Are you applying to college and are totally confused about whether you should submit your SAT or ACT scores to particular colleges? Or maybe you’ve got great test scores and you want to know where those matter? In this blog, we’re going to look at the data from the top 80 or so schools, with a few liberal arts schools sprinkled in. I’m also going to give you some ballpark advice on whether to submit or not submit based on different categories.
According to the Common Application, in the last admissions cycle, approximately 48% sent their SAT or ACT scores to colleges. So if at any given university, fewer than 48% of their students submitted scores that are enrolled, that means that test-optional is probably feasible at that school. The lower the number, the less they care about scores. And if that number is above 48%, then we’re looking at the potential for test scores to matter. Now, this is enrolled students, not admitted students, so even at schools where that number is below 48%, you still might have an advantage by submitting a test score, especially if it’s strong and high. So, this doesn’t mean to not submit test scores if a school is a best bet for test-optional; it just means that if your test score is out of range, you probably should leave it out.
Colleges for best bets include University of Oregon, University of Washington (which, by the way, is test-blind), Old Dominion, Pepperdine University, University of Massachusetts Boston, Temple University, Boston University, Northern Arizona University, New York University, Southern Methodist University, University of Rochester, University of Arizona, University of New Hampshire, Villanova University, Northeastern University, Penn State University, University of Colorado Boulder, Claremont McKenna, and Marquette University. At all of these schools, having a test score isn’t giving you an advantage because the correlation in terms of who is submitting scores is lower than average. If you’re at the 50th percentile or above, it could help you, so submitting your scores wouldn’t be a bad idea. If you have any scores, even subsection scores, that are below the 50th percentile, I would be wary about sending them in.
If you aren’t sure what I mean by the 50th percentile, every year, the majority of schools in the United States fill out something called the Common Data Set, and one piece of data that you guys might particularly be interested in is the 25th–75th percentile ranges of SAT and ACT scores that have been admitted to the college.
Generally, here, I would submit your scores if you’re at the 50th percentile or above, but with this range of schools, I would open up that range a little more to students who may have a little bit of academic ability to prove. Who is in that category? Students from underrepresented backgrounds may have gone to high schools that typically don’t crank out high-achieving students. If you go to a school that’s ranked 1 on GreatSchools or last place on U.S. News & World Report and you get in the 25th percentile of a school’s SAT range—which is amazing for your high school—you accomplished something. The other category in which I still recommend submitting scores is anyone who was homeschooled, because we don’t have a gauge for that. Also, anyone who is an international student and not from a school in Asia, because Asia tends to have very strong student scores. Because you are an international student, there will be some questions about whether what you did in your country will hold up at this college or university, so submitting test scores might be a good idea.
Schools in this range include Drexel University, Middlebury College, Boston College, Lehigh University, Tulane University, University of Denver, University of South Carolina, University of Connecticut, Indiana State University, Pomona College, Washington and Lee University, Wake Forest University, Tufts University, and University of Wisconsin Madison.
The percentiles here—the sum of ACT and SAT scores—are from 48% to 56%. And what that tells me is that for these schools, tests are really optional because they don’t seem to weigh very much towards the positive or the negative. It’s kind of a neutral point, so you can kind of feel free to make a decision in either direction, but you do want to be careful not to submit scores under the 25th percentile.
At this point, we’re starting to get into a statistically significant range where submitting a test score may correlate with higher admission, and we know that because our sum of SAT and ACT is about 57% up to 64%. So, it’s starting to matter, but it still doesn’t matter a ton, so you still have a shot here if you’re test-optional. But if you have a test score and it’s in range, I would say that even if you’re in the 25th percentile, it could still speak to your favor, and I would probably still submit it. I wouldn’t submit borderline scores here, and I wouldn’t submit anything where the subscores are below the 25th percentile.
The schools in this range are Central Michigan University, Texas State University, University of Miami, Indiana University, Cornell University, Harvey Mudd College, Rocky Mountain College, Washington University in St. Louis, Swarthmore College, Vanderbilt University, Wellesley College, Williams College, Amherst College, Carleton College, Emory University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and University of Toledo.
