective colleges, there are many strong students that don’t get accepted.

  227. Sum says

    Appreciate the prompt response! He is from India – from a school that is selective and ranked among the top 2 in the country. He was the topper in school for the standardized Grade X exams. The summer internship he did was actually for UG – was admitted as a special case looking at his essay and demonstrated interest. He did take part in MUN at school and inter-school levels but lost interest – he reads a lot and is happy with books :)

  228. John says

    Hi, Todd

    I am wondering if there are any other uses to the sophomore PSAT score other than knowing your current skill level. Do some colleges take those into account?

  229. Jim says

    Hi, I am a rising sophomore policy debater. My coach recommends that I attend the best summer debate program next summer, which is 7 weeks at University of Michigan. I do believe that I will have national success in my junior and senior years and these camps will substantially help me, but how will the top ivies, such as upenn and harvard, view my time at these camps during the summer? Would they prefer different camps, such as the Yale Ivy Scholars, or camps at Harvard and Oxford? What do you recommend?

  230. Jim says

    Also, I was wondering if there are any other uses to the sophomore psat score other than knowing your current skill. Do certain colleges take those into account?

  231. Todd Johnson says


    The PSAT, when taken as a junior, has no purpose other than as the qualifying exam for the National Merit Scholarships. At other times it has no purpose for college admissions purposes. No colleges will worry about the PSAT score for admissions purposes.

  232. Todd Johnson says


    Selective colleges do not have a preference for one type of camp over another. For that matter, they often prefer that you do something other than a camp. Camps are fine if they support your passion whatever that might be. If your passion is debate then attending a camp at U Michigan is fine. If something else is your passion you can attend a camp at your local state university and it will be viewed positively. Attending camp at a particular college will not give you an edge in the admissions process for that college.

  233. Tammy says

    Hi Todd,
    My name is Tammy, and i am a junior.My GPA is 3.5, i don’t take any gifted or ap classes, and i scored a 1890 on the SAT. I’m not involved in my community or school, i did run track my freshman year and i did well enough to be recognized on a statewide level. What are my chances of getting into Auburn U, UGA, or Ga Tech? If i decide to do track this year, and i run even better than i did freshman year, what are my chances of getting a scholarship? I’m Jamaican if that helps.

  234. Todd Johnson says


    I can not give chances to particular schools because there are too many variables. If you are very strong at track and if a track coach at one of these schools decided that they wanted you for their team it is possible to get an athletic scholarship. However, few athletic scholarships, particularly for something like track, will pay enough for the cost of the college. Also, being in a sport in college, particularly at a Div 1 school, is very time consuming and can make academics very difficult.

  235. Michael says

    Hi Todd!
    I’m about to be a senior. I took the SAT a last May and ended up with a 2030. My CR and Writing scores were both pretty good (710 and 700), but my math was a 600. The two higher scores both get near or above the 75th percentiles for some top-notch public schools like Berkeley or North Carolina. But I’m worried admins will take one look at that 600 and deny me. Schools I’m looking at are the two listed above, UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz (I’m a Californian), Washington, UT-Austin, Michigan, and Penn State.

    My activities are Varsity football and baseball(2 years each), piano (10 years), trombone (4 years), and community service and volunteer work. I have also written for my school newspaper.

    My GPA is a 3.75 weighted, with AP and Honors classes. I’m about to take 2 more AP classes this year. I took an SAT II (US History) and scored a 740.

    I’m just wondering if it’s possible to be accepted to some of those universities with that poor math score. Should I take it again?

    Also, what are your thoughts about community college? My heart tells me straight to a 4 year, but my brain tells me to save my money and go 2 years to a CC. What do you think is the smarter decision? Thanks a bunch! And sorry this is so lengthy!–Michael

  236. Todd Johnson says


    Colleges look at your scores in the context of who you are and what you are interested in. If you are interested in a subject that requires a lot of math, then the math score may be a concern. If you are looking at something that doesn’t require much math, then not so much. Public schools like you mention tend to look primarily at your grades and test scores in deciding admissions so the lower math score at a public college may have a little more impact. Also, when dealing with out of state public colleges, the mid range of test scores can be misleading because out of state students typically need higher test scores than in state students to be competitive. If you have only taken the SAT one time then I would recommend you retake once. Many colleges will superscore so there is no real downside to trying it again and hoping for a higher math score.

