Submit SAT or not

Hello - My son is applying to U Penn Wharton for ED (Fall 2022 entry). He has strong academics and EC’s and writes good essays according to his counsellor.

His SAT score is 1490 (EBRW 710, Math 780). So he is at top-end of the Penn Math middle 50% range and bottom-end of the EBRW middle 50% range.

Should he submit his test score or not ? Please advise !! thanks a lot.


I am not sure it’s so clear cut. If there isn’t a lot in his transcript to indicate how strong he is in math, it could help as Wharton is “math-y”. The English score isn’t bad, but it certainly doesn’t add anything to the application.

I don’t think it will hurt him.

But it really depends on the rest of the application. If that is all super spectacular, this looks “less than”.


You make a very good point.

But it is Wharton after all. I personally think anything that isn’t spectacular should not be submitted. An amazing test score isn’t likely to make a difference because it’s probably expected. A less than stellar score is a bit of a ding, IMO. An unhooked applicant doesn’t want a ding of any sort for Wharton. Maybe I’m erring too much on the side of caution.

I’m comparing apples to oranges here, but when my son applied to college, he had a composite 1490. His math score was 790. His ACT composite was 34, but math was 31. We decided it was best to submit both scores because the 790 was so strong, as was his 36 in reading. He wasn’t applying anywhere nearly as prestigious.

In his case, I think both scores helped him, but this was a couple of years ago before covid. Test scores are definitely less important than they used to be. Maybe if this student wasn’t applying to Wharton, submitting would be fine.

Test optional does not mean test not valuable. The scores are well within range; I would submit.

The jury is still out on how AOs will view no scores in Year 2 of TO. IMO I don’t think it will have a big impact on less-selective colleges and colleges that have traditionally been test-optional.

AOs from highly selective colleges will know what areas continue to have dates cancelled and will not hold it against those applicants. However, the challenge, I suspect, will be with those applicants that submit no scores when there was an opportunity to test, particularly if other applicants from the same HS are submitting scores. Regardless of stated policies, will AOs not think that such an applicant is hiding a score? Which, BTW, they are.


This one is a tough call…and I have no idea what the rest of the application looks like, which is critical to the decision.

OP’s S should ask himself and HS GC whether the score strengthens the app, or not. Only send it if it strengthens the app, seems obvious, but you have to look at the score in context of the entire application.

When doing that assessment, for example, if they have a score of 5 on the AP Calc BC test, probably don’t need to submit scores so the Wharton AO can see the 780 math (or at least one can make that case). If they have AP Calc this year, the scores should very well go.

It’s important to note that these scores are within the middle 50%. The tricky part is that there will be students who don’t submit who are below that threshold. Then the question is “how does this app stack up against those?”

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Generally, I don’t think unhooked applicants should submit scores below the median, so that takes out the bottom half of the mid-50% range. Of course there is nuance there, including what the subscores look like.

I see your point in regards to tippy top schools selectivity wise, and I sure wish they wouldn’t state a “policy” that they might potentially be bucking behind closed doors.

For the below T20 admission pool, I find it super confusing if in fact AOs will be penalizing a TO application who doesn’t submit based on the premise that the AO knows kids at that school sat for a test (like a statewide ACT given in April to all juniors). If they are saying to themselves that “X” student submitted a score from a state mandated test but “Y” did not submit even though attends the same school or lives in the same state… that seems to fly in the face of what AOs keep saying this time around, that 1) it is a choice to submit or not, 2) submit only if you think your score enhances your application, and 3) not submitting will not hurt your application but will give greater weight to the rest of its components.

Just seems like AOs should be up front about whether or not it matters in a TO application if they know an applicant had an opportunity to submit (vs if they know there was no chance to take the test). That policy would be far more transparent and might nudge more applicants in that 50% range, even if just below the median, into submitting scores. If that were case, the OPs son should feel confident submitting his excellent score even if just below the median.

Nobody ever claimed that college admissions is transparent. :grin:


I guess it depends on what you think the AOs are doing with those scores. I believe scores are a simple hurdle – do they show the kid can do the work? If it’s a yes, and for this applicant, it is – they move on and review the application in more detail. I find it hard to think that if this application would be strong enough without scores to contemplate TO that the scores would hurt.

If there aren’t scores, there is then a need for the AO to find other things in the application that will answer that question about the ability to do the work. It’s nice when those other data points place the applicant in the world at large, not just in the context of their high school. It’s true – it’s nuanced and not transparent – but the goal of the AO is to admit a mix of kids who can do the work and create the class with all the attributes they’re seeking.

This comes back to the rest of the application. How easy will it be for the AO to “get there” without scores? And does the OP feel these scores represent him well? Applicants generally don’t submit scores that they feel do not represent them accurately.

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This past admission cycle, my son submitted his 1500 SAT (800 Math) to U Penn. He was in the top 10 (number 9) of his class at a US News top 100 high school, and had 14 APs (5s in all of the math & science). He was rejected at U Penn. Not even waitlisted. He regrets not applying test optional.


The result likely would have been no different.


Maybe. However, even in affluent areas, covid has surely had an impact on many families in terms of potential for lost income, long term illness, and even death of a family member. My thought is that test scores, as least for this application season, will not be a big factor in admissions, even at colleges where they have been more important, and even from applicants in areas where they know kids can take tests.

I’d love to hear an AO’s take on this.

One way to look at the decision to provide scores is if a clone of your child applied with exactly the same stats and test scores, vs. no scores, which one would get in first?

I also think hooked applicants have a lot more wiggle room with TO than unhooked. It is natural for AO’s to assume the test scores are poor if they are not provided, and that has to at least peripherally impact how the application will be viewed.

I do think this will be school to school though, and some schools, especially among the LAC’s, seem to be de-emphasizing test scores to the point of heading to no-test. I do not believe that Penn is one of those schools though. In fact, I believe that Penn provided data on this year’s freshman class in terms of what percent of applicants were TO and what percent of admitted were TO.

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Can’t find it for RD but for ED, 38% applied test-optional, and TO were 24% of the accepted students.

I’d probably not submit in this case if unhooked unless the transcript, essay, and letters are flawless.


I agree with @skieurope
I would submit that score. It’s a very strong score and there are lots and lots of Penn students with similar scores. Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking a 1490 is not worthy! I don’t know the exact percentiles for this year, but I bet it’s close to 99th percentile.


It seems you are assuming that the TO policy exists primarily as an accommodation for those with limited access to testing due to Covid-19. While Covid-19 may have provided the initial impetus/excuse for many schools to go TO, I don’t think that AO’s are expecting test scores from all the students who have access to tests. Rather, many AO’s are explicitly telling students that the choice is theirs, and that they should submit tests if they feel the scores accurately reflect the student’s potential and ability. Further, AOs don’t seem to believe they necessarily need the test scores to identify the students they want to admit.

Could it be a mistake to advise students to ignore a school’s “stated policies” based solely on your speculation? Or do you have evidence that, regardless of stated policies, AO’s are dinging students for not submitting a score when others from the same high school are submitting scores? Because in my limited experience, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

It’s actually not as cut and dry in my area with test cancellations. They are still happening. I don’t know why, maybe an issue with proctors, but students are notified at the last minute that their SAT test site is cancelled and it turns out that the nearest available site is 3 or more hours away and not everybody wants to make that trip.