TO TEST OR NOT TO TEST: The Benefits of Having a Strong SAT or ACT score

With test-optional policies in place, students may feel tempted to skip taking the SAT or ACT altogether. However, before they decide to ditch the standardized tests altogether, it’s important to consider how these scores could still be valuable to them when applying to certain programs or institutions.

Direct-Entry Programs: Do I need an SAT or ACT test?

A direct-entry program at a university is one where students are admitted to a specific major. This means that students who are accepted into the major are guaranteed access to the classes and resources set aside for that course of study. Direct-entry programs are a popular option for students who know which field of study they want to pursue.

As a college counselor, I often recommend that students research and take the SAT or ACT if they are considering applying to these types of highly regarded and thus highly competitive programs. Strong test scores can help set a student apart from other applicants and increase their chances of admission into the program.

Honors Colleges: Will a strong SAT or ACT score help?

Additionally, many university honors colleges consider standardized test scores as part of their admissions criteria. Honors colleges typically have a more rigorous academic curriculum and seek to enroll students who are at the top of their applicant pool. I help students identify which honors colleges require test scores and provide guidance on preparing for these exams. For more information on honors colleges, take a look at this blog post.

Merit Aid and Scholarships: Should I take the SAT or ACT?

Lastly, let’s talk about the financial aspect. Some institutions offer more generous merit aid packages to students with strong SAT or ACT scores. Colleges seek to reward students who have performed well on standardized tests. For students concerned about college costs, strong test scores can open doors to more financial aid opportunities. I help families identify which institutions offer generous merit aid and guide them through the application process.


While the decision to take the SAT or ACT ultimately depends on the individual student’s goals and circumstances, it’s important to consider the benefits of having a strong test score. College counselors can help students determine if taking these exams is the right choice for them and provide guidance on how to prepare for them. Whether it’s for direct-entry programs, honors colleges, or merit aid opportunities, standardized test scores can still play a role in a student’s college application process. By being informed and prepared, students can increase their chances of being admitted to the colleges and programs of their choice.


“Sylvia is a phenomenal college counselor. She is patient, kind, organized, and extremely knowledgeable about the college application process." - Susie

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