    The decision of whether to attend a community college to start or a 4 year college is not a simple one because there are so many factors involved. In general terms, community colleges are fine but there are some issues that you need to be aware of. Search for community colleges on my site and you will find some articles I wrote on this issue. California has some strong 2 year colleges so it may be more of an option for you. However, where ever you go you need to be happy to do well so you need to find the right college for you to start whether than it a 2 or 4 year college.

  237. Todd Johnson says


    As I say in the article a score is only good or bad depending on who you are and what your abilities are. The average score on each section of the PSAT is about a 50 so your critical reading and math scores are above the national average and your writing score is about the average. Most students will improve as they take the test but frankly I don’t pay much attention to the PSAT as is it not used in college admissions and is only used for the national merit qualification. Instead, I generally have students focus on the SAT and the PSAT takes care of itself if you know the SAT.

    As an eighth grader you have plenty of time to worry about the SAT. I think the more important thing at this point is to read, read, read. That can help your critical reading and writing score. It doesn’t generally matter much what you read although a mix of serious and less serious is a good mix.

  238. Allan says

    Hey Todd,
    I have around a 3.4 un-weighted GPA but i have taken mostly honors and AP classes throughout high school. Would the rigor of my courses look better to a college than a student who for example has a 3.7 un-weighted GPA but did not take any honors or AP classes?

    I am looking to go into engineering where ever I attend college. I am currently in AP Calculus BC, the highest available math class at my school, AP Physics, and i got a 770 on the math portion of the SAT. I got a 4 on my AP Calc AB test as well. My SAT super score is 2010. My extracurricular activities include high school and club soccer, tennis, and volunteer work. Do I have a fair chance at getting into a good engineering school like Purdue, Georgia Tech, or even Norte Dame (my family has a lot of connections there)?

    Thanks for your input.

  239. Todd Johnson says


    Colleges will definitely look at the rigor of the courses when evaluating the student’s GPA. I can’t comment on the likelihood of admissions to particular colleges because there are just too many variables that can come into play in the admissions decisions.

  240. Cassie Smith says


    Hi, I’m currently a senior at a very small high school. I have several questions about different things, so bear with me. My situation is very unique, and I don’t quite know what to expect when it comes to where I can go to college. I’ve been considered “gifted” in school. But because I’ve been in and out of hospitals for the duration of my life (I’ve had sixteen surgeries), I was unable to take the more challenging classes or do extracurricular activities of any sort in high school until this year. Also, my cumulative GPA is very low (2.5) because I used to get very, very tired at the end of the day and have really bad pain. Now that my pain issue is somewhat taken care of, my GPA for my first semester of senior year should be around a 3.8.

    I took a practice ACT in school, during school, but I didn’t finish all of the sections. I finished them when I got home because I wanted to see how I’d do if time weren’t an issue. Results: English – 33, mathematics – 28, reading – 29, science – 25, and composite – 29. I would really like to get my score to a 30. Aside from taking two practice tests (one junior year, and the one mentioned previously), I have not studied. I took the real one for the first time today, and, as expected, I did not have enough time for most of the sections. I plan on checking out ACT books from the library and working very hard to improve my skills for the next test on December 10th. My math teacher is also going to tutor me once a week in harder stuff than what we’re learning in class. Do you think that will help me improve my time issue? Do you know of any other ways to help that? I know that if I could have enough time, I could get at least a 30. Well, I’m hopeful at least.

