Retake 1520 SAT to get full rides?

Hi! I am a current high school junior. Got 1500 on August '22 and 1520 on November '22. I am not looking at prestige, as my parents won’t pay for college after freshman year (we don’t qualify for financial aid btw). My goal is to graduate debt free since I want to possibly go to med school. My GPA will be 3.82 UW/4.6 W at the end of junior year assuming I continue getting straight A’s. I am an African American male (my counselor told me that my race will help a bit in certain scholarships).

The ONLY reason I am considering retaking is to make myself a stronger candidate for the UMD Banneker/Key scholarship. I emailed their financial aid office and the average stats for someone who gets that scholarship is 1530 SAT/4.7 weighted gpa. UMD is my dream school since I’m an MD resident and my brother goes there.

The other scholarships I’ve been looking at that I think my stats will allow me to be considered for are:
-OSU eminence/morrill
-FSU presidential
-UNC pogue (not sure what stats are for this though)
-MiamiU in Ohio presidential fellows
and a couple others that I don’t remember off the top of my head.

Like I said, the only reason for a retake would be for UMD Banneker/Key, which is the school I want to go to the most. I will mention though that my ECs are weak (I have a car detailing business, around 70 volunteer hours, but nothing much besides membership in a few clubs and trying sports here and there. I’m going to search for an internship/research position soon). I want to focus on my ECs but if retaking the SAT to be more competitive for banneker/key is a good idea, then I’ll do it.

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Someone else can perhaps comment about scholarship potential…but have you looked at UMD Baltimore County? IIRC, many health related things are near to that school, as well as majors.

Hi, thank you for the response. I have looked at UMBC. My brother got 9k/yr. The max they give out is around 15k a year. I think I have a really good shot at getting at least 12k/yr, which would pretty much cover full tuition. UMBC is well within driving distance, so if I commuted, I can go there for free. That is definitely one of my options. If I don’t get full banneker/key, I would probably go to UMBC as it doesn’t make sense for me to go OOS even on a full ride when I have umbc as an option.


Glad to hear. Good luck with UMD CP also!

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@1dadinNC son just got a near full ride from Alabama for a minority scholarship. Perhaps he can explain more the benefits. They also have the MCCullough Medical Scholars - linked below.

Even without, your cost would be under $20k with your #s based on auto merit. It’s not your top choice (UMD) or even on your list but it’s a big school option to get you where you need to be financially.

Pitt is another to look at - Cathedral of Learnong - but I don’t believe it’ll be a full ride.

W and L would be a rural LAC but the Johnson Scholarship is always worth a Hail Mary as 10% of entrants receive. It’s beyond a full ride.

FSU will be mid 20s best case. Ethnicity is not a factor there.

You can go for other schools but purely from a cost POV Alabama is likely your best large school chance. And it’s 58%+ OOS so you have lots of geographic diversity. You may run the NPCs at WVU, Ole Miss and Miss State but I don’t think they’ll get you near Bama. They estimate scholarships.

My kid is at College of Charleston with a scholarship $5k over tuition. Charleston Fellows and Intl scholars program but the issue there was most the $ came after she committed

It’s great to pursue the full ride programs others offer and I wish you luck on those as well. But make sure to put in for the ‘safest’ just in case.

Good luck.

Ps I don’t see the need to test again but if you really want to and studying womt impact other areas of your life, then sure - it’s possible to go up but it doesn’t mean your decision will change. You’ll have lots of opportunities regardless of ethnicity but you’re chasing a cost of some sort and unless your family has demonstrated need and you said they don’t, you’ll need to cast your net wide as a merit chaser.

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Hi there. You have great stats and I totally get your rationale for seeking the B/K at UMD. As you know, it’s very competitive and not based on stats alone. They do a holistic review of your application as well as an interview. The 4.7/1530 is an average - and you’re pretty close to that so I wouldn’t advise retaking the SAT merely to bump it up 10-20 points. Remember that it could drop as well.

In short: B/K is unpredictable - you can’t do x, y, z and guarantee you’ll receive it (unlike other schools where merit awards are completely stat driven). Just focus on finishing your senior year string and keep your ECs and community involvement going.

Good luck. You seem like a smart, pragmatic student and I hope things work out for you.


I don’t know the stats on scores going up vs down, but my guess is many students improve after another 6 months of school. My DS who ended at a 1530 improved each year with no studying, and the other improved 110 points for the third try after a summer dual enrollment class that involved a lot of reading. His math score improved also even without studying. So it might be worth your time to take it again next June or August.

