Ah, the golden mean! Just as parents today struggle to help their children balance test preparation, standardized tests, and college visits with regular school work and extracurricular activities, Aristotle was once busily tutoring a young Alexander the Great in theoretical subjects and stressing the merits of empirical evidence. Nowadays, it almost seems easier to conquer the Western world than it is to get into the University of Chicago, Yale, Georgetown, or UCLA!

So, how do we obtain this golden mean, the passport to the college that will lead us to our future?

Test Scores? Well, yes and no.

More and more colleges and universities are evaluating applications holistically. So, just as a perfect 1600 on the SAT will not be one’s ticket into Cal Tech, neither will a 1060. Stiff competition allows colleges and universities to admit only those who have great test scores and can present themselves as well-rounded individuals with lots of fill-in-the-blank experience—similar to what Alexander the Great exhibited as a renaissance man (pre-Renaissance era, of course). A man of many talents and interests, he was equally at home leading the charge on the battlefield as he was studying in the Lyceum or perfecting his equestrian skills.

Yes, test scores are important, and to know what score is really good enough will depend on the schools to which you plan to apply. This golden mean is not a secret: every school publishes this information. Keep in mind, however, that test scores are not the end all, be all: sometimes, one must demonstrate leadership, creativity, and resiliency, too, and sometimes, doing just this is good enough.

Nonetheless, one should always strive to give his or her best on a standardized test (even though these tests are often not demonstrative of one’s intelligence). We can’t tell you the exact score you will need to receive in order to get into the school of your dreams (and neither can the Office of Admissions at the school); however, we can tell you the national averages:

Average SAT Score: 1030

Top 25% Score: 1200

Top 10% Score: 1340

Average ACT Score: 20

Top 25% Score: 25

Top 10% Score:  28

To determine your golden mean, research the middle 50th percentile test scores for each school that interests you, then try to obtain a test score that would place you in the 75th percentile or higher.

Also, keep in mind that if your friend Kathy got into the University of Georgia with an ACT score of 25, this does not mean that your score of 30 will secure a spot for you. College admissions may feel like a game of crazy 8s, where everything is left to chance; however, behind the hubbub and bureaucracy and unfairness lies logic. There are still only four 8s in a deck of cards, and you have more power in the admissions process than you think.

At the end of the day, standardized tests are not for everyone. If, after committing to diligent test preparation in the months leading up to the test, you don’t get the score you were aiming for, give it another try; however, be mindful that you should not take this test more than three to four times, as doing so may raise a red flag in the eyes of college admissions committees! Planning for college takes patience, dedication, and courage!

  1. Keep challenging yourself.


  1. Keep your grades up.


  1. Begin practicing for the standardized test of your choice at least three months in advance.


  1. Retake the test, if necessary.


  1. Try new things, but still make time to strengthen the skills you already have.


  1. Apply early.


If you haven’t already scheduled some time to talk to us about your standardized test prep plan and educational goals, let us help! We offer in one-on-one test prep for the ACT, SAT, PSAT, and SSAT, small group workshops, Saturday group mock testing, and individualized diagnostic and mock testing throughout the school year. Call us at 678.701.4053, or send an email to team@withinreacheducation.com.

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