SAT - Are Schools Really Evaluating Students Fairly Without It?

My son is a junior in high school. He took the SAT twice and both times scored 1150. He has a 4.5 weighted GPA and is an IB student. He plays two sports, is a leader in NHS, is a member of a volunteer club, and participates in a youth church group. He also has a part time job. I am certain he would have scored well on the SAT if he had more time, but he genuinely doesn’t. We are being told we need to submit the scores by a college consultant, but I feel he may be stronger without it. What is the general thinking on this? Does he have a chance to get into some of his top choices without submitting scores? We have participated in virtual college admissions panels where they are saying you don’t have to do it, but there are mixed messages. Would value any counsel!

If scores are not required, do not submit an 1150 with that GPA.

It would help if we knew for example some of the schools he is considering.


There are a lot of test optional schools…and yes, they evaluate the rest of the application for admission decision.

I would go test optional if I were you. Why is the college consultant telling you to submit this SAT score…which is the weakest link in your kid’s application and is not required at many places.


Who in the world are you using as a college consultant??? Submitting those scores would be shooting himself in the foot. Viewed together with his excellent GPA and the fact that he is in IB, his scores imply that he goes to a school that is not at all competitive, where he hasn’t learned much math or English, and that he is not ready for a highly competitive college. Whether this is or is not the case is beside the point. High GPA and IB program with an SAT score like that implies that the person is either a horrible test taker, or that they do not have the aptitude or preparation for higher level college work. That is how colleges might see it. Frankly, given a student with the EXACT same GPA/ECs as yours who applies test-optional, vs your son applying with that SAT, schools would be likely to take the test-optional applicant.

For your son, test-optional is a HUGE advantage. He should most definitely NOT submit those scores to anyone. He should apply test blind. He will have better results test blind than if he were to submit those scores.

The fact is, achievement in high school as reflected in the GPA is a far better predictor of college achievement than the SAT (because lazy smart kids with low high schoolGPAs and high SATs tend to be lazy college students, too, and hard-working, high-achieving high school students with low SATs for whatever reason, tend to continue to work hard and achieve in college). Your son will do great in college, wherever he winds up. But he’ll have a better chance of getting into the school he wants to attend, if he does NOT submit those SAT scores.

Fire that college consultant. Either get a better one, or spend some time lurking on college confidential. It sure helped me to help my kid!


He is looking at the following schools:
University of Maryland
Purdue University
Vanderbilt University
Syracuse University
Lehigh University
University of Michigan
Boston College
Fordham University
Tulane University
Davidson College

Trying to gauge his chances, but very hard to tell. He attends a fairly diverse public school, where 50 people dropped out of the IB program last year as it was seen as too much work. I see that now. All he does is work and sleep.

I don’t think sending it would be beneficial. With those stats it would be better for the colleges to assume he never took it and they’ll probably guess he’d score a 1300+ (Based off of his incredibly high GPA).


She said he needed to do better on the test, but his third try was canceled twice already and he has tried twice with the same score.

Thank you for this advice. I am worried I made a mistake with the consultant. I won’t tell you how much we spent. It’s upsetting, but I wanted to give my son who has worked so hard a chance.

I am so sorry that you paid so much money for incompetence. Regarding the standardized test, some people do better on the ACT than the SAT. My son’s PSAT was not as high as we had been hoping. He took the free ACT available on their website - downloaded it and took it under timed conditions. He got in the low 30’s on that, and saw that he could easily improve the “science” section because it was really just data interpretation, and for that, just doing a few practice sections would allow him to familiarize himself with all the graphs and tables they used. He studied a lot for the math, using prep books, and took a lot of math and science practice sections. He really didn’t do much for the English sections - did a few, and corrected them. Between that and having grown up in a house with highly educated parents who spoke a high level of standard English, that’s all the prep he needed for English. He did work very hard on the math. He took the ACT once, got a 36 (34 on math, 36 on the other three sections), and was done. He said that if he’d already had the first couple of months of Calc BC before he took the test, he would have done better on the math.

But I really think your son doesn’t need to do this. I think he is very likely to get into at least half of the schools he’s applying to, as long as he applies test-optional, has good essays, and good recommendations. Honestly, it may be that his education hasn’t been that great, but if he’s as hard a worker as you say, he is sure to do well at any of the schools you have listed.