    I’m uncertain about other things as well. I’m very worried about my low cumulative GPA and the fact that I did absolutely no extracurricular activities until this year (still, just one). I was unable though. Quite frankly, I have had to work tremendously harder than the average student to get to where I am right now. I even skipped the entire eighth grade due to surgeries. I was paralyzed for six weeks and had to learn how to walk again, forcing me to stay in an out-of-state hospital for four months straight (which taught me quite a few important things about life, might I add). I have it easier than I used to, but I still have a hard time. But I work diligently, and I manage to do well now. I know that colleges will take this into account. But do I even stand a chance in highly selective colleges? My test scores apparently say so, but my GPA and lack of extracurriculars… absolutely not. Then again, I have something that makes me stand out from everyone else. Will they look at my test scores and my current grade point average, and think that since I had such a tough time and still managed to make it this far, I’m as good as the other good students who applied? I have a passion for medical care because of everything I’ve been through. Education is very important to me, I enjoy it, and I want the best that I can get. I mean, I know ivy league isn’t possible, but I want something… kind of up there. I’ll be a bit disappointed if I’ll have to go to an “average” public university because of my unfortunate circumstances. Well, if a public university with students that, on average, had significantly lower test scores than I is the best kind of school in which I can gain admission… I do have one in mind that I like. But like I said, I want to get the best that I can. The problem is that since I’m so different, I have no idea where to start. I hope I made it easy enough for you to understand my situation. Sorry it was so long. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

    – Cassie

  241. Cassie Smith says

    I just realized something. I would be happy to go to the Ohio State University, and maybe if I do very well there, I’ll be able to go to graduate school somewhere better after. Sounds a lot more likely for me.

  242. Todd Johnson says


    Grades and the classes taken for those grades are the most important factors in college admissions. You will need to give the colleges an explanation of why you have had problems and why you will be able to succeed once you get to college. That is the biggest issue for you right now.

  243. Tyler says

    Mr. Johnson –

    I’m a senior from a competitive high school in North Carolina. My heart is set on the College of William and Mary. My composite SAT score is 2190 (790 reading, 640 math, 760 writing). I have a 4.5 weighted gpa and a 3.7 unweighted. I have strong leadership oriented extracurriculars and I feel that the essays for my application are unique and representative of who I am and that my interview went well. I know that I would have a good chance if I were in state, but how difficult do you think it will be for me to be accepted as a girl from out of state to William and Mary?

    Thank you so much.

  244. Todd Johnson says


    It is definitely more difficult to get into a state school from out of state but you look to be competitive. One issue that may make a difference is if you are asking for financial aid or if you don’t need aid. Many state colleges these days are starting to give preference to out state students who are full pay because they help support the university. At this point there is not much more you can do other than to keep your grades up and hope for the best. I assume that you have others colleges that you would be alright attending that you are also applying to. You don’t want to rely on admission to a competitive college like William and Mary as your only option.

  245. Allen says

    Mr Johnson,

    I am a rising senior in Kentucky. I really would like to apply to schools such as Northwestern and Notre Dame, but I worry about my GPA and test scores.

    My unweighted GPA is 3.80 and I am ranked 12/97. I have a composite 2010 SAT score, with CR- 650, M-620, W-740, and an ACT of 27. Although I get my new ACT scores next week and I feel I did WAY better.

    As far as extracurriculars go, I have consistently been recognized at the state level for my skills in Future Problem Solving (FPS) Competitions (it’s a component event of KY Governor’s Cup) and this past summer, my community service team was awarded 4th place in an International Community Problem Solving Competition (Individually, I spent 350+ hours on the project). I am a 4-year letterman in Varsity Tennis and Academic Team/Quiz Bowl, a member of my National Honor Society,have participated in FPS since the 6th grade, was the class treasurer of my junior class and a member of the junior dance committee.

    So how good do you think my chances are of getting into institutions such as Northwestern or Notre Dame?


