Re-examining the SAT: How It's Used Beyond College Admission

Founder, First Choice College

Oct   2016



The PSAT is looming for high school juniors on October 19, and many high school seniors are taking the SAT again before submitting their college applications. With that in mind, now is a good time to re-examine the SAT and how it is being used both for college admission and in determining college merit scholarships. 

Changes to the SAT

The SAT is the most common form of college-readiness tests (to be distinguished from ACT). The SAT has changed over the years, and the most recent changes went into effect in March 2016. It has gone back to a 1600 point scoring system, with an Evidence-Based Math section scored out of 800 points and an Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section also scored out of 800 points. While there are a number of different subscores, for college admission purposes the 200–800 score for each section is the most important.

There have also been changes to how the test is used. In the past the SAT was designed to be an aptitude test. In conjunction with your high school grades, the SAT would help predict your college grades. Now the SAT is designed to be more of an assessment of what you have learned in high school. The most recent change brought the SAT in line with Common Core so that states could use the SAT as the official college readiness exam. Many states are now using the test to assess college readiness. The date has been set in Connecticut: all public school juniors in the state will be required to take the SAT on April 5, 2017.

Test scores and merit-based scholarships

While many small liberal arts colleges have started to allow students to opt out of submitting SAT scores, at many state schools the SAT score has actually become more important in gaining admission. Even schools that do not require the SAT for admission may use your SAT score to determine your eligibility for merit scholarships, a form of financial aid irresponsive of need. Some colleges offer guaranteed scholarships based on your SAT score as well. 

Related: Test-Optional Schools and the Changing World of College Admission Tests

Many students may not know that the PSAT is a qualifying test from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC). Most schools have their own rules pertaining to merit scholarships with their own individual requirements. For example, Fordham University offers a scholarship for students who are National Merit Semifinalists. Another school that has excellent merit scholarship programs is Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, where approximately 100 students are invited to campus in February or March to participate in a selection process for the Marquis Fellows program. 

Related: Find merit-based scholarships on!

School requirements vary, so it’s always worth doing your research. Ask the admission office directly if and how much SAT scores matter for securing scholarships as well as a spot in the class.

Preparing for the SAT? Check out our Test Prep section here!

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