Do Colleges Care More About GPA or SAT?

GPA or SAT – which is more important to college admissions counselors? We are often – actually almost always – asked this question by students and parents throughout the college application and admissions process. The answer isn’t simply that one holds more weight than the other when counselors are determining admission status. They both work together. The GPA demonstrates what you have accomplished throughout your high school years – the highs and the lows. It covers homework, tests and class participation. In essence, it is an excellent indicator of your overall academic abilities. The SAT or ACT rates where you are on a national level compared to other students. These standardized tests measure intellect rather than academics. So, they support your academic profile rather than define it. Let’s dive deeper into this.

What Colleges Look at First: Your GPA

I have visited well over 400 colleges since starting Signature College Counseling, and I speak to the schools’ admissions officers during these visits. I will tell you, the first thing they say they look at when reviewing an application is your high school transcript. Why? Because your transcript is the best judgment of who you are academically as a student. For this reason, I cannot put enough emphasis on showing your strength in your academics during your high school years. It is so important for getting into college. In the end, it’s all about choices: the choices you made in regard to your academics and the choice you will make on or before May 1st about the college you are going to attend. You don’t want to have any regrets that your lack of effort hampered your college choice.

SAT and ACT Scores Are Reviewed After the Transcript

When it comes to your SAT or ACT scores, they certainly play an important and supportive role. While some schools became test optional prior to COVID-19, since the start of the pandemic, many schools – practically all schools – have gone test optional in their admissions process as the pandemic has continued. This may very well change as we come out of COVID and back to some sense of normalcy. Some schools that have gone test optional during COVD may revert back to requiring test scores hereafter. This has caused a lot of students to think that it doesn’t really matter if they take the tests, that the schools don’t want their scores. However, that is not what test optional means. Rather, test optional means the student has the option of not submitting their scores. But make no mistake about it, and I always say this to my students, submitting your SAT or ACT scores is always better than not submitting as long as you are at least within the mid 50% of the standardized test score statistics for that particular college. Why? Because those scores are another support for your academics.

To Sum It Up

College counselors first look at your transcript, then your SAT or ACT scores. This is because the transcript demonstrates your academic capabilities overall and the standardized test scores support your academic profile. Even if a college is test optional, I recommend to my students that they submit their test scores if they fall within the mid 50% range or higher for that specific college.

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