Do SAT and ACT Exams Matter in 2024?

Girl writing a test

SAT and ACT score policies can be unpredictable, and it may seem like you need an advanced degree just to understand college admissions policies! It is understandable to have some uncertainty about whether these standardized tests are still relevant.

So, do the ACT and SAT matter anymore? The short answer is yes, and they matter now more than ever. 

While many colleges established test-optional policies due to the pandemic a few years ago, SAT and ACT tests are now required at public and private universities across the US. Test scores that illustrate your student’s level of academic achievement are important factors in admission decisions and merit-based financial aid consideration. Here’s what you need to know about the continued importance of these exams:

1. More schools are bringing back SAT or ACT requirements

Many colleges and universities are reversing their test-optional policies, which means that they now require applicants to submit their ACT or SAT scores for admission. 

Ivy Leagues Brown, Dartmouth, Yale, and Harvard will require test scores for students in the Class of 2025. Cornell University has issued a complex policy requiring scores for some colleges and majors, while remaining test blind for others, but still “strongly recommend” the submission of scores. The University of Pennsylvania and Columbia are the only Ivies to retain their test-optional policies for 2025. Super elite universities such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Georgetown, and Cal Tech have also reinstated SAT requirements.  

Even those students who are not aiming for the Ivies will need to carefully research new SAT or ACT requirements as universities like Purdue, University of Georgia, University of Florida, and many others require the exams this year. 

The recent changes have brought with them a raging debate about how test requirements will impact underrepresented populations and whether the exams are strong gauges of university readiness. Yale Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan opines that the tests “are useful, and they can help applicants, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.” 

2. Why Test Scores Can Be an Advantage Even at Test-Optional Schools

It is also important to know that many schools will remain test optional for the Class of 2025. While this provides some flexibility, we recommend that most students applying to test-optional schools still prepare for the SAT and ACT and reach for their personal best scores. Here’s why: 

Admissions Impact

    Let’s face it. With the exception of some truly extraordinary students, most applicants to any given university share similar academic profiles and extracurricular activities, making it difficult for admissions committees to select from their applicant pool. Strong test scores can make it easier for you to stand out from the crowd.

    • Strong test scores provide further proof of your university readiness. For students who do not submit scores, admissions committees can only evaluate your academic profile through your reported grades and course rigor. Strong scores provide further context into your ability and may even compensate for some less-than-stellar grades. 
    • High test scores can help your student stand out from other applicants, especially if their GPA and extracurricular activities are similar to those of other candidates.
    • If you are considering studying at a university outside of the US, many will require test scores along with strict score ranges.

    Merit-Based Financial Aid and Outside Scholarships

      • Many colleges and universities also use ACT and SAT scores to determine merit-based scholarships. This type of aid is typically awarded to students based on academic achievement, and higher test scores can improve your student’s chances of receiving scholarships.
      • Millions of dollars are awarded to students each year by private, corporate or “outside” scholarships. A large number of these scholarship programs use SAT or ACT scores as a qualifying factor.

      Making Sense of Standardized Tests: Your Next Steps

      There is good reason for parents and students to be confused about how to approach standardized admissions tests. On top of this, while most students will benefit from preparing for and taking the SAT or ACT, this decision is highly dependent on your student’s academic profile and future goals. Our recommendation? Seek the help of a trusted guidance counselor or educational consultant. 

      At Tutor Doctor, we provide a comprehensive consultation where an educational consultant will review your student’s academic and college goals to create a clear and tailored action plan. Students can also register for digital practice SAT or ACT exams and receive a detailed score report, completely free of charge.

      Be sure to book your consultation or practice test today!