To take or not to take: SAT and ACT

By Maxine Seya

If your student is on the fence about taking the SAT or ACT, don’t be.

There’s an easy way to figure out if taking the standardized tests is worth your student’s time.

It starts with understanding this:

No college admissions officer ever read an application and ran down the hall to his coworker saying “Wow! Did you see this student’s 36 ACT? We need to admit her.”

In the nearly 150 interviews we’ve published, no admissions officer interviewed ever said “the most memorable applicant was the one with a 1600 SAT.”

A perfect SAT or ACT score is not very meaningful or impressive to college admissions officers.

I have seen too many students declining quality time with family and friends, getting enough rest, or diving into extracurriculars just to spend hundreds of hours studying for the SAT.

They take the test, retake the test, and anxiously await their scores again and again just to see fluctuations in their scores that don’t matter.

Hundreds of hours poured into bumping that ACT score up from a 29 to a 31.

Countless weekends sacrificed to boost that SAT score up from an 1170 to a 1230.

Most students do this because they hope that admissions officers will see their perseverance and improvement over time and reward them with admission.

Shouldn’t a 29 to 31 ACT jump be considered overcoming a challenge? Defeating adversity?

Sadly, no. Most admissions officers spend less than a minute thinking about the test scores.

So in general, applicants should not spend hours of time putting effort into making minute improvements on something that admissions officers might spend 45 seconds on.

How to figure out if your student should take the SAT/ACT


Hi there.

No one spotlights the human stories of college admissions like we do.

But we're independent journalists who need support from readers like you.

Your subscription keeps us going -- completely ad-free.

Already a subscriber? Log in

Maxine Seya
Maxine Seya is a former investigative journalist, college consultant, and admissions interviewer. She studied at Peking University (Beijing, China) and Université Paul-Valéry (Montpellier, France) and investigated for CNN and Huffington Post before graduating from Northwestern University. She founded SocratesPost to share the human stories behind the admission gates and offer parents clarity as they help their teens with college.