The reports of the SAT’s death are greatly exaggerated. The SAT is still alive. But, for now, the test is mostly optional. You can opt not to send your scores to colleges or even opt not to take the test at all. If only we could opt not to send some of our other high school grades as well.

I can recall, during a different age, not doing particularly well in high school chemistry. Electrons are negative, but croutons are positive, or something like that. It would have been awesome if I could have opted not to send to colleges my grade in Chemistry (along with my miserable attempt at AP Calculus). Come to think of it: if I could have, I would have opted not to send most of my grades from all of senior year since I was particularly precocious and had senioritis as a junior.

But I was more than my A in English and my C in Chemistry. I was also a member of the wrestling team, math team, and summer camp counseling team. Colleges talk about holistic admissions–looking at the whole student...well, so what if I struggled at chemistry and somewhat fell off my senior year? I was also a debater that could calculate the force necessary to wrestle you to the ground and then counsel you on coping with the defeat. On top of that, I had decent SAT scores.

Now back then, SAT scores could do a lot more. The patina of one’s SAT scores could obfuscate or even eclipse certain blemishes and omissions. Patina? Obfuscate? There’s some old-school-SAT-words for you! In other words, my strong SAT scores helped me a lot more than my C’s in Chemistry, Calculus, and Economics hurt me. The same is somewhat true now. When applying to college, if one of the parts of your whole doesn’t quite shine as much as you want it to, perhaps the luster of another part can compensate–even outshine.

You can also think of college admissions as a seesaw of sorts: you need to provide enough “weight” for the balance to tip in your favor.

In the scenario above, the student doesn’t quite have enough patina to gain admission. Need more patina. Add some competitive SAT scores!

Now I’m not saying that competitive SAT scores guarantee admission, placement, or scholarships...but they can help. A college application is a tryout. You want to flaunt your strengths and mitigate your weaknesses. Having competitive SAT scores can do that; being editor-in-chief for your high school yearbook can do that; volunteering as an EMR for three years can do that. That’s why students do these things in the first place–it all adds patina.

Okay, so what is a competitive SAT score, you ask? Schools often list SAT scores in tiers: 25% of admitted students scored … , 50% of admitted students scored … , etc. If your SAT scores are or above the 50th percentile, then you should opt to send your scores. For example, if you are applying to the University of New Mexico and have a SAT score of at least 1150, then you should opt to send them. You should definitely opt to send them if your GPA is a little on the weaker side. And remember: it can (should) be your superscore. You’ve never heard of superscoring? Let me elaborate.

Let’s say a student takes the SAT twice (you should take it at least twice). The student’s first attempt yields the following scores:

EBRW: 480
MATH: 610
TOTAL: 1090

The student’s second attempt yields the following scores:

EBRW: 570
MATH: 570
TOTAL: 1140

The student’s superscore is simply the sum of the best scores. In the above example, the student’s superscore would be the 610 Math from the first attempt and the 570 EBRW from the second attempt, for a total of 1180.

Furthermore, the University of New Mexico offers applicants an opportunity that many other universities do not: Reconsideration.

Applicants not offered admission may request reconsideration of their application with new or additional information. Updated or more recent transcripts, new or additional test scores, recommendations, written statements from the applicant or other considerations should be included with the applicant’s request for reconsideration.

In general, better SAT scores help with admission into college. Moreover, earning college degrees from competitive schools helps with making money. “Today, workers with bachelor’s degrees earn 75 percent more than those with no more than a high school diploma” – Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. The SAT is not an intelligence quotient test. It’s not a measure of one’s worth or potential. It can be, for some, a passport: a passport into college.

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