Retake SAT?

My son has a high GPA (3.96UW, 4.6W), 10+ AP classes, and just took the SAT (school day in April) for the first time with very little prep (a little Khan and one full-length practice test). He always said if he scored 1500+, he would be done, but he ended up with 1490 (740V/750M). He’s interested in some elite/higher-end liberal arts colleges (Claremont McKenna, Pitzer, Occidental, Bowdoin), he might throw his hat in the ring at Stanford or Brown or 1-2 other super reaches, and he also has safeties he’s super happy with. He’s currently signed up for the June SAT test and he’s thinking about just being done. I’d like him to take one more shot at it because I think clearing that 1500 barrier could be helpful. He’ll be top 5-10% in his class, counselor will definitely mark most rigorous box, but his school is not super rigorous generally and I think that will show in school report.

He’s a confident test taker, but not super diligent, so I figured his score could range anywhere from 1200-1550 - he’s that random :slight_smile: His older sister struggled with testing and we did prep that ultimately got her to a 31/32 ACT, but he’s a different kid.


Some of my kids took the SAT and ACT several times, hoping for merit, 3.9 gpa (one B). Both topped out at 1470 SAT, 33/34 ACT, I think they just submitted the ACT. They had a tutor, which helped because they knew they had to take the practice tests. They had many hours of EC’s so they really worked on time management.

While it is certainly the case that elite colleges are taking students without reported SAT or ACT scores; it seems that those students who do report are reporting very high scores. Makes sense - the high scorers select to report and it skews the results.

Our counselor encouraged our son to get at least a 1550 and then he could be done. I think this is especially the case if you are concerned his HS is not that rigorous. Rigor matters a lot to elite schools and the SAT could be a buffer to that if he scores really high. That said, the elite liberal arts colleges like Pomona, Williams, Bowdoin all have acceptance rates in the single digits. Ivies are often below 5%. So, even valedictorians from the most competitive high schools with 1590 SAT scores are getting turned away from these schools. Be sure to have a balanced mix of reach, meet, and safety schools and your son should have a good selection of acceptances to ultimately choose from. Good luck!

tough call. My gut tells me to just stick with the 1490 and submit it. It will be good enough for Occidental and Pitzer. I might not submit it to Stanford but unless he gets high 1500’s I don’t think retaking it will help.
I do think he would have a slightly better chance at Bowdoin and the other tippy top LACs (Williams, Amherst, Pomona), but he seems happy enough with that next tier of schools and 1490 will do the job.

I think I would just ask him to make sure he won’t later have regrets and a bunch of “what if?” if he doesn’t take another shot at it. because you don’t want that gnawing at you for years.

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My daughter was in a similar place where the 1500 seemed within reach and after first declaring herself done she finally agreed to retake it once more. I encouraged it after I was told that it would not hurt her if her score went down, only help her if it went up. In the end she only went up 20 points and her super score ended up at a 1490. But that was good enough to get into her ED school. I think there is marginal difference between getting a score a few points higher on one hand, but I do think that 1500 is a psychological boost. I would encourage him to see where he left points on the table, do some practice and take it one more time. I suspect my daughter wasn’t super strategic about what she concentrated on studying between the two tests but hard to say. She did all her prep with Khan online. A 1490 is fabulous though so if he’s really done he should be fine. But personally I’d want him to try once more if he’s willing.

If he were trying several times to clear a 1500 I would say don’t but I am of the opinion that everyone should take the test twice. Our school’s CC encourages pretty much everyone to take it twice (but no more than 3 times).

Having a real test under the belt/being familiar with the pace of the day is almost always helpful.

Worst case, it’s a morning lost. Best case scores go up. Most likely scenario one goes up and the other goes down but virtually every school superscores so it’s a win.

Of course, it helps to prep in between.

Having gone through this process this year I was glad DD knew she had checked that box and didn’t have to wonder what if.


My DD23 took the ACT three times and each time got a 32 but her individual scores on two of the exams yielded her a super score of 33.25 - so she just needs 1 more point in any of the 4 subjects to super score a 34. She decided to take it one more time in June to see if she can do it. She doesn’t plan to study much this time around as it can be bit of luck at this point - and she has nothing to lose as she doesn’t have to report a test score not part of her super score. She is not stressing about it at all - 33 is a great score - 34 is marginally better but why not try…

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It doesn’t hurt to look through where the gaps are in his test (provided you signed up for that report), prep a bit, and take it again.

Thanks to everyone for your input - I think he’s now on board for the June test and he’ll use the Q&A report to see what he’s missing. He’s definitely one of those kids who on paper could be competitive anywhere - some interesting, relevant ECs (including ones that have some national recognition) and he’s a good writer, so I think he could pump out some compelling essays, but we’re still a little scattered on selectivity and the right schools for him to consider. He’s fortunate that we can afford full pay (without impacting retirement or other savings), but might only be willing to pay 75K+ for a small subset of schools, so having a high score that might help with merit (where merit is offered which I know is generally not super-selective schools) is appealing. Fingers crossed he can bump a bit and then the hard work of applying (after finalizing his list is next)

If he is unhooked I think a high score might go further than people like to admit. He will get into a great school but I also think if he wants to have a fair shot at a highly competitive school if that where he wants to be (as long as everyone understands what the reality of the acceptance rate is) he will have to submit those scores.

Since it sounds like it wouldn’t be a problem for your family, I would seriously look at a few sessions with a tutor for a couple reasons:

  1. it will force him to actually engage his brain with it for an hour or two. My DD “thought” she was studying, but the reality was that there was always a paper, a test, some other more imediatamente obligation that she prioritized.

  2. A student that scores that high without prep is unlikely to need content help. A good tutor can help on “how” to take the test/tackle certain questions in a session or two and that can make a big difference.


I’m assuming you’re generalizing for scores like this, which is admittedly is tough to advise given today’s TO environment. Obviously anyone over say a 1550/35 shouldn’t take it again, unless there’s a scholarship in play. It looks like the OP’s son will take it in June, so hopefully things work out!

My nephew took the ACT and SAT once, 45/1540. He’s planning on trying again because his gpa is only around a 33 (rigorous courses, all A’s in AP/honors classes, but didn’t do as well in “regular” classes.