SAT Scores Drop to the Lowest since 2016 | This Week in Admissions News

24/03/20235 minute read
SAT Scores Drop to the Lowest since 2016 | This Week in Admissions News
The world of college admissions is ever-changing and for students with top university ambitions, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest developments. This week, we take an in-depth look at the average SAT scores for US universities and understand the reason for a sharp decline in scores since 2016. Check back next week to see what’s new and noteworthy in university admissions!

SAT Scores Drop to the Lowest since 2016

The average total SAT score was 1050 in 2022 for US high school students, the lowest since the test changed formats in 2016, Best Colleges has reported. These statistics relate to the new format of the SAT that is scored on a 1600 scale and was implemented in 2017. In recent years, there has been a steady decline in scores especially since many universities are still test-optional for their admissions cycles. Over the past five years, 2018 saw the highest average SAT score of 1068. 

More than 1.7 million students took the SAT and 1.3 million took the ACT in 2022. Across states the number of students taking the test varied greatly. In Mississippi and North Dakota, only 1% of students took the SAT. In contrast, 100% of students took the SAT in the District of Columbia, and 93% of students in Rhode Island. Wisconsin and Wyoming had the highest average total SAT scores, with mean scores of 1252 and 1244, respectively. West Virginia and Oklahoma had the lowest average total SAT scores, with mean scores of 938 and 951, respectively.

Due to test-optional policies, almost 80% of universities in the US did not require standardized test scores for the last two years. However, students at top universities still had some of the highest scores. Columbia topped the Ivy League with an average score of 1530. MIT topped the list of non-Ivy institutions with an average score of 1540, followed by University of Chicago with a score of 1535. 

In 2022, Asian students achieved the highest average SAT score of 1229. Also men scored higher than women in total score by 13 points. While those whose first language was not English scored 22 points behind English-only speakers for the ERW section, they scored higher in math than any other group. In terms of family influence, those students whose parents had parents who have graduate degrees achieved the highest total SAT score and section scores. Also families with the lowest income had students with the lowest average total score.

It remains to be seen how the new digital format of the SAT affects average scores.

Other top stories in admissions news this week:

  1. As more students hear back about their university acceptances, there could be some questions around the financial package they receive. CNBC has published a guide for students to understand their aid package better. Higher education already costs more than most families can afford, and college costs are still rising. Tuition and fees plus room and board for a four-year private college averaged $53,430 in the 2022-2023 school year; at four-year, in-state public colleges, it was $23,250, according to the College Board. It is important for families to understand the direct vs. indirect cost of attending a particular school. Plus, it is also important for students to understand the difference between free money vs. funds that will have to be paid back with an interest attached to it. “Every 40 hours you spend applying for scholarships and grants will result in $10,000, on average,” said Mary Jo Terry, a managing partner at Yrefy, a private student loan refinancing company.
  2. Colleges are facing a tough time in the United States, Inside Higher Ed has reported. As the US population ages, the number of high school students is declining, leading to a downward spiral for college admissions. Most institutions are also going to experience declining revenue. This is a function, in part, of declining enrollment, sharp stock market losses and the ending of Covid benefits. Plus, the decline in the perceived attractiveness of higher education as a life investment and fierce competition will leave most institutions with little ability to raise tuition to keep pace with inflation, let alone exceed it. Growing inflation and bank failures will also not allow universities to cut their already high costs.
  3. With college rankings taking such a beating, Time magazine reported on other ways students can evaluate their university choices. Quoting an admissions expert, the magazine urged college applicants to focus on four factors: costs, location, academic major, and career opportunities. The students who completed part of their high school years at home due to Covid have different sets of priorities and so the rankings are not enough for them to get the information they need. However, the magazine did quote a former Columbia admissions officer as stating that the rankings do matter to the universities.  
  4. South Korea’s private schooling costs rose to a new record and the number of students using them shattered the previous all-time high, Bloomberg News has reported. The rise highlights the financial pressure and intense demand for education that’s helped drive the world’s lowest fertility rate. Monthly spending on additional private schooling, or “hagwons,” climbed to 410,000 won ($315) on average for each student last year, up 11.8% from 2021.
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