Almost every day I get asked a question like “I got a 30 on my ACT, what colleges are good for me?” There is no way for anyone to answer that question but let’s look at what impact test scores like the SAT and ACT do have on college admissions.
The most important thing to understand is that test scores alone will never guarantee admission to a selective college. You can have a 2400 SAT or a 36 ACT but if you don’t have the grades to go with that high score, you will have trouble getting admitted to a very selective college.
The problem with high test scores and low grades is you look like a bright slacker to the colleges. And no college wants to have a student that isn’t motivated and who may fail out for lack of trying.
Now, that is not to say that high test scores won’t help in admissions. But more important than test scores at every college are your grades and the classes you have taken to get those grades.
If you have good grades in challenging courses and good test scores you will be competitive for selective college admissions. That means that your grades and test scores will get your application a serious look by the admissions committee. This is particularly true at public universities as they rely primarily on grades and test scores in making admissions decision.
But, there are many other factors that go into admissions at a selective private college. What activities have you been involved with, have you shown leadership, how strong are your application essays and other factors also play an important part in admissions at private colleges.
While test scores on the SAT and ACT are very important for many colleges, there are also a number of colleges that are going test optional. In fact, at this point, there are over 800 colleges that do not require a student to submit an SAT or ACT score with their application.
So, what do I say to students that ask what colleges are good for a particular test score? Figure out what you want from a college, including academic competitiveness, size of college, location and environment and then find colleges that meet your complete needs.