Every week we speak to a great deal of parents about test prep for their high school students. Without question, one of the most frequent questions we hear is “Is this a good SAT score?” (They are referring to their student’s recent PSAT or SAT scores that they’ve just shared with us.)
While it would be nice to be able to definitively say “Yes, this is a good SAT score,” the quality of a score is not so black and white. In general, there is a positive correlation between increasing SAT scores and increasing competitiveness; however, how good an SAT score is really depends on where they student is hoping to gain acceptance to college.
For example, a student with an SAT score of 1970 (650 critical reading, 670 math, 650 writing) is a pretty strong contender for James Madison University, which has a 75th percentile score of 610 to 620 per section. However, that same student with an SAT score of 1970 is not nearly as competitive at UVA, where the 75th percentile score is around 720 to 740 per section.
A Good SAT Score is Relative
There are a variety of factors that admission panels consider when reviewing applicants, but a student’s SAT score is a big one. In fact, at most schools the SAT score counts anywhere from 20% to 50% of the admission criteria. A student with a 1970 SAT score can certainly be a competitive applicant to UVA; however, he is likely going to need an extremely strong application including a history of rigorous coursework, top grades, compelling essays and teacher recommendations, and a demonstrated interest in the school.
The higher the score, the better. But don’t judge the quality of a student’s SAT scores by how much higher they are than the national average or how far they are from a perfect 2400. Judge it by where the student’s scores fall in relation to the mid-50% range for the colleges to which he is applying.
What SAT Score Do You Need to Get into College?
On individual school’s websites or on sites that compile data on colleges such as Princeton Review, you can find the mid-50% range for SAT scores. What this tells you is the score range of the middle 50% of the most recent pool of admitted students. Typically, as college counselors will tell you, students should aim to be above the 75th percentile to be a competitive applicant. Again, not being above the 75th percentile doesn’t mean that a student doesn’t have a shot; however, applicants should have safety schools to which they are applying. Students SAT scores should be at or above the 75th percentile for these safety schools.
Mid-50% ranges are useful for determining an applicant’s competitiveness at individual schools and how strong his safety net is with regard to reach, target, and safety schools. Ultimately, students should be devoting as much time as possible to preparing for the SAT to maximize their score. In the grand scheme of things, SAT scores count far more than any individual grade a student will receive in high school or any extracurricular activity in which they are involved.
Read more in our free e-book: What Parents Must Know about the ACT, the SAT & Test Prep.
For more information on how Educational Connections can improve your student’s SAT scores, call us to speak to our test prep program manager at 703.934.8282.