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The SAT Scores You'll Need for College Acceptance

written by: Keren Perles•edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom•updated: 6/28/2010

Many people study obsessively for the SATs to get the necessary college SAT acceptance score. SAT scores do play a big part in whether you'll be accepted to your preferred college, but there's a lot more to getting that acceptance letter than simply acing the SATs.

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    What Is a "Good" SAT Score?

    Many high school students wonder what are the necessary college SAT acceptance scores. SAT scores do make an impact on college admissions officers, and it is important to raise your score as much as possible before applying to schools. Each college has a different range of expected SAT scores, and it can help to look at what the average SAT score of previous incoming classes has been at the colleges that you are applying to. You can look at this website, put out by Sylvan Learning Center, for a list of the average SAT scores for many popular colleges. For example, most of Yale's incoming freshmen scored 700-800 on the critical reading and math sessions of the test, and 700-790 on the writing section of the test. In contrast, incoming freshman at Auburn University had average scores of only 520-620 on the critical reading and writing sections of the test, and 550-650 on the math section.

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    What If My SAT Scores Are Too Low?

    Just because your SAT scores seem to be too low to even think of applying to a certain college, you may want to reconsider. If you have the time to retake the SATs and attempt to improve your score, definitely do it. Study beforehand with SAT study guides (available at most bookstores and libraries), or attend SAT-prep test classes or tutoring sessions in order to improve your score. Take many practice tests beforehand so that you are familiar with both the content and the format of the tests, and time yourself during these practice tests so that you won't be caught off-guard at the real thing. You can also use other test-taking techniques and study strategies to help improve your score. Hopefully, you will be able to raise your scores sufficiently so that they match the SAT scores that the school is looking for.

    Even if you still can't get your SAT scores to measure up, you may want to consider applying to the school anyway. If your high school grades are strong, the school may accept you despite your SAT scores, especially if you have some other quality that will make their school more diverse or interesting. For example, if you are a minority, live in an area that does not usually send students to the college, are connected with college alumni through family members, or have strong extra-curricular interests and skills, the school may accept your application despite mediocre SAT scores.

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    The Bottom Line About SAT Scores

    SATs are important to study for, because they can contribute to a better likelihood of getting into the school of your choice. At the same time, college admissions officers rely on a lot more than SAT scores when they decide whether to accept you. There are no set-in-stone college SAT acceptance scores; SAT scores do play a role, but so do a lot of other factors.