Could I still get into MIT with low test scores?

Hello there,

My SAT subject test scores came out today.
730 on Math level 2
670 on physics

I’m super bummed about physics, because physics is actually what I want to major in. I really, REALLY want to go to MIT, but my SAT score (1430 out of 1600) is also pitifully low.

I’m hoping to take SAT classes and take one more test before applying early action. Even with a better SAT score, would I have a shot in spite of my atrocious SAT II scores?

Some info about me…

I get fairly good grades in school. I took all honors my sophomore year, and my junior year I took all college courses. My report card this past year (junior year) was typically straight A’s and A-'s, with the exception of some B’s in my English classes.

I entered a science fair project, in which I wrote a program issuing commands to a drone to recognize a pattern, approach it, and land, into the state science fair and it won a handful of awards. I’m currently working as an intern in the engineering department of a microboard manufacturing company.

I’m passionate about things outside the classroom. I’m an artist (demonstrated through art show awards and past internships), a black belt in martial arts, and I have shown interests in music too.

Will these accomplishments and activities outweigh my awful scores? Thank-you all for your advice/opinions.

Hopefully, you’re investigating many schools. Even if you had two 780s, your chances at MIT are tiny – just like everyone else. Now your road is even steeper – but why fixate on what was your worse likely school, before you found out your SAT2s anyway?

Now you should be more focused on the realistic schools. Consider that a blessing.

Imagine a standard young couple who is deciding to buy their first home. Do they tour multi-million mansions first? Or do they look at houses in their price range? If they tour the mansions, everything else that follows seems shabby.

Too many HS students act like this. You’ve gone down this road backwards. Choose a broad suite of schools where you’re likely to get admission. And then investigate a couple of “dream” schools like MIT. But the vast vast majority of your energy should be about getting into your target schools. Anything else is foolishness. Good luck

T26E4 gave you awesome advice. Please take it to heart - for your benefit.

Sure, continue to try your hardest to get into MIT. But also make sure all the applications to your “realistic” schools are in top shape.

I admire your passion but keep in mind that last year 18,306 kids REALLY wanted to go to MIT but only 1,519 were admitted. So please keep your options open and take the advice given above.

Good luck!

I encourage you to apply anyways because low test scores aren’t the end of the world. Also, because I’ve gone through old decision threads and seen comparatively ‘low’ scores perhaps hinder an application, but not prevent acceptance. A person got in with something in the 1800s (on the old sat), but that is just one person, an outlier.

You should definitely retake the Physics SAT though and aim for something in the 750s.

I think if you can bring your SAT score up by like 50-80 points perhaps, you have a okay shot, but I can’t pretend to know what the adcoms think, I’m a highschooler just like you.

Agreed with @7YearsPerHour . 1430 is still an amazing score (even I’m still working on getting a score close to that), and I’m sure that you still have a good chance at getting in. Besides, MIT doesn’t focus on test scores too much. They want to know what you are passionate about and how you plan on improving your community. You can retake your SAT Subject Scores which I would recommend, but focus on your extracurriculars and essays since those are the meat of your application.



and I’m sure that you still have a good chance at getting in


Please be careful.

As usual, T26E4 gave you great advice. As for the rest, I’d like to just reiterate a few bullet points.

  • Can you still get in: yes, but it's even more unlikely that it would have been had your scores been higher. Your SAT is an acceptable score at many fine institutions, MIT potentially included. Feel free to retake it to improve on it further, to take the ACT. I actually think your subject test scores are more disqualifying than your SAT, but just do your best and work hard on your apps to overcome the numbers, which are seriously one of the smaller parts of the process.
  • A 1430 is not a pitifully low score for any school I wouldn't have said. It's not the best score ever received obviously, but you'd no doubt be in the top 3-4% of all test takers with a score like that, so be proud of your achievements. Don't be so hard on yourself. Still, most in the applicant pool have qualified scores like you, so know that you won't be rejected or accepted on the basis of your SAT I. Again, your subject test scores (esp your 670) need to be raised a touch.
  • Apply and forget. That is the secret to sanity in the college process. If you play your cards right, you will have some wonderful offers from some wonderful schools. MIT may or may not be among them, odds are it won't be, as it won't be for most that apply. Just apply to a range of selectivity levels and RELAX. Contrary to popular belief, stewing and stressing for the 3 months after submission before decisions does not in fact improve your chances of admission :)

Good luck!

OP, “fairly good grades” and B’s in English class don’t help.

No one should apply blind, just because they can. (I don’t see that as “sanity.”) You can’t even begin to build a target list- much less, assess your chances- unless you have some idea what an elite looks for.