  246. Todd Johnson says


    Unfortunately, there is no way to give admissions chances at competitive colleges without much further information. Your class rank and current SAT scores are somewhat low for the colleges you mention. Both schools would be a reach for you. As long as you have some other colleges that you are applying to where your grades and test scores make you more competitive, I think applying to Northwestern and Notre Dame is fine. There some other mid sized research universities that are somewhat less competitive for admissions and you might want to investigate some of them using a site like College Navigator.

  247. diana says

    Hi Todd, I just received back my SAT scores, and they are:
    Reading: 660
    Math: 690
    Writing: 780
    Which is a 2130
    And my GPA is around 3.7, unweighted.
    Am I competitive for UC Berkeley?

  248. Todd Johnson says


    I wish I could answer your question but there are too many factors involved in the college admissions process to say whether you would be competitive for a college like UC Berkeley.

  249. Roshell says

    my Sat score is as follows:
    Critical Reading 560
    Math 450
    Writing 570
    Multiple Choice 57
    Essay 8
    Should i retake the test in hopes of a better grade or is this acceptable for college?

  250. Tracy says

    My friend’s parents want her to apply to an Ivy League school but she does not want to because she does not want to go through a stressful application knowing she’s going to get rejected. Is there any way she can get into an Ivy League school like Cornell or Columbia with 1220 SAT Critical and Math combined? (540 in Critical Reading. 680 in Math. 600 in Writing)But has 99% Cumulative Average [Weighted] and participate in a lot of extracurricular activities?

  251. Todd Johnson says


    No one, and I mean no one, should apply to an Ivy League college just because a school is part of the Ivy League. This is an athletic conference of some old schools. No more, no less. If an individual college is appropriate for a particular student, then they should consider that school.

    There is no way to say for sure whether your friend might get into an Ivy League college with a 1220 SAT. However, my best guess is that she has less than 1 in a 1,000 chance of getting in.

  252. Todd Johnson says


    Different colleges have different test scores that they are looking at. There are colleges that will consider test scores similar to yours and there are other colleges that won’t. Generally I recommend taking a test twice but if you are a senior then it is late to be taking a second test. Just make sure that the colleges you are considering have typical test scores similar to yours. Also understand that for almost all colleges, grades and the classes you took to get those grades are more important than test scores.

  253. Todd Johnson says

    The national average for the ACT is about a 21 so for an 8th grader that is not a bad score. Most students improve quite a bit from 8th grade to 11th grade when the ACT is normally taken.

  254. says

    hi my name is divyam and im from india.
    my recent SAT scores are-
    maths – 660
    writing – 720
    reading – 550
    do i have a good chance of getting into my preferred colleges ?

    my preferred colleges are as follows
    university of north carolina at chapel hill
    university of virginia
    brigham young university
    university of michigan
    indiana university.

  255. Todd Johnson says


    There are many factors that go into admissions decisions and test scores are just one factor so it is impossible to say what your chances for admissions are. Your grades and the classes you take to get those grades are more important at almost all colleges than test scores on the SAT. I will say that most of those colleges are fairly competitive so I would recommend that you also have some colleges on your list where you have a better chance for admissions.

    The one comment I would have on your list of schools is that if you are Christian, Brigham Young may be an appropriate choice. If you are not Christian, I would not recommend the school.

  256. says

    hi todd,
    let me provide you a little more info
    my unweighted GPA is 3.4
    class rank is 13/50
    i play tennis and i guess i fall in the top 25% of the tennis players in my country.
    ive had work experience in a number of places.
    and there are many more extra curriculars where i have excelled.
    and yes im not a christian but i really want to apply to brigham young only because it is fairly placed in the country.

    if this helps you in telling me elaborately how i fare in the admission process then please provide me with adequate info.
    thanks a ton :)

  257. Anand says

    I’m from India and my recent SAT scores were as follows –
    CR- 570
    Maths- 670
    The education system in india doesn’t include GPA but I’ve constantly been in the top 10 rank of my class since Grade 9 . I’ve excelled in quite a few extracurricular activities , had sufficent work experience and done loads of community service .
    It would be great if you could tell me chances at the following universities-
    1)Upenn ( i know my chances are pretty bleak looking at my scores but still giving it a shot)
    2) Northeastern University
    3) Boston College
    4)university of Richmond
    5)Washington State University
    6)University of Wisconsin

    also Im applying in for the business administration course

  258. Todd Johnson says


    Thanks for the additional information but it really takes much more to look at what colleges will be a fit for a particular student. In general terms you are most competitive for Indiana and Brigham Young but what your chances are is difficult to say.

