SAT Scores - what they tell us, and what they don't tell us...from the College Guy

Hey again juniors and junior parents,

Gary the College Guy here with some more words of wisdom for you.

(Okay in the interest of full disclosure, my seniors are pretty much 'put to bed' in terms of needing my services, so I've got, ahem, some time on my hands and therefore I can festoon your in-box with my rants. Hopefully you'll read them and find them of value. Share them with your buds as well).

So the occasion for this rant is that ...(drum roll please)... your May SAT scores should be posted on the web site tomorrow. Go check them out!

Now listen carefully: no one will tell you more vehemently than I that these standardized tests (the SAT, SAT Subject Tests, and the ACT) are TERRIBLE tests which have neither reliability (scores are not statistically replicated upon retesting) nor validity (they don't come very close to measuring what they purport to measure, which is your likelihood for college success).

That said, these tests are important, and you should take them seriously.

I don't want you to get too bent out of shape - positively or negatively - about your scores. I've seen plenty of SAT hotshots (scores over 1800/1900) do lousy in college, and I've seen my share of SAT plodders who can't break 1500 be extremely successful when they get to college.

So why the fuss about standardized testing?

Because the esteemed college admissions mavens (and I use the word 'esteemed' with sarcasm) at the nations' most selective colleges tend to over rely on them, both when deciding who to accept, and when deciding who to give big $$$ to.

That last paragraph can be parsed and argued any number of ways and I'm not going to bore you with it any further. What I want you to know is that there is plenty of room for effective college admissions strategies even if your SAT scores are low, but you need to know that those scores do have an important bearing on where you should consider applying, and what sort of financial aid package you can expect to receive.

Therefore you should absolutely consider retaking the tests in October or November next fall, and some of you should consider taking the ACT test in October as well. And all of you who retake the test should figure out a way to PREPARE for those tests - either drop some money on a tutor or course or use the self-prep system I described at length in my March rant about prepping for the SAT (I'll be resending that in August to remind you).

I've written previously about this topic but if you have questions or want to get some advice based on your scores feel free to email or phone me (my contact information is at the end of the email). And you're more than welcome to send me your scores along with your questions.

Now don't just take my word for all this. Check out this web site:

They're a national organization advocating the abolition of standardized tests, and they make a lot of sense. Read the 'fact sheets', and check out the list of over 800 colleges which are "SAT Optional" (about 50 - 60 of those 800 are schools which may actually interest you, including Bowdoin, Bates, Holy Cross, Clark, Wheaton, Smith, Hobart & William Smith, Providence, Goucher, etc.)

Okay I hope you're all wrapping up your year successfully and making plans for a great summer vacation. Recall my suggestions to add some sort of volunteer internship this summer - one three/four hour shift per week is all it takes - in an area of career interest to you.

Juniors who have not had a college meeting with their guidance counselor this spring should schedule one now - don't wait to be called. Tell them you want to come in and discuss the college process, and when you get there, um, discuss the college process. Your guidance counselor is a resource, but you've got to make the effort to use him or her.

Those of you who have already met with me know what I mean when I say to continue to work on your "top 10" list of schools which interest you. This list should evolve over time to reflect your ongoing research and your interests.

Similarly you should put together an annotated activity and academic resume, and use it when writing "pen pal" letters to college faculty such as admissions folks, professors and coaches. Remember this is how you "show the love" to your schools, which can have a bearing on where you get accepted.

Those of you who've not met with me who are curious to know what the hay I'm talking about should contact me by email or phone. I work over the summer, I skype with students who don't live in the Greater Portland area, and if you think you could use a gentle push in the right direction, I'm your College Guy!

Now go have fun!


Gary L. Canter
College Placement Services
210 St. John Street
Portland, Maine 04102
(207) 772-9711

College Placement Services provides high school students and their families assistance with all aspects of the college search, selection, application and financial aid process.

P.S. If you'd rather not get these occasional missives, kindly let me know...and you won't.

P.P.S. If you find my rants useful and know others who may like to receive them, feel free to forward them on to friends and neighbors, or send me their email addresses and I'll see that they get to them. College Placement Services is currently accepting members of the class of 2014 and 2015 for consultation and other fee-based services. Call for information.