Is he interested in applying early decision/early action somewhere? Can you afford these schools? Would he qualify for fin aid? Has he considered whom he would ask for recommendations? If he is such a hard worker, leading to such high achievement, I suspect that he could get really good recommendations. Is he an underrepresented minority? Does he know what he wants to major in?


I’m going to echo everyone else here . . . don’t submit those SAT scores. With his excellent GPA and the IB component to show rigor the scores will only weigh him down. In his case a test optional strategy is the way to go.

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That is a really competitive list. Those scores are not competitive for that list. Do not submit a test score to a test optional school unless you are at least at the 50th percentile if not the 75th percentile. What is the unweighted GPA? Weighted GPA is pretty irrelevant because many schools recalculate it using their own formula. And I agree your college consultant doesn’t appear to know what they are doing!


Definitely do not submit an 1150 to any of those schools.

At what score range does it make sense to submit? That depends on so many factors, especially demographics of the student and the rest of the application, and the score range will vary by school.

But my gut feeling is that nothing under about 1400 should be submitted to any of those schools, unless there is some sort of additional factor like first generation, underrepresented minority, large donor, etc. Possible exception of Maryland and Purdue ( I am just not very familiar with either).

Vanderbilt and Michigan (if you are out of state) are extremely difficult admits, and Tulane, Davidson and Boston College are not that much easier. With 100% certainty an 1150 would knock you out of contention at those particular schools, again unless there is some extremely special factor. Go test optional, I do not think it is worth the effort to turn an 1150 into a competitive score, it would be a better use of the time to concentrate on other aspects of the application.

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You didn’t mention what state you lived in. A 4.5 isn’t very high (relative to the highest) in many states and you will need that GPA to be near flawless with lots of rigor to compensate for the lack of a test score. Have you looked at the data for the schools that you have listed? While it certainly doesn’t hurt to shoot for the moon, at some of these, Vandy for instance, your child would likely be in the bottom 10% of accepted students and those likely would have a hook that you may or may not have (recruited athlete, etc.). So while a test score is not required, the lack of one makes the weight of what you do submit that much more important. Just look at the test score ranges of the schools you listed and it will give you an idea of the type of academic background that gets accepted.

Now, if you have a big hook like URM, first generation college student, etc., that changes things somewhat.


I can see why the counselor was pushing for another sitting. Those scores aren’t competitive for the schools in your list and it is yet to be seen how TO is going to work next cycle since so many have had the opportunity to test.

Purdue is already saying they prefer to see scores. If your child is looking to major in CS or engineering, it will be a reach.

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Agree. 4.5 doesn’t mean much. What is his unweighted GPA on a 4.0 scale? If it is a 4.0, quite a few schools will still be in the reach category but he may be competitive academically. If it is much lower than that he will need to expand his list I think. What are his extra curriculars? These days great grades and test scores are not enough at most of those schools.

Right, and what is that 4.5 on a scale of?

Some of the schools on his list are pretty reachy. Some possibly more or less so depending on tended major. Does he know that yet?

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I think it is a 3.8 unweighted. He has a leadership role in NHS and plays varsity basketball and lacrosse. He is also a member of a volunteer club and participates in church activities. He is not an underrepresented minority and we live in Maryland. He will also have a recommendation letter from a Catholic bishop which could assist with any Catholic schools. I’m feeling discouraged after reading all of these comments. It seems like they are looking for super humans. He has done everything and has not been able to even enjoy his high school experience. Purdue does not seem like a reach when I look at the data. And we were told the IB would give him an edge for University of Maryland.


His friend got into Vanderbilt as TO with IB and similar grades. This is why he felt he might have a chance.

@nicole50 I just wanted to let you know your son isn’t alone and I feel your anxiety! My D22 has a 3.98 UW will graduate with 4 APs and very comparable EC’s as your son. 1150 SAT, a bit better on ACT.

Our college counselor is working on tutoring to help bring up her ACT on the June 12th test but realistically unless she bumps to a 30, she is unlikely to submit scores at most of the schools she’s applying as well.

I think it’s hard to know the effect of no test scores. Here in PA tests are readily available, so I worry no score=“must be bad score” to AO’s.

But frankly, it is what it is right? We have to establish some safeties and hope for the best! I fully understand the concern for sure though


Where does your son fall within his class – do you know his class rank? Are the IB students ranked separately?

Has he taken any APs so far? If so, did he also get lower scores than expected?

It wouldn’t hurt to see if the ACT might be a better fit for your son.