Where should my SAT fall in the 25/75th ranges as a “standard” applicant from a top HS?

I’m a fairly “standard” white, straight male with average-to-good extracurriculars (started a club that tracks with interests, club head, some out of school activities as well). I go to an elite private school that many consider a “feeder” to the top colleges and universities.

I took the SAT and got a 1510. I know it isn’t a terrible score - it’s almost exactly the average mark for a number of top schools, and it’s above the 75th for all of my “matches” and “safeties”. But, I have a chance to take it again before ED, and I’m wondering if I should. The average SAT at my school is a 1480, and I know a decent number of classmates with scores above 1550. When I took the test, I studied, prepared, and made sure to come well rested etc. I’m not sure how much room for improvement there really is.

The most competitive schools I’m interested in are Vanderbilt, Chicago, and Penn.

Overall, I just feel like I’m flying blind. Do I need to have above the 75th to be competitive at top schools like the ones listed above? Where should I aim to sit?


Your score puts in in the top 99 percent in the country. Just because your are surrounded by top students doesn’t detract from your accomplishments. Understand that your reach schools are all lotteries, so make sure you have good targets and matches.

1 Like

What if you retake. One part better. One worse. So superscore is higher. But they see the lower score.

I’d hate to be a kid today. The pressure you all put on yourself.

Your score is one piece of your app and it’s fantastic. If you want to take it go ahead. Do you need to ? Absolutely lot. 1510. 1540. Not gonna matter.

Congrats on being a stud !!

You’re going to a great school with prestige or a great school with a bit less prestige on the cheap !!

Congrats to you.

1 Like

Colleges aren’t out to play “gotcha”. A superscore is a superscore. From my discussion, pretty much every AO will simply see two section scores - your highest.


That would logically mean that 75% of the students that were actually admitted were not competitive.

Does that make sense?


I’d thought about that, but there are plenty of admitted students at every school who are legacies, or sports recruits, or any number of other things. I was curious where I should fall as a non-special applicant, essentially.

I am not sure that’s correct in many cases. I asked this very question not too long ago in an OP. Apparently, a number of schools let the applicant fill in their test scores on the app. If the applicant is admitted, they have to get the official scores sent.

For these schools, the decision has already been made to admit based on the provided scores. If the official scores match (including whether superscoring is allowed) the app, that’s the end. It doesn’t matter if these schools see the lower scores.

Of course, check each school carefully as to the standardized test requirements and how to report them. There is variation.

OP: I think you are looking at this correctly. Top colleges will evaluate you in part by looking at GPA and test scores from applicants at your school — both from the year you apply and prior years. Do you have access to Naviance?


I know it is summer and your high school’s college counseling office is likely closed for another month, but chances are, you aren’t flying blind. Your counsellor(s) are by far the best people to address this issue, as they will have specific information about past students in your exact situation as compared to those with higher or lower test scores, and they will have a good sense of whether it makes sense to take the test again.

The people here telling you who are telling you that your score is definitely high enough mean well, but it is very unlikely that they are familiar with how colleges view applicants from “elite” private high schools with test scores on par with top colleges.

As @Southoftheriver mentioned, you are asking the right questions and considering the right issues, but you need to ask the right people. I’ll say if again: Talk to your counsellor! Your counsellor will know how colleges will view someone with a 1510 from your school, and also consider the rest of your application as it compares to others applying from similar circumstances. A lot depends on your grades, the rigor of your course load, whether your score is balanced (750, 760) or imbalanced (790,720), your prospective area of study, etc.

Lastly, congratulations on scoring a 1510. That is a terrific score, and one that anyone should be proud of, even if you ultimately decide to take it again.


75% of the admitted students didn’t apply from a high school with an SAT score the was 1480, and he will not only be compared to the general applicant pool, he will be compared to kids from his school and similar schools.

OP’s interested Penn, so I’ll provide an example of what I mean using Penn and applicants from another highly competitive high school with which I am familiar. At that school, 50 or 60 well qualified students apply to Penn each year. Penn generally accepts around 10-12 of these kids, but around half of those are usually legacies, athletes, or otherwise hooked kids. That leaves around 40 extremely qualified applicants hoping for one of only a handful of spots. All else being equal, if 10 of those applicants scored at 1560 or above (the 75th %) then who do you think is more likely to get accepted, the kids with the 1560+ scores, or the kid with the 1510 score?