  259. Todd Johnson says


    Unfortunately, as I have said before to other students, there are too many factors that come into play to make predictions about admissions particularly to competitive colleges. It is important to have a range of colleges from an acceptance standpoint and it does appear that you do have that.

  260. Peyton Wilkie says

    I’m from Louisiana, and I scored 168 on the PSAT and have a current ACT score of 28. I am a junior in high school and am very involved in NHS, MAO, and I play two varsity sports. I am a Junior, and am looking into several colleges, namely T.C.U. (Texas Christian), Tulane, and Baylor. My weighted GPA is 4.325 and I am ranked #7 in my class of 128.

  261. Todd Johnson says


    I am not sure if you are asking a question but it appears that your ACT score is stronger than your SAT score. I would focus on the ACT since every college will take either. I would also suggest visiting these colleges if you haven’t already since they are very different, particular Tulane compared to the other two.

  262. Nikitha says

    I just received my PSAT scores.. I got a 191 as a sophomore score. I know the cutoff for my state is 205. Could you explain to me how that works? I know what the cutoff is, but I don’t understand NM. Is it based on each individual state, or the country as a whole? How do they award the scholarships? Please help. And thanks so much,

  263. Todd Johnson says


    National merit cutoff scores vary from state to state and from year to year. If your state’s cutoff score was 205 last year it is likely to be a similar number this year but it can vary from year to year. This is because they look at the very top scorers each year from each state and take a small percentage, less than 1% of the scores from that state. Some states have cutoff scores in the mid 220’s because more students take the test in those states and therefore there tends to be a bigger range of scores and more top scores.

    If you have the minimum score for your state for that year you will be a semifinalist. Finalists are determined by looking at the SAT scores of the students, their overall grades and their general involvement in the community. The vast majority of semifinalists become finalists.

    There are different types of national merit scholarships. Not all finalists get scholarships. The National Merit group has its own scholarship and these are typically about $2,500. About half the finalists will get these awards. There are also other scholarships offered by corporations and by colleges where the students are attending. When all of those are considered most finalists get some sort of scholarship but the amount of money can vary dramatically.

    For more information, here is the link to the official booklet from National Merit. http://www.nationalmerit.org/student_guide.pdf

  264. Robert says

    I have a 3.3 unweighted GPA, 3.9 weighted GPA with a combined SAT score of 1800 and an ACT score of 28. Should I even bother applying to a school such as the University of Chicago or John Hopkins?

  265. Anand says

    Hi todd,
    The education system in India does not give us a GPA , but the commonapp does require it. Should I just calculate the GPA of my class 10 I.C.S.E exams ( the first all India exam students appear for) and submit it ? Please advise

  266. Tim says

    I am a senior now and working on my college app. I am not very clear on which major I am going to study in college. If I choose “undecided” on college app major(interest). Is it hurt my app even I am applying to very selective college?

    Thank you,

  267. Ashley says

    Hi Todd,
    I live in Nevada, Las Vegas to be exact. I want to go to UNLV. My SAT score was a 1730 (600 Crit. Reading, 570 Math, and 560 Writing). I’m currently in AP Calc BC and I have an A in that class. Considering I got a fairly average score on the math section and I’m doing well in the highest math class in high school, how would a college view that? I also took the Math Level 1 and 2 Subject Test to try to show my math skills, but UNLV doesn’t accept them. Is acceptance based on test scores and classes taken?

