Should You Take the SAT or ACT?
Should you take the SAT?
One of the most commonly asked questions by high school students is whether or not they should take the SAT or ACT. College counselors have a variety of different opinions on this. I personally believe that students should not take the SAT or ACT, for a number of reasons.
1. Test Optional
A couple decades ago, colleges and universities required the SAT or ACT for your application. Today, almost all colleges are test optional. There are very few colleges that require you to take the SAT or ACT. Even Ivy League universities such as Harvard, Yale and Princeton are test optional. If the most competitive colleges in the United States no longer require testing, it does not make sense to recommend students to take the exam.
The reason that the majority of colleges are now test optional is that they are realizing SAT scores are not a good measurement of success when looking at applications. Colleges have decided to move into a much more holistic review process when it comes to applications.
2. There are better ways to make your application stand out
There are a number of ways to make your application stand out. Unless you have an amazing SAT score — 1400 or above — submitting your SAT scores isn’t going to help your application.
So, how do you make your application stand out in a pool of thousands of other people? What exactly do admissions teams look for?
College admission teams always look at GPA first. It’s the most important statistic. They also look at your class rank, which is based on your GPA. In fact, many universities will automatically admit you based on your GPA and class rank. You don’t even need to take the SAT; your admission is guaranteed.
Beyond this, colleges look at a number of other items, such as your ties and affiliations to the university, your extracurriculars, your resume, your portfolio, your college essay, your recommendation letters, to determine whether to accept you. All of these are much better indications of what you are like as a student and how likely you are to succeed at their university.
3. The SAT is not an indicator of you as a student
The SAT is not a good predictor of student success. It is a test that takes 3 hours, and asks arbitrary questions. At the end you get a score that doesn’t mean much. It is extremely difficult to get a high score on the SAT. Unfortunately, students put a lot of value on the test. It really eats away at their mental health and confidence. A lot of students study for months on end for the test, retaking it again and again. Many students feel like they are stupid when they can’t get a high score. All over a silly test!
You should never put your self worth into a test. Remember that you are much more than a test score. The SAT and ACT are not any kind of indication of who you are as a person. Getting a high score doesn’t make you a genius, and getting a low score doesn’t make you dumb. There are much better ways to show off who you are to the college admissions team.
4. Systemic racism and classism
We have known for years that standardized tests such as the SAT are created unfairly. They are biased and prejudiced against students who are low-income and minority students.
The most famous example is an SAT question that used the word “regatta,” a question which only 22% of black students got correct. The question leads us to wonder if the SAT is geared towards wealthy white students, who would be much more likely to know what a regatta is.
Additionally, it costs money to take these tests. The SAT and ACT both have fees. Students can spend hundreds of dollars on tutoring in order to practice for the test. The exam sites are often in faraway locations, which low-income families must figure out how to get to. There are a multitude of things that make the SAT inaccessible to low-income and minority people.
As a social activist, I seek to demolish systems that are actively oppressive. I cannot in good faith tell students to take the SAT or ACT. If we want racism and classism to end, we need to work on removing structures like the SAT and ACT.
The SAT and ACT is not a good indicator of how much students have achieved. It is not weighed as heavily as other parts of the college application. Most colleges now are test optional and do not care whether or not you take it. I will never tell students that they should take the exam.
If you want to stand out on your college application, there’s so many good ways to do it. Your GPA, college essay, extracurriculars, recommendation letters and more will help you stand out.
Don’t take the SAT or ACT.