What are the SAT evaluation policies of the schools you are considering - do they take the highest of your test grades? If so, what do you have to lose? Take a couple practice tests at home, get some coaching then sit for the test again.

You may want to add Case Western to your list. They are generous with aid (they gave my son merit aid equal to 50% of tuition without him applying for any scholarship), and they have a strong pre-med program. They also have ties to University Hospital and The Cleveland Clinic.

On a different note, are there any scholarships for which you can apply that are not tied to a particular school?

Specifically with regards to UMD (OP’s main focus in his post), they super score.

If other schools have auto-merit that requires a higher SAT for a full-ride scholarship then it’s worth it. But back to UMD B/K, a 1540 vs 1520 isn’t going to lock in the scholarship; nor is 1520 disqualifying. So IMO, OP may want you focus on strengthening other areas. He said he wants to focus on his ECs. That may help him more than a 20-30 point bump in SAT.


With deep respect to @DadOfJerseyGirl I think you should take it one more time…with an explanation.

He makes smart points that a 1540 isn’t that much different vs a 1520 but I also agree with @Paula_Davidson that your test-taking skills should continue to improve well into the next year.

I believe that the road from 1520 to 1600 isn’t a long one. You could get an easier exam on the date of your sitting - you could get a harder one, too. There are risks like @DadOfJerseyGirl says, you could score lower than last time, but the idea is already in your head. The expected cost is a test fee + 3 hours on a 2023 summer/fall Saturday + a week or so of review hours, for the potential (POTENTIAL) payoff of thousands of dollars in aid. If you don’t take it and you don’t get what you want, you’ll second-guess yourself. If you take it and you miss the mark, at least you left everything on the field. As long as your target school super scores and doesn’t view lesser scores, shoot your shot.

You’re a junior with a 1520 SAT and it’s not even January 2023. What an amazing accomplishment! You’ve earned the right to take another spin at the wheel if you want. All that said…

Finish your classes, enjoy your well-deserved holiday break, celebrate the new year with friends, lock in your superb 3rd year HS academics. Find an activity that excites you and motivates you to be your very best.

Take the test again. NEXT SUMMER OR FALL.


What is the breakdown for your SAT? If it was 760/760 I’d say just take it again with just a little bit of review, you already know the material and you just need to get lucky with an easy test. If its 720/800 then you have a little bit of a tougher road. The skill gap from low 700’s to mid-high 700’s is more significant and takes some decent hard work to improve on. Then maybe it’s not worth taking again.

Have you taken the PSAT or any AP tests? The reason I ask is that some schools consider National Recognition Scholars (National Hispanic, or African American etc) for the big scholarships. This award is based on either high PSAT or multiple good AP scores. Also the PSAT is what qualifies you for being a National Merit semifinalist, and some schools give full rides for that. People who do well on the SAT like you did often do well on the PSAT too.

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I got a 1440 on this year’s PSAT which is around ~50 points off for my state’s cutoff.


Ok, so maybe doesn’t qualify you for National Merit Scholar (because you are in such a high cutoff state), but will likely qualify you for National African American Recognition Scholar. Not an expert on that, but some schools treat that very similar to NMS when it comes to big tuition awards. I know Fordham does, for example:

So you would likely get full tuition, and would be in the running for Cuniffee (full ride)


I know that you said that your family doesn’t qualify for financial aid at UMD, but I wonder if you might still be eligible for the Ron Brown Scholarship which is for African-American students and seems to have a looser income limit than some other scholarship programs. Rather than limiting applicants to a specific EFC or household income to a specific dollar amount or below, the eligibility criteria states “Demonstrate financial need.” Perhaps your parents being unwilling to pay after freshman year would count? I suppose that is a long shot since some families would just refuse to pay in order to make their children appear eligible, but you could call or email the Ron Brown Foundation and explain the circumstances just in case they would consider you.

Or for that matter, the FAQ states “If you think that you will be eligible for financial aid at the colleges to which you are applying, you should apply for a Ron Brown Scholarship.” Even if your family makes too much money to qualify for aid at UMD, if you would be eligible for aid at a private or OOS university, perhaps you’d qualify to be a RBS as long as you are applying to at least one school where you’d likely have some demonstrated need. I think your grades and SAT would make you competitive though the weak extracurriculars might be an issue given they seem to be looking for demonstrated community service or leadership.


Not usually for any kind of aid. This is a choice…not a need.

But apply and see….you never know.