  268. Todd Johnson says


    Public colleges like UNLV look primarily at grades and test scores. That being said, they typically accept about 80% of the girls that apply and your test scores are near the top of their typical scores so I wouldn’t worry about your scores. Taking Calc BC and getting an A will be impressive and will help in the admissions process.

  269. Todd Johnson says


    Sorry I hadn’t answered your previous post. Just missed it. The request for a GPA on the common app is nothing official. Colleges will rely on the actual grades provided by your school on the transcript. Doing a rough calculation as you suggest is fine and that is what I would suggest you do. Colleges understand that grading in India tends to be much more stringent that in most other countries. I have seen students with 60% be at the top of their class.

  270. says

    hi todd ! i just need to know how good are my chances if i apply to university of michigan in a week or so under rolling admissions.
    i have a SAT score of 1900 and i rank in the top 20% of the tennis players in my country.
    my resume includes work experience and volunteer work. plus my grades are pretty good as well.

  271. Tim says

    Hi Todd,
    On college app, if i choose the “academic interest” which subject I got grade B, is it hurt? (But I got SAT II full mark on this subject). OR should I choose the “academic interest” on the subject I got As?


  272. Emmy says


    Somehow I managed to swing a 800 critical
    reading score on the SAT – but my math score was only 550. Then I got a 640 in Writing.

    I’m not trying to get into an Ivy League college or anything, just a small private
    Should I re-take the test because of the math score, or will an 800 in critical reading be enough? I don’t think I will get an 800 on the next one.

  273. Jack says

    Hi Todd

    I am grade 10 and I took the SAT for my first time, I got
    Reading:530, Math:710, Writing:590
    I have a lot of room for improvement, but is this considered a good score for a first time? And do you know the average score of grade 10s taking the SAT?


  274. Todd Johnson says


    It is up to you on whether to retake the SAT. If you feel you can do better on the Math score then you might want to do so. However, at this point it is too late to submit new SAT scores for many colleges. Check with the colleges you have an interest in to see if you can submit test scores that have not yet been taken.

    Most colleges will superscore the SAT which means they will take your high score from each part of the test even if it is from different test dates. That way, if you retake the test and get a higher math score but lower reading, they would take the two high scores and put them together to give a new total score.

  275. Todd Johnson says


    I think there are ways to find the average score for 10th grades but I don’t have a source handy. In general terms, the middle range of all test takers is around 500 on each section. So your reading score is about average, your math is much higher and your writing is above average. Whether it is good depends on the type of colleges you might be considering and their mid range of test scores.

  276. Charles says

    Hi Todd.

    I was hoping to apply to Princeton, Yale, and Columbia, with a bunch of other schools as my safeties.

    I have a 101.4 weighted GPA and my schools valedictorian, while taking all APs, honors, and college credit courses since 9th grade.

    The first time I took the SAT as a junior I received a 2120 (720 CR, 680 Math, 720 Writing, Essay 10) and then I took it again as a senior this year and earned a 2300 (790 CR, 750 Math, and 760 Writing). I also am a National Merit Semifinalist.

    I took 5 Aps so far and received 4 5s and 1 4, and am taking 3 more this year in the hopes of achieving national ap scholar.

    I am the president of my band, chorus, key club, and student council. My centralized passion is music and I have made the all state chorus and all eastern choruses, and have had countless accomplishments on clarinet as well. I am also in National Honor Society, Jazz Choir, Theatre Guild, and Student government.

    I have displayed my leadership abilities by attending Boys State, summer leadership programs in Washington Dc.

    Is there anything that I could improve to increase the likelihood of attending one of these schools? If something is lacking that I didnt include just mention it and I will tell you.

  277. Todd Johnson says


    Since the application deadlines for the colleges you mention have all passed I assume you are asking if there is any further to do to increase your admission chances. There really isn’t unless you have something significant occur after submitting the application that may increase your chance of acceptance. In general terms, very selective colleges like those you mention are looking for students that have a particular passion that is expressed in their activities. Typically these students will also have some amount of national level accomplishments related to their passion.

