preparing for the SATs

Which SAT Colleges Accept, SAT Superscores, and the SAT Writing Test

Quadratic equations…polynomial factors…identifying sentence errors…unrecognizable vocabulary words. If you’re preparing to take the current SAT this fall or winter, you are no doubt consumed with mastering all of these concepts and more, simultaneously asking yourself if the score you hope to earn will be strong enough to help you stand out in an overwhelmingly competitive applicant pool. But if your plan is to take the upcoming October, November, December, or January SAT, before the College Board ceremoniously switches over to the “redesigned” SAT in March 2016, you need to be asking yourself three very important questions.

1. Will colleges accept results from the “current” SAT when I apply for admission next fall?

Of course they will, right? That’s what I thought too, before I started making some inquiries. In early July, I called 40 different colleges and universities. Large and small, public and private, hyper selective and less competitive. Of those schools that were prepared to issue a formal response to my question, all affirmed that yes, “old” SAT scores would satisfy their testing requirements for students applying for Fall 2017 admission. But a handful of colleges were still in the process of defining their position on the redesigned SAT and provided me with “I believe so, yes” or “probably” responses. Not to worry! Give these colleges a few months time, and I’m sure we’ll see that any student who has taken the current SAT will be permitted to submit it as part of his or her application next fall.

2. If I take both the old and new SATs, will colleges superscore the two exams to give me the best composite score?

For those readers who may be unfamiliar with the term “superscore,” it’s a practice by which some colleges will essentially mix and match between your various SAT results, combining the highest critical reading score from one exam with the best math score from another. In May 2016, around the same time as the results from the March 2016 SAT will be made available, the College Board will publish a concordance table that will help guidance counselors, admissions officers, and students compare scores from the old and new exams. (This is necessary, in part, because the SAT is returning to its tried-and-true 1600-point scale, ditching the 2400-point version that many admissions officers never really got the hang of!) In theory, colleges should be able to combine the results of the two different exams by converting old SAT scores into new ones.

Alas, the majority of the colleges I spoke with were adamant that superscoring between the two versions of the SAT would not take place. In their eyes, trying to merge the two exams would be like mixing apples and oranges. To keep the integrity of their data intact, most admissions officers will either consider a student’s top scores from the old SAT or top scores from the redesigned SAT. Of the 40 schools I contacted, only a handful confidently anticipated superscoring results from the “old” and redesigned SAT. Nevertheless, I like the advice suggested by an admissions officer from the University of Rochester: self-report all of your scores. By listing all of your SAT results on the Common Application, you’re giving admissions officers the opportunity to consider your strongest scores across both versions of the exam.  Admissions officers are human, and generally want to give students the benefit of the doubt!

3. Do I have to take the optional writing component of the redesigned SAT?

Here’s where things get tricky. Simply put, most students should plan on signing up for the optional writing section of the new SAT because many colleges will require it. (The same advice applies for students planning to take the ACT.) But when trying to predict which colleges require the optional writing section, all logic seems to go out the window. While the majority of colleges that currently require the ACT’s optional writing portion are moving forward with similar plans for the SAT’s writing component, a surprising number of colleges are reversing their decisions. Boston University, Cornell, and UNC Chapel Hill are just a few of the colleges that currently require the SAT and ACT with writing, but will not be asking for the optional writing portion come March 2016. Confused? Please refer to the handy chart below to help you navigate the results of our informal telephone survey on the redesigned SAT.

How colleges will utilize the redesigned SAT is clearly a work in progress. And while rising juniors are undoubtedly anxious to learn how their old and new SAT scores will be evaluated in the admissions process, bear in mind that colleges are in a similar boat of uncertainty! After the March 2016 launch of the redesigned SAT, admissions officers will have a much clearer sense of how the redesigned SAT fits into their application evaluation. Your best line of defense is simply to do your personal best on all of your upcoming exams, and remember that standardized test scores are just one piece in a very complex and dynamic admissions process.

Please note: while every attempt has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information, colleges can and do change their information without notice. It’s also possible to receive two different responses from the same admissions office, depending on whom you talk to! So please, if you find a discrepancy, let us know and we will be sure to follow up with the college in question.

College Accept old SAT for Class of 2017? Require optional essay? Superscore old and new SAT?
Amherst College Yes Strongly recommended No
Boston College Yes No No*
Boston University Yes No No
Brown University Yes No No
California Institute of Technology Yes Yes No*
Columbia University Yes No No
Cornell University Yes No No
Dartmouth College Yes Yes No
Drexel University Yes No No
Duke University Yes Yes No
Elon University Yes No No
Emory University Yes Yes No
Georgetown University Yes No No
Harvard University Yes Yes No*
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Yes No Yes
Middlebury College Yes No No
New York University Yes No No
Northeastern University Yes No No
Northwestern University Yes No No
Penn State University Yes No No
Princeton University Yes Yes No
Providence College Yes No No
Stanford University Yes Yes No
Tufts University Yes No No
Tulane University Yes No No
U of Wisconsin Yes No No
University North Carolina Chapel Hill Yes No No
University of California (UCLA, Berkeley, etc.) Yes Yes No
University of Chicago Yes No No
University of Massachusetts Amherst Yes No No
University of Michigan Yes Yes No
University of Pennsylvania Yes No No
University of Rochester Yes No Yes
University of Vermont Yes No No
University of Virginia Yes No No
University of Washington Yes Recommended No
University of Texas at Austin Yes Yes No
Villanova University Yes No No
Virginia Tech No No No
Washington University in St. Louis Yes No No
Yale University Yes Yes No

*Updated 8/1/2016:  Boston College, CalTech, & Harvard University have decided not to superscore old and new SATs.

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Written by Elyse Krantz
Elyse Krantz is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions consultants. Elyse received her BA in linguistics from Dartmouth College and her MA from Teachers College, Columbia University. Prior to joining College Coach, Elyse worked as an admissions officer at Barnard College and Bennington College. Visit our website to learn more about Elyse Krantz.