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What is a good SAT score?

Updated: Jan 7



Ahh, the age-old question that every college-bound high school student asks. Well, when it comes to SAT scores, good is very much a relative term. The score that gets you into a particular college is, therefore, a “good” SAT score for THAT college.


That being said, most students are curious as to where they stand against others. So to that end, let’s talk about averages first, and then we will break down what constitutes a good score for various types of universities and colleges.


In 2020 the average SAT score was 1051, with a breakdown of 523 for math and 528 reading/writing.


That score will get you into over 50% of the 3000 colleges and universities in the United States.


Let. That. Sink. In.


The average SAT score will get you into well over 50% of the colleges in the United States. So take a deep breath, enroll in a proven SAT prep program (click here to check out our program of over 21 strategies to improve your score), and then practice, practice, practice. I can't stress the importance of the last piece of advice enough. More on that in another blog. Then, do your personal best on the SAT. And guess what? That will be the “good” score that you need to get into most colleges in the US.


Now let’s talk about good scores for competitive, highly competitive, and Ivy League Schools.


The most competitive colleges in the United States, such as the Ivy Leagues (there are eight: Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Dartmouth, Brown, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Cornell) accept students with the highest scores, such as a perfect 1600 or near perfect. The private sub Ivies (MIT, Stanford, Duke, Washington University, Pomona College, and University of Chicago) also expect high scores: 1550 and higher. Having said that, I have worked with students who have been admitted to Ivies and sub Ivies with lower scores. These students had other desirable qualifications to support their application and a killer essay and perfectly executed applications.


Then you have your private competitive universities, such as Amherst, Vanderbilt, NYU, Rice University, and Loyola Marymount. These schools are typically looking for a minimum of 1400 or higher combined scores, as are the competitive flag ship universities, such as the University of Michigan, University of Florida, the other University of California campuses, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Connecticut, to name a few.


As for competitive colleges and universities, which almost all colleges and universities will identify themselves as they tend to have a broader range of scores. Here we are thinking of both private and public schools like Syracuse, Temple, University of Iowa, Arizona State University, Texas A&M, Howard University, Santa Clara College, University of Maryland, Dickinson University, and the list goes on and on. Most of these colleges are looking for a 1250 or higher. But again, I have coached students who have gotten into all of these universities with lower SAT scores.


Remember, it is the total package that is reviewed in the admissions decision-making process and that includes quality of courses on your transcript, GPA, class rank, essays, and well-executed application. Not to mention the relationships you forge with the admissions officers - those can be vital to your acceptance to your first-choice school.


Finally, let me remind you again that there are more colleges and universities in the United States accepting students with average SAT scores than there are expecting students to have above-average SAT scores. What does that mean for you, if your SAT score is somewhat average? That means that there are around 1500 colleges that would love to have you on their campus next fall.


So when it comes to reaching for a good score on the SAT, sign up for a prep course, practice as much as possible, (we recommend in our course that students do at least six practice exams before they sit for the first SAT), and then take a deep breath, because there is a college out there that will find your SAT score to be a “good score” for their school.



Join Dr. Donna of College Prep Tutors on March 2 from 1 - 5 pm for her College Admissions Bootcamp - an ultra informative workshop that takes students through her 4 Step Method that has helped hundreds of students get into their 1st choice college. Dan Woog of the popular 06880 Blog will give the key note address. The Bootcamp takes place at the very comfortable Meeting House at the Unitarian Church of Westport. Click here to learn more.


Want to talk to Dr. Donna about your child and learn more about our services? Click here to book your complimentary Parent Discovery Call.


For more quality contact on the College Admissions process and updates on speaking engagements, workshops, and presentations, sign up for our newsletter.


Dr. Donna Risolo is the owner and principal tutor of College Prep Tutors, a boutique College Admissions firm.  Dr. Donna has helped hundreds of teenagers get into their first choice college and many with substantial scholarship awards regardless of parent income. She earned her doctorate degree from Teachers College, Columbia University in NYC. When not engaged in her passion project of helping teens realize their full potential, Dr. Donna also works as an educational consultant, guiding public and independent schools in best educational practices, admissions and fundraising, strategic planning and school transformation, parent and stakeholder engagement, and organizational culture building.  

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