Should I Take the SAT?

The class of 2021 & class of 2022 Covid-19 edition of "Should I take the SAT and why?"

The question on everyone's mind this year (well, everyone who is applying to college) is whether or not you should take the SAT/ACT. And if you're not getting guidance from your school or counselor, we're here to help.

We're also not like other test-prep sites who will tell you to take the SAT no matter what so you keep using their site. We're on your side - if after reading this, you decide not to take the SAT/ACT, you get into the college of your dreams, and you never come back to our site, we're still happy.

So, without further delay, here's your guide to deciding whether or not to take the SAT. Go through this list of questions to see if you should take the SAT/ACT.

1. Does your high-school require the SAT to graduate?

First things first - does your high-school requires the SAT/ACT to graduate? Ask your counselor or any teacher at the school. If the answer is yes, then you'll have to take whichever test is the requirement.

Keep reading, though, to decide whether or not to report your scores to your colleges.

2. Are you only applying to University of California colleges?

University of California schools include UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC Merced, UC Riverside, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, and UC Santa Cruz. These schools have already decided to make the SAT/ACT optional for the Class of 2021 and Class of 2022. The SAT Essay and ACT Writing Test will also not be used at all for admissions (source).

Now, we'll cover whether you should generally take the SAT/ACT if it's optional for the schools you're applying to below, but it's worth mentioning that a judge has banned the UC schools from using the SAT/ACT at all. There will be more updates after September 29th (check back here then), but if the ban goes through, you definitely do not need to take these tests.

3. Is the SAT/ACT optional for the schools you're applying to?

Check this first! Google search [name of college] application requirements. Don't Google search [name of college] SAT because you'll get a lot of non-official search results - we're looking for the official page from the college you're applying to. Click on the link that has your college's name in it, and look for the First Year Applicant or International page, depending on whether you go to school in the U.S. or not.

From this page, you'll be able to find whether or not the SAT/ACT is optional. Remember, if you are graduating high-school in 2021, you are in the Class of 2021 but applying for the Class of 2025. Note this when you're looking at the requirements - some schools use one over the other.

If the SAT/ACT is required, then you 100% need to take the test. Check out our guides on the SAT, and, specifically, this one on common questions about the test.

4. The SAT/ACT is optional for your colleges. Should you take it?

If you know the SAT is optional for your colleges, then we now need to think about your application packet as a whole. Basically, colleges are assessing two things: how smart you are and who you are. These are the factors that go into each -

Smarts 🧠Who You Are ⚽️🎹🧪
SAT/ACTPersonal Statement
Academic Extracurriculars (like Debate)Non-academic Extracurriculars (like sports)
GPA/GradesHobbies, Passions (like volunteering)

So, if the SAT is optional for your college, and you have a great GPA and strong academic extracurriculars, then you don't need the SAT/ACT to beef up that part of your application. Focus on making your personal statement really strong and making sure your application highlights your passions and hobbies.

To know whether your GPA is strong or not, Google search for [name of college] class profile, then click on the result from the college site.

On this page, search for info about the high-school rank of students or their incoming GPA. If you're higher than average, then you're in good shape. If you're a lot higher than average, you're in great shape.

You can also find the range of SAT scores for each section here. If you are academically strong, the SAT is optional for your college, and you don't think you can easily get in range or above the range based on taking a practice test, then don't take the test.

4. Will you need financial support for college?

The last thing to think about is whether you need financial support for college. Talk to your parents and do the research together - look into whether schools provide need-based financial aid. Looking at the tuition costs of any school can be frightening, but that's not the full picture.

For example, the cost of attending Harvard is about ~$70,000 every year. But, you can attend without paying a cent, based on your family's financial situation.

In most cases, if you do qualify for financial aid (which we like to refer to as money-the-college-gives-you-because-you're-awesome-and-they-want-you-to-attend), you will likely still have a "student contribution" that requires you to contribute some money by taking on a job during college.

If the college has merit-based scholarships, then look into the requirements for those scholarships. It might be that the SAT/ACT plays a role in those awards, and if you get a scholarship, you might not have to worry about money for college at all.

If after all these questions, you don't need to take the SAT/ACT, then start thinking about the other aspects of your application. Do you need to beef up on volunteering? Maybe you want to get in a couple AP classes while you still can. Or, maybe you want to start brainstorming personal statement ideas.

But, if you do need to take the SAT/ACT, don't sweat. We've got you covered with SAT prep that doesn't suck too badly and might even be almost fun.