Does Getting Less than a 1500 on the SAT Mean I'll Never Get into a Good School?

Does Getting Less than 1 1500 on the SAT Mean I’ll Never Get into a Good School?

With all the pressure from family and peers swirling around, it’s common to stress about SAT scores and getting into college. Plus, admissions is getting more and more competitive each year, so you may be wondering, can you get into a good school these days with less than a 1500 on the SAT?

First, what is a “good school”? Let’s consider what’s likely the most popular definition: a selective school that is ranked highly by a publication such as US News. Though many top schools do tend to look for high SAT scores, only the few elite schools in the country, such as Harvard and Yale, will care about whether scores are above 1520 or so. Ivy leagues aside, UCLA, UCB, USC, NYU, Johns Hopkins, and CMU are all highly popular schools with excellent reputations, and all accept students with less than a 1500. Last year, UCLA students, for example, had an average SAT score of about 1450, but that doesn’t mean that people with a 1200 (or lower) didn’t get in also. Test scores are only one piece of your college application, one measure of your multifaceted greatness. In fact, the more the other aspects of your application stand out (think: impressive accomplishments such as national recognition for a talent), the less weight your SAT scores will carry.

If you’re still concerned about your score and college rankings are your priority, you might also look into some top-100 schools that are score optional. University of Chicago, which ranks right up there with Harvard and Princeton, recently announced it will no longer require the SAT. Bates, Bowdoin, Pitzer, Sarah Lawrence, and Wesleyan are some other elite school options that don’t require standardized testing. If you feel the stress mounting, always remember how many options you have.

Now let’s consider a second popular definition of a “good school”: the school that is the best fit for you. While going to a well-known top school such as Harvard or Stanford may provide some future career-related advantages, most top-ranked schools won’t necessarily be the best path to your successful future. However, a college that fits your personality, your aspirations, and your desires—the school that you will enjoy the most and be the most successful at—more likely will. If you’re comfortable with the class sizes, the available majors and hands-on opportunities, and the campus culture, you’ll be happier, more motivated, and network more easily. You’ll thrive. And this type of environment for you may very well be at a school that accepts lower-end SAT scores, or doesn’t require them at all.

If you haven’t done a college-match search, check this College Board search for school recommendations based on your personalized criteria. Then try taking in-person campus tours or virtual online campus tours, talking to students and administrators, and visiting campus websites and sites like to get excited about colleges that truly appeal to you. When you’re informed and open to possibilities, you’ll be less distracted by worry over test scores.

In any case, just do your best and rest assured that, if you remain proactive, you’ll get an excellent education and have the time of your life, wherever you end up going.


Kiley A. teaches SAT/ACT Writing and leads College Application Workshops at Elite Prep Rowland Heights. As the Elite Community Scholars Coordinator, he also works to spread this college preparation guidance to low-income, first-generation students who may not otherwise have access to such support. Above all, he wants his students to know the far-reaching power of their own self-assurance.