For four years, you’ve studied, you’ve tested and you’ve completed projects. You’ve maintained a solid GPA. Then you go in and test again. You spend four hours completing a test and maybe even a second test. ACT and SAT scores hold your future captive. You must do well. You’ll never get into your #1 school without good scores, but is that true? The short answer is not necessarily. The long answer is going to take a while to explain. Reality is they all matter. How they matter and why depends on the school and your course of study. Even those schools that claim the scores are optional use them to weed thru the applications.
It used to be prospective students applied to, at most, a handful of schools. That meant Admissions Counselors had fewer applications to go thru. Now, competition is tough. Students are applying at several safety schools to make sure they “get in somewhere”. Someone has to go thru what is now a plethora of applications and narrow it down to make their selections.
They still have a limited number of available spots. UCLA received 80,000 applications for 5,000 spots in 2014. Having minimum requirements for any of the numbers enables them to weed thru some of the applications just a little bit faster. There’s no way UCLA read thru all of those essays to make their decision. Once they eliminated those prospective students that didn’t meet the minimum requirements, then they started reading essays.
Just as an example of what the requirements look like, Gonzaga requires:
Those requirements are pretty standard. So, now you know what you need to get in right? Just meet those numbers and you’re golden, correct? Not exactly. For early admission, that’s what you need. More often than not those early admission spots are saved for those students that will make the school look more attractive overall. That means they look at the best athletes, the best students, the best artists, the best musicians, etc. The higher the test scores and the more rounded the student body the better the school looks when government funding is dispersed. In the end, they need to stay successful. That’s how they attract even more and better students. Later admissions are not held to quite as stringent of standards. Admissions has put together the class they need to make the school look its best. Now, they can look at other factors. How well written is the essay? What extra-curricular activities were they involved in? How much availability is there in the program the prospective student wants?
There’s more to those numbers than just getting into school though. For starters, some schools see your score of 1280 on your SATs and automatically open the door to scholarships. That translates into lower out of pocket costs and smaller loan payments. Think down the road to when the loan is due. You will appreciate a smaller payment.
Higher scores can mean more for your financial future than just scholarship money. It could be the difference between getting and not getting a job. More employers are now asking for your SAT and ACT scores as part of the application. They say those numbers are indicative of critical thinking ability, problem solving skills and quantitative reasoning. It’s understandable, if you are low on experience, they need something to base their decision on. The remarkable thing is that they are also asking for them for more senior employees.
Moral of the story is the numbers matter. They can determine your future, but they aren’t the only determining factor. Take them seriously. Do your best. Most importantly, find the school and the career that is the right fit for you. That is what will really determine your future. Your future is in your hands. Good luck!
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