Reader Malik asks,
“I took my SAT and ACT and my scores were far from the best (1500 and 22). I want to get a really good score, my dream school is actually Carnegie Mellon but I do not meet their test requirements. I’m planning on retaking the test but I doubt that I will get a great score. I have a 3.8 GPA and I’m fairly active. Please tell me, do I have any chance at all at getting into a real good school. Should I just give up hope?”
Having an excellent GPA goes a long way towards making you a viable and competitive applicant for most major universities, but it is simply not enough when it comes to top-tier schools like Carnegie Mellon. The fact of the matter is that every other student with a chance of being admitted to a school like this will have a similar GPA and an excellent SAT or ACT score.
Does this mean you have no chance of getting into a good school or your dream school? Should you abandon hope and resign yourself to a mediocre college education and experience? Read carefully- Absolutely Not!
First of all, depending on what part of the country you’re from and what high school you go to, your GPA should put you at the very least in the top 15-20% of graduating students. This gives you a leg up on most of your peers, and some schools may be willing to accept you on that basis alone.
Second, in case you didn’t know, the advent of Score Choice allows students to pick and choose which SAT scores they send in for college admissions. Don’t like your 1500? Don’t send it in. Learn about Score Choice and utilize it when you send your scores in.
Third, it is more common than you think for honor students to perform poorly, or at least not meet/exceed their expectations, on standardized tests. In most cases this is simply a result of lacking familiarity with the exams or the strategies associated with the exams, or from suffering test anxiety (which is a very real thing). Whether you are unfamiliar with the exam or a nervous test-taker, the good news is that both of those issues can be easily resolved with a little hard work. If you are serious about getting into Carnegie Mellon, take practice tests and seek professional exam preparation.
With regard to seeking help preparing for these tests- studies show that without preparation students rarely show any improvement of significance from their first exam to their second or third. It’s like anything else: you’re not going to improve unless you work at it!
Also, if you are having difficulty with your test scores, be sure to emphasize and work on other aspects of your application (job, recommendations, volunteer work, extracurricular activities, etc.).
Don’t give up on your dreams just because you hit a little road block; yes, you have a long way to go, but that’s what life is all about. I’m sure you will be surprised at how far a little bit of effort can carry you.
See more Ask Test Masters questions here; who knows, your questions about college might have already been answered.