**▲yes▲ ** i think the National African American recognition scholar is a good avenue to look into. I’d encourage my kid to do so if we were in that position. good idea.

i have a senior who sort of knows where she wants to land; but we are also asking her to look at other places so she can compare options later on this spring. options are good.


Chiming in and agree with @fiftyfifty1 @bgbg4us. Your score should be high enough for the College Board National Recognition Program.

There are several schools that offer pretty good scholarships based on this but there are two caveats: 1. Number of schools is declining rapidly as the program has been considerably diluted. 2. Impending end of affirmative action may impact these scholarships, but I haven’t got a crystal ball.
You can take out about $27,000 in federal loans and maybe you can talk to your parents about spreading out the money they are willing to spend for first year.
Off the top of my head, you can get full tuition based on this year at Alabama, Nebraska, New Mexico State, Tulsa. Check out the minority threads on this site.
If your aim is UMBC or bust then I am afraid this is not helpful information. But, if your goal is to chase merit then you have options.
Also, paging @AustenNut, who is the forum expert on college selection and can give you help. She has a lot of experience with minority scholarships.


As kind as @1dadinNC is, I am not the forum expert on these issues, but I’m happy to provide my thoughts. @ChangeTheGame is likely to have some excellent advice if he’s available.

I was going to mention U. of Kentucky and U. of Louisville as options, but I had a hard time finding the information on their sites, so I don’t know if they’re ending their programs, but you would have been able to get full rides to those. This Kentucky page still has it listed, but I don’t know if this is an old page. I would definitely reach out to both schools to see if these scholarships are still happening. Both would also have lots of opportunities for medical/clinical shadowing as you prep for med school.

Also, have you given any thought to HBCUs? Howard has an excellent, competitive scholarship program for STEM majors (Karsh) and a lengthy thread on it here on CC: Howard University Karsh STEM Scholars Program (KSSP). Being in D.C. would also make it extremely convenient to home for you.

Some of the programs that I’ve known of (like FAMU), now appear to be limiting their programs to in-state residents only or not listing them on their sites. You would still qualify for a full ride at Alabama A&M.

Two other schools that you might want to give some thought to are Xavier in Louisiana and Hampton in Virginia. Both are HBCUs with strong science programs, and Xavier is nationally known for producing the greatest number/percentage of black doctors in the country. It’s also going to be starting its own medical school in a few years. In looking at Hampton’s scholarships, they indicate they prefer to give less money to more students, so their top offer listed on their website is $25k, which leaves about $4k for tuition and then adding on room and board.

Is your preference for big state schools, or are those the only schools that you’ve found possible full rides for? Also, how much is your family willing to pay? I understand they only want to pay for one year, but are they willing to use that sum and divide it by four years? For instance, there are more scholarships for full tuition, but scholarships that used to throw in room & board seem to be reducing the r&B part of the deal. As an example, if your family was willing to do $60k for one year, would they be willing to pay $15k for four years? Particularly since you want to go to med school, it’s really best to avoid debt as much as possible for your undergrad.


Great information provided by multiple posters… and @AustenNut beat me to mentioning Xavier and its reputation for producing a high percent of black doctors.

To answer the OP’s question, I’m of the mindset that taking the SAT again may prevent any “what ifs” and reduce stress and second guessing next fall. If OP does better, fantastic. If not, at least he knows he tried. I do think his current score is excellent and retaking is not necessary for merit opportunities; it may help with state of mind as leaving no stone unturned.

Barring the OP providing more specifics on personal preferences, I will presume that finances are driving the college search. I get that, as the parent of a premed wanting to limit undergrad costs. So I will suggest that in addition to researching the excellent suggestions already in this thread, the OP look at LACs that offer high levels of merit and prioritize diversity in admissions. And as long as the OP has safeties/matches, I encourage applying to competitive merit scholarships in addition to auto-merit schools. Chase merit wherever it is a possibility!

@tsbna44 mentioned W&L, which I’m very familiar with as the parent of a current student. As an AA the OP will have to decide if the history of the school is a barrier to applying, but his stats and URM status make him a great candidate for the Johnson Scholarship full ride plus stipend (which has an unofficial goal of increasing diversity). While W&L is small and rural, my D has been impressed with the pre-health advising and opportunities (research, weekly physician shadowing, summer internship at a health clinic, etc).

In the meantime, keep up the excellent academics, work on soft skills (like time management and self-advocacy) and build relationships with your teachers. Start researching schools in the spring and work on essays over the summer since chasing merit is time consuming and writing quality essays is challenging while juggling a senior year academic schedule.