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Should You Take the SAT?

3 mins read

Junior year is often considered the hardest year of high school and can be brutal with state testing and difficult classes. Sprinkled on top of this is the daunting Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or American College Testing (ACT) test in the spring, a tough pill to swallow after a long semester of work.

Before COVID-19, taking either the SAT or ACT was considered necessary for many college-bound students, with around 55% of all US colleges requiring test submission scores. As colleges began realizing the inequities surrounding the test, the number of colleges that require test score records has dwindled to 4%. This leaves many students wondering if they need to take the SAT or ACT at all.

There are many variables that influence the need to take either the SAT or ACT, the most prominent of which is where a student wishes to apply to college. Outside of California, many colleges such as the University of Tennessee, University of Florida, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have mandatory test submissions, while other colleges like Harvard and Yale are test optional. So, if a student wishes to attend college out of state, taking the SAT is heavily recommended, if not necessary, for admission. College and career counselor Mai Nguyen said, “We generally recommend that students try taking the SAT or ACT even once, just to see how well they can perform on it and to keep open the possibility that students may decide to apply to other test-optional or test-required colleges at a later time.” By taking a standardized test, students can open up their options and not feel confined to test-optional or test-blind schools

On the other hand, if a student wishes to stay in California, the SAT is far less important. Senior Sarah Gursky, opting to stay in California for college, chose to pass on the SAT, saying, “Most of the colleges I wanted to apply to didn’t even consider it, so I felt like there was no need to put extra stress on myself to study.” Since 2020, every University of California and California State University school voted to become “test blind,” meaning a student’s SAT score will not be taken into consideration for admission. Since the school’s decision, there has been a nationwide 50% decrease in students who chose to submit SAT scores from 2019-2022, a number that will likely continue to decline in coming years.

Some believe taking the SAT itself is an intrinsically valuable experience. The SAT  tests cognitive ability, as it measures memory retention and logical reasoning, both of which are important variables colleges take into account in their admissions process. Senior Christopher Jemelian who decided to take the SAT said, “Taking the test implied a long studying process and it wasn’t fun, but I think being able to show colleges my abilities outside of just my GPA was really important. It helped take some of the weight off of semesters where my GPA was lower than I wanted.” At colleges where just a solid GPA isn’t enough to gain admission, the SAT can help boost students over the hump by expressing intangibles that colleges wouldn’t be able to see otherwise. 

Opting out of the SAT can shave off extra academic stress during junior and senior year,  allowing students to spend more time focusing on the more important aspect of their application: their Grade Point Average (GPA). Elaine Allensworth, the Lewis-Sebring director of education research at the University of Chicago, said, “The bottom line is that high school grades are powerful tools for gauging students’ readiness for college, regardless of which high school a student attends, while ACT scores are not.” Given the vast decline of colleges accepting standardized test scores, a large chunk of a student’s application needs to be filled up by something else. While extracurriculars such as clubs are important, a strong GPA is the easiest way for colleges to identify your dedication to college-level courses. In Allensworth’s studies, she found that students with a 3.75 GPA or better had an 80% chance of gaining admission into college and going onwards to graduate from college. Meanwhile, those with a 2.0 or worse had only a 20% chance. Therefore focusing most of students energy on keeping up with grades should take the bulk of available studying time. 

If your junior or senior year is far too stressful, or if you would like to stay in California, skipping out on the SAT is a viable choice. However, if the opportunity presents itself, taking the SAT even once is recommended as it can bring many benefits to strengthen an application.

Jonathan is a junior at M-A and is in his first year at journalism. He hopes to learn more about his community and issues within it. Outside of school he enjoys listening to music and relaxing with friends.

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