What to do after taking the SAT or ACT

Posted a month ago

A question we often get from students is, "what do I do after taking the SAT or ACT?".

At first glance, the biggest challenge to applying to universities in the US is the SAT. Overcoming that hurdle is cause for celebration for sure, but there is still plenty left to do if you’re going to gain admission to your dream college!

Keep in mind, the SAT and your high school grades are not used to make final judgements on students, rather, the scores are used by Admission Officers to make quick cuts to a large pool of applicants before they get to the nitty gritty of the extracurriculars, essays, references and interview.

Scoring well on the SAT gives you a foot in the door but certainly doesn’t mean your acceptance is guaranteed. As evidence of this, roughly 50% of perfect 1600 scorers on the SAT who apply to Stanford each year do not get an offer. This is because top colleges are looking for students who won’t just keep up with the academic side of things, but will contribute to the campus culture and be a model student for years to come.

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With all that in mind, here’s a quick checklist of everything you need to do after you take the SAT.

Take the SAT again

Firstly, are you happy with your score? If not, don’t panic! You can take the SAT more than once. Not only that, but most universities also allow for super scoring on your SAT meaning they’ll take your best scores from the English or Math component over multiple exams.

Check if your SAT score is high enough

Your next step is to double check if your SAT score sits comfortably within or above the average scores of admitted students to the college. This may mean you have to alter your goals slightly. If you were aiming for an Ivy but aren’t in that ballpark, there’s still plenty of incredible options that can ensure an amazing college experience. A little tutoring can go a long way. Check out our SAT Mastery Course and tips for increasing your SAT score.

Look into the SAT Subject Tests and AP exams

If you’ve checked off step number two, then you’re 100% done with the SAT! Now it’s time to really get sucked into your application by taking the SAT II Subject Tests and, as an option, you can also take AP exams. These exams help Admission Officers look beyond your English and Math ability to more subject specific knowledge. Check how many SAT II Subject Tests your target colleges require (often 2-3). The AP exams are optional but students take them to show their knowledge in their chosen subject.

It’s tempting to give up on the majority of your extracurriculars as study intensity ramps up, but keep in mind that roughly 30% of your application to college is based on what you do outside of the classroom.

Get cracking on your personal statement

Many students who thought the SAT was the biggest challenge in applying to college change their mind once they sit down to try and write their personal essay. This 600 word essay can take any direction and is seen as the major opportunity to have your authentic voice heard by Admission Officers. Many strong applicants simply don’t understand what Admission Officers are looking for in this essay and, as a result, don’t get an offer. It’s at this stage you need to recognize that the vast majority of students applying have been preparing for this essay for years and are receiving expert support and feedback on their drafts. Even if you’re a talented writer, it still takes lots of hard work to write a winning essay.

Not sure how to get started on your personal statement, hear from student admits to Penn, Duke and University of Chicago on how they tackled the Common Application and nailed their personal statements.

Write your supplemental essays

Once you’re happy with your personal statement, you need to work on the supplemental essays. These are the specific essays colleges will ask you to write so they can get a better sense of why you chose to apply to their college and whether you fit in with their campus culture. Some essays are 50 words (barely two sentences!) whereas some are 200-300 words. Most students will apply to six or more colleges so this can mean quite a lot of essays!

Get acquainted with the Common Application

The application portal to about 95% of colleges can be found in the Common App. This is where you select the universities you want to apply to as well as submit your personal statement, supplementals and extracurricular profile. It’s absolutely critical you nail this application and proof-read it thoroughly. Again, similar to the essays, you need to know what Admission Officers are looking for. Keep in mind, they read applications in 2-3 minutes!

Pick your universities… choose wisely!

Once you have all the various components of the application in place, now it’s time to decide where and when you’ll apply. Your application strategy is more important than you think and deciding between applying early decision or regular decision and which colleges are your reach (dream college), match (realistic entry) or safety (back-up college) is crucial!

This is also where expert support can make a huge difference as they can help you understand where your candidacy is best-suited and keep an eye out for any dual degrees or specialised programs you may have never even heard of before!

References might seem a bit overkill for a university application but it’s a chance for Admission Officers to get a perspective on how you interact with others. Asking your teacher for a recommendation can be intimidating, check out these useful tips on how to approach it.

If you’re applying from outside the US, then you’ll also want to apply to your local universities just so you have a back-up if things don’t work out with your application. Keep in mind that when your admission comes through, you’re best off dropping out of your local university asap to avoid any complications as you’d be considered a transfer student if you complete a full semester.

That’s it! Now, of course we mentioned a few times that expert support can mean the difference between gaining admission or not.

You need to know that students around the world are preparing their candidacy for years before applying and admission rates for top colleges is often in the single digits. If you’ve taken the SAT and want to speak to an expert about any of the above points, then fill in the form to book in for your free online consultation with a Crimson Academic Advisor!

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