No one should tell you lightning might strike and you could get lucky, when you have your own opportunity to dig deeper and see what the colleges say they value and want. Have that energy and savvy.

@lookingforward I wasn’t saying applying to a school for which you haven’t the qualifications “blind[ly]” as you say is sane. I said that to get through the college application process in the least stressful way possible, and to maintain sanity, one should practice the apply and forget method for every school given the unpredictable way of admissions these days. I would say the same for schools across the selectivity spectrum.

I would have discouraged the OP from applying if I felt he/she had no chance - I agree that applying blindly for the sake of it is ludicrous. It’s why Harvard and Stanford have such ludicrously low acceptance rates. Sure, many of those students could be qualified, but there’s no way that there are 35,000-40,000 Stanford-level applicants graduating every year - it’s a dubious figure really since so many are rejected after one look at their GPA and SAT/ACT. But I digress! The OP could get into MIT. We don’t know about his/her ethnicity, ECs, location, essays, recs, or any number of other factors that could get OP a second look. I think the SAT IIs need to come up, but otherwise I think they’ve a shot, if only a very slim one, perhaps slimmer than for most other applicants, but a shot nonetheless.

OP has left the building. But my point is bright kids motivated to consider a tippy top should be bright and motivated enough to really (try to) know more about their target schools and how they may match. Especially MIT, which has so much discussion about this.

I agree completely @lookingforward

Hi guys! Sorry I haven’t checked this thread in a while. Thank-you all for your wonderful responses — I took my time reading and considering each and every one of them.

I have a more specific question this time, still about applying to MIT. Of the three options, which would be the wisest for me (in your opinions)?:

  1. Retake the subject tests and apply early action to MIT
  2. Retake the SAT and apply early action to MIT
  3. Retake BOTH and apply REGULAR ACTION to MIT

Your advice and suggestions are much appreciated.

You can do either option 1 or 2 and then take the other test and update your application if you don’t get in early action.

Don’t obsess too much about test scores. They are important but test scores alone won’t get you into MIT and test scores alone won’t keep you out of MIT (given that they are in the ballpark). It is more about what kind of student you are; do you take advantage of your opportunities, do you push yourself, leadership skills, etc.

Do apply elsewhere and be sure to have a safety school. MIT has a lot of applicants and only a given number of seats, so the very low admit rate for even great students.

I think you should take the SAT IIs first as a priority. That’s probably more indicative in many ways of your strengths than the normal SAT. Then you can update your EA app or deferred RD app with the later scores. Also you might at least consider the ACT in case you get a 34+ on it, which is better than your current SAT equivalent. A 1430 isn’t even bad though I don’t think. A 1480+ would be better obviously but I think they’d be more concerned about your SAT IIs than your 1430.

As HPuck35 aptly advised, don’t overthink tests. Do the best you can, submit, and then focus on what’s more important in you application. Good luck.

In general, it is a good rule of thumb that the first significant digit in your SAT I and II section scores should be a 7, and the first in your ACT section subscores should be a 3, with the most weight on the math section(s).

Not a hard rule by any means, but a decent heuristic for what a good score-area for us is, based on where the predictive bands on the different tests tend to fall (which is how we use them).

Chris, your answer is so political. MIT loves data. You can show us how many applicants (not URM) out 19020 got admitted with 700 SAT II and 30 ACT. I would say that to be competitive in the pool the R.O.T should be the first two digits 76 for SAT II and 34+ ACT. I wish I’m wrong. But I love MIT. As an academic driven school, nothing wrong with the high numbers.

@northpole I’m not an admission officer, but I have talked to several who claimed that all they do is glance at test scores for a second then move on to the essays and other application aspects. I believe it is only a coincidence that those who get the perfect or near perfect test scores are the same ones that have strong essays, evaluations, and transcripts. 11% of people with scores of 34-36 on the ACT got accepted. However, 6% of people with scores 31-33, a little more than half of those with34-36, got accepted too. Applicants are not numbers; they are people.

You don’t get it. No matter whom you talked to, you still sit on the other side of the table. This whole process is ‘numbers’ to begin with. It is misleading to use the MIT data without considering their confounding effect. ACT, SAT II, AP Scores, SAT, transcript, URM and geographic distribution, they are all bundled together. You gotta know how to use the data right. It is laughable to think ‘coincidence’. Try to be competitive. If you use MIT published data right, you should see why ACT 30-33 and SAT II 700-740 won’t make you competitive.

@northpole Why do you think you know better?