Now maybe Penn really likes students from OP’s high school and they accept most of them, or maybe his classmates with 1560+ test scores don’t apply to Penn. Both seem unlikely, and regardless he needs to talk to his counselor to know how his score compares.

I agree that the college counselor at his school would have the best info. My guess is that getting another 30 points isn’t going to make a difference. The difference will be the rest of the application.

And I totally disagree that Penn will take the kids with the higher scores. Scores are used as a screen, which the OP will pass. At this level, they aren’t a reason to admit one applicant over another.

The other option is to try the ACT. That’s a whole other ball of wax…


You don’t NEED to take it, but if you want to, go ahead. You might get an even better superscore.

However, you run the risk of getting a lower score too. I once read that up to 40% of students score lower on retake when they already have a high score. I certainly wouldn’t prioritize a test over doing something fun.

My guess is that your school is well known enough that your grades and course rigor are going to hold far more weight than your test score. I agree that it won’t make the difference between admit and deny.


But you aren’t. You are in “an elite private school that many consider a “feeder” to the top colleges and universities”, which means that you almost certainly have a strong college advising system. Go there for specific guidance.

In general, you have a finite amount of time - for studying, for resting, for family, for friends…and for the things that really matter to you (aka ECs). IMO, the time that you are putting into stressing about trying for more SAT points would be better spent either actually studying for those points- or doing almost anything else. If you can’t stop worrying, at least put the anxiety energy into something constructive- empty the dishwasher. Mow your elderly neighbors lawn. Go work at the food bank for an hour. Do something for somebody else. I


This is correct. More and more schools today allow self report. Not all. But many.

Also schools that superscore, most truly do but some will say…while we do we see all the scores and we are human. In other words a smaller schools looking at an entire profile could have it bleed into their minds. Unlikely but not impossible. But today, especially with most being TO there’s an increasing amount allowing self submission. Many still don’t however. We applied to several that required it up front…mainly flagships.

I was being tongue in cheek trying to point out that it’s a lot of effort for little gain.

1510 is unreal. The pressure these kids have today…also unreal.

1 Like

It was precisely my lack of knowledge about how superscoring is done that led me to ask the question in the other thread. I totally agree with you: prior to admission, if a school AO sees all scores, it’s impossible to dismiss all those scores from their mind. That’s simple human nature. Self-reporting and then sending the official scores later is the way around that.

And I totally agree with you about these scores. It is incredible to me that scores in the high 1400s and low 1500s might not be considered acceptable. I just learned about the “perfect score” in AP exams, which is sheer lunacy in terms of propelling students to be even more competitive than they already are.

I understand your point and to a certain degree “all things being equal” perhaps something as quantitative as a test score might come into play. But amongst students at the at the same school I think all the qualitative aspects of an applicant would hold more influence.

Teacher recommendations, GC letter, ECs, and essays to name a few. A school like Penn of course wants kids who will thrive academically (OPs score passes that threshold) but they also want kids that will contribute to the Penn community in and outside the classroom.

If OPs scores are slightly lower then peers (but above Penn standard) but is more highly regarded within their school community it will be reflected in the broader application and OP will benefit.

Prep schools and particularly feeder schools tend to “fill in the blanks” regarding which students are the best fits. This supports the relationship going both ways.

OP your best source of info is your guidance counselor. They have the greatest insight into your relative competitiveness. Good luck.

1 Like

All things are never equal in colleges with holistic review.


Agreed that was my point. :grinning:

You of course have said it more succinctly and clearly then me!

I quoted the wrong user, which I have corrected.

1 Like

Interesting about the test scores - you have a near elite college - Wesleyan - where more than 40% of enrollees did not submit.

Go to still very respectable Connecticut College and Trinity and it’s 58%.

BU put out #s that sound very Ivy-ish - an average 34 ACT - and then you read the word of “All those who submitted”.

TO is definitely loading up the applicant pool. I, for one, think a great score means something. But with such a high percentage of enrolled students being TO, it is likely hurting those, even really strong test takers.

The losers here will be the testing companies. With some schools now test blind (hello UCs) and with self reporting vs. sending in scores and test optional (some kids won’t take or just will take once or twice) - well I see a business (testing) that will really need to reinvent itself to survive.