At these schools, scores start to matter, and if you don’t have a test score to send, it will hurt you in the admissions process. This doesn’t mean you have no chance; you still have some chance, but your chances are reduced. So if you don’t have that score, I encourage you to get that score up or look to apply to other schools where you are in range.
Schools that are poor bets include University of North Dakota, Michigan State University, University of Notre Dame, Case Western Reserve University, College of WIlliam and Mary, North Carolina State University, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Virginia, Stanford, University of Southern California, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Rice University, University of Nevada Las Vegas, Northwestern University, University of Michigan, Kent State, Brown University, University of Texas at Austin, Harvard, Wichita State University, and University of Iowa.
And at these schools, if you’re at that 25th percentile or above, submit scores. If you’re borderline or in one of those contexts—international student, homeschooled, or from an underprivileged background or not the best high school—submit your scores. If you’re not one of those special cases, I’m going to cut it off at the 25th percentile and above.
If you don’t have a test score, these are your worst bets. Some of the schools at the end of this trail are test-required. So, you’re going to see, at the tail end of this list, a few schools where over 100% is the sum of SAT and ACT scores, and that’s because students are required to submit. So, when that happens, some students submit both, which is how we get over 100%.
Schools in this range are Ohio State University, Princeton University, Yale University, Bowdoin College, Texas A&M, Duke University, University of South Alabama, Purdue University, Sam Houston State University, Georgetown, MIT, Georgia Tech University, University of Georgia, University of Florida, and University of West Florida.
Some of these are above 100%; you can see that on average, we’re looking at 106% at Sam Houston and about 116% at University of Georgia. And I guess everyone’s submitting both in Florida because we have 122% and 123% at University of Florida and University of West Florida.
So, there’s the list. If you want to know the SAT to ACT ranges so that you can help yourself make these decisions, we have a magical chart on this blog, and you can get all the data you need to answer whether or not you should submit for every single school on your list.
However, like I said, there are some unknown factors, but at least it’s a ballpark measurement we can use to make decisions to the best of our ability and figure out where a test score is going to help you or where it might not matter.
I hope you guys liked this blog and found it helpful!
SAT/ACT Submission rates and scores
|University||Percent Submitting SAT Scores Enrolled Fall 2022||Percent Submitting ACT Scores Enrolled Fall 2022||Sum of ACT/SAT submissions||25th-75th Reading SAT||25th-75th Math SAT||25th-75th overall SAT Range||25th-75th ACT Composite|
|University of Oregon||11%||6%||17%||580-690||560-680||1140-1370||24-30|
|University of Washington (partial test blind)||17%||7%||24%||640-740||660-780||1320-1500||29-34|
|University of Massachusetts Boston||28%||2%||30%||540-650||540-650||1110-1290||24-29|
|Northern Arizona University||8%||27%||35%||530-640||520-630||1060-1260||19-25|
|New York University||26%||11%||37%||720-770||750-800||1470-1570||-|
|Southern Methodist University||17%||21%||38%||680-740||690-770||1390-1500||31-34|
|U Rochester (2021)||28%||11%||39%||680-750||710-790||1410-1520||31-34|
|Boston University** Total is 2023/breakdown 2022||23%||12%||42%||660-730||690-770||1370-1480||31-34|
|University of Arizona||19%||23%||42%||570-680||570-690||1140-1360||21-29|