    Good luck with admissions.

  278. Tracy says

    Hi Todd,

    My son is a junior in Texas and he just received a 198 on his PSAT. His SAT scores are Reading- 630, Math 670 and Writing 760.
    He is currently Junior Class President and is involved in many extra-curricular activities such as one-act, Varsity football and track. He is currently ranked #3 in his class. Any suggestions on what we need to focus on to possibly receive scholarships?

  279. Todd Johnson says


    There are two types of money called scholarships. Most of the money comes from the colleges themselves. Some of this money is in the form of need based aid. Need based aid is provided based on the families need as determined through a standard formula. The other type of aid is merit based aid.

    For merit based aid, different colleges will have different criteria for determining what amount of money they will award and to whom. There is no consistency in this. So one suggestion is to try to figure out which colleges might be looking for something that your son has. If a college is looking for somebody to play football or run track he may be attractive to that college. For aid based on academic ability he will most likely be looking at colleges that are somewhat weaker academically than we would otherwise look at. Let me explain.

    If a college doesn’t normally get students near the top of their class, they may be more likely to give that student money. On the other hand, if many students applying to the college are in the top 10% of their high school class, then your son will not be usually and might not get any merit based scholarship.

    The stronger he is in various activities, the more likely that he will be an attractive candidate for merit money at a particular college.

  280. Kelly says

    Hi Todd,

    I’m a junior in a private high school(very well known)and I’m getting a bit nervous because I’ve only had help for my SATs, that didn’t last too long and even after I got the results back from my PSATS and P-ACTS, there wasn’t much improvement (although I didn’t get ACT prep). My overall score for the PSAT was a 1550 and my PACT was a 22 (my math brought me down).
    I have a really good GPA though; it’s a 4.0, I’m in Honors classes and next year, probably a few AP’s, and I’m involved in many extra curricular activities (French Honor Society, Chorus, sports, Model UN, yearbook editor, community service, Art Club, piano etc.)
    I did a summer program at Brown University already and I’m doing a study abroad program this summer.
    My main goal is Brown University or Vanderbilt, which I know are very high expectations (I have back-ups), but I’m so worried my standardized test scores won’t be enough to get me in, and I won’t have enough time to prepare for them seeing as they’re in 2 months. Is there anything else I can do to sell myself to some really good colleges?

  281. Todd Johnson says


    The most selective colleges are generally looking for students who are strong across the board including grades, test scores and extracurricular activities. It is difficult to answer your question without more information but very often admitted students have a passion for one or two areas that set themselves apart from other applicants. If you have some passion that you can demonstrate that will help. However, while there are technically no minimum test scores for these colleges, if you are much below a 2,100 composite SAT or 30 ACT you are not likely to be a strong candidate.

    Some very bright students just don’t do well with standardized tests which is why many colleges no longer require them for admissions. You can find a list of such colleges at http://www.fairtest.org. But, both Brown and Vanderbilt still do consider test scores in the admissions process.

  282. chad says

    I was wondering how much a college will lean on your SAT or ACT score for admissions process even if the other aspects of your application are impressive. I have an SAT score of 1860(M-650 R-580 W-630) and an ACT score of 27, but my extracurriculars are track and cross country(varsity), club basketball, National Honors Society, chairman of toys for tots program at my school, and many volunteer activities. I am looking at UMich-Anne Arbor and Wisconsin-Madison as an out of state student. I also had a 3.8 GPA when I applied to these places. I would like to know if it is even worth it to apply to these schools with my credentials.
    Thank you

  283. Todd Johnson says


    For almost all colleges the most important part of your application are your grades and the classes you take to get those grades. Test scores are typically second in importance. Private colleges tend to look at more issues than grades and test scores while public colleges like the ones you mention rely more on just grades and test scores. Your grades and test scores put you in the range for acceptance into the colleges you mention but of course there are no guarantees. Just make sure you apply to some other colleges that are a more likely acceptance.