|University of New Hampshire||39%||3%||42%||570-660||550-660||1130-1310||26-31|
|Penn State University||38%||7%||45%||600-680||610-710||1220-1380||26-31|
|University of Colorado, Boulder||31%||14%||45%||590-690||570-700||1170-1380||26-31|
|Claremont McKenna College||28%||17%||45%||710-760||730-790||1450-1540||33-35|
|Boston College * (2021 data)||30%||20%||50%||705-760||730-780||1430-1510||33-34|
|University of Denver||27%||23%||50%||620-710||600-690||1240-1390||28-32|
|University of South Carolina||33%||17%||50%||600-690||580-690||1200-1380||27-32|
|University of Connecticut||44.2%||6.1%||50.3%||610-710||610-730||1240-1410||28-33|
|Indiana State University||44%||9%||53%||590-690||590-710||920-1140||17-24|
|Washington and Lee University||28%||26%||54%||700-753||710-780||1410-1533||32-34|
|Wake Forest University||23%||32%||55%||680-740||700-770||1400-1500||31-34|
|University of Wisconsin-Madison||18%||38%||56%||660-730||690-780||1370-1500||28-33|
|Central Michigan University||49%||8%||57%||500-620||480-600||980-1200||21-27|
|Texas State University||49%||8%||57%||500-600||480-580||990-1170||19-26|
|University of Miami||35%||22%||57%||650-730||660-750||1330-1450||30-33|
|Cornell University (partially test blind)||43%||17%||60%||710-770||750-800||1470-1550||33-35|
|Harvey Mudd College||43%||17%||60%||720-770||760-790||1480-1560||34-36|
|Rocky Mountain College||11%||49%||60%||470-600||500-630||940-1240||18-24|
|Washington University in St. Louis||27%||33%||60%||730-770||770-800||1500-1570||33-35|
|University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||44%||20%||64%||660-740||680-790||1350-1510||29-34|
|University of North Dakota (*2021 data)||6%||59%||65%||550-630||560-660||1120-1265||20-26|
|Michigan State University||51%||14%||65%||550-660||550-680||1110-1320||24-30|
|University of Notre Dame||36%||31%||67%||700-760||720-790||1420-1550||32-35|
|Case Western Reserve University||42%||27%||69%||680-750||730-790||1420-1520||32-35|
|College of WIlliam and Mary||52%||18%||70%||695-750||680-770||1375-1520||32-34|
|North Carolina State University||30%||40%||70%||620-700||625-740||1260-1420||24-31|
|Carnegie Mellon University||50.5%||19.7%||70.2%||720-770||770-800||1500-1560||34-35|
|University of Pennsylvania||48%||23%||71%||730-770||770-800||1510-1560||34-35|
|University of Virginia||54%||17%||71%||690-750||710-790||1400-1540||32-34|
|University of Delaware||61.7%||10.4%||72.1%||600-680||590-680||1210-1350||26-31|
|University of Southern California (2021)||47%||26%||73%||710-760||740-790||1460-1540||32-35|
|University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill *(2021 data)||15%||60%||75%||660-740||660-770||1330-1500||29-33|
|University of Toledo||24%||53%||77%||520-630||540-650||1050-1280||21-28|
|University of Nevada, Las Vegas||9%||68%||77%||510-620||490-600||1010-1220||18-24|
|University of Michigan||54%||24%||78%||670-750||680-780||1350-1530||31-34|
|University of Texas at Austin* (2021)||56%||26%||82%||620-730||610-770||-||-|
|Wichita State University||8%||75%||83%||483-630||470-630||960-1240||19-26|
|University of Iowa||21%||63%||84%||570-670||560-670||1140-1340||22-28|
|Ohio State University* (2021)||21%||64%||85%||620-700||630-740||1260-1420||26-32|
|Duke University * (2021 data)||47%||46%||93%||730-770||750-800||1490-1560||33-35|
|University of South Alabama||7%||86%||93%||510-600||493-600||990-1200||20-26|
|Sam Houston State University||89%||17%||106%||490-580||470-560||960-1130||18-24|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology||78%||32%||110%||730-780||790-800||1520-1570||35-36|
|Georgia Tech University||74%||38%||112%||670-760||700-790||1370-1530||31-35|
|University of Georgia||68%||48%||116%||620-710||600-720||1220-1400||26-32|
|University of Florida||81%||41%||122%||650-730||650-760||1320-1470||28-33|
|University of West Florida||58%||65%||123%||520-610||500-580||1030-1183||21-26|