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What Is the Average SAT Score for Colleges?

Posted by Justin Berkman | Jun 24, 2016 3:00:00 PM

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If you're preparing for the SAT or have received your SAT scores, you may be wondering what score you need to get into college. What's an average SAT score for colleges?

In this article, I'll explain average SAT scores and what they mean for you. Find out how to calculate the score you need to help reach your college goals.


What Is the Average SAT Score for Colleges?

Each year, the College Board reports the the average SAT scores for college-bound high school seniors who take the SAT. Generally, the mean section score is around a 500. These were the national SAT averages for 2016:

  • Evidence-Based Reading and Writing: 543
  • Math: 541
  • Total: 1083

If you score a 1100 or better, you'll have a higher score than more than 50% of college-bound high school seniors.


How to Find the Average SAT Score of a Specific College

While you may want to know how your SAT score stacks up against others who take the test, what really matters is how your score compares to other applicants of the colleges you apply to.

Even though a 1350 will be well above the national average, a 1350 is significantly below the average SAT for Ivy League schools. So although a 1350 is a very good score, you’ll be at a competitive disadvantage if you apply to any Ivy League school with a 1350. Conversely, if you apply to Cal States, a 1350 will exceed the average of any California State University campus, and you’ll improve your chances of getting accepted if you get that score.

You can find the average SAT scores of different colleges in the PrepScholar database. Just google “prepscholar (name of school) SAT” to find a school’s profile. On the school profile, you can check out its average GPA, average SAT score, and acceptance rate. Currently, all the average SAT scores are from the old SAT out of 2400. To convert an old score to one from the redesigned SAT out of 1600, just multiply the score by 2/3.

According to the PrepScholar database, the average SAT score for Cornell is a 2120. Therefore, the average score for the redesigned SAT should be around a 1413.

Ohio State has an average SAT score of 1864 for the old test. If we multiply that by 2/3, we arrive at an average score for the current SAT of approximately 1243.



                                                                         Mark Kesling/Flickr


What Does the Average SAT Score of a College Mean to You?

If you want to get into a certain school, your SAT score should be comparable to the average score for the college’s admits.

To give yourself the best chance of gaining admission to a specific school, we recommend that your goal should be to get at least a 75th percentile score for that college. The 75th percentile score for Cornell is 2270, equivalent to a 1513 on the new SAT. Therefore, if you want to go to Cornell, your target score should be a 1513. Because Cornell's acceptance rate is only around 16%, you should try to comfortably exceed its average score to gain admission.

Similarly, the 75th percentile score for Ohio State is a 2040, which is a 1360 on the new SAT. If you want to be an Ohio State Buckeye, you should be aiming for at least a 1360.

Furthermore, because a certain number of spots will go to athletes, legacies, and children of big-time donors, your qualifications may have to be better than average if you aren’t in one of these categories.


What If You Don’t Get Your Target Score?

If you don’t get the 75th percentile score or even the average SAT score for a specific college, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have no chance to get admitted.

However, if you still have time to reach your target score, it’s probably in your best interest to study and attempt to improve your score.

You can compensate for lower test scores with a higher GPA. Generally, schools place a greater emphasis on your transcript than on your standardized test scores. On each school’s profile in the PrepScholar database, you can use our admissions calculator by entering your GPA and SAT score to get a rough estimate of your chances of gaining admission to that school.

Also, keep in mind that colleges tend to use holistic admissions, meaning that everything is considered when colleges determine whom to accept. They’ll evaluate your transcript, test scores, extracurricular activities, recommendations, application essays, and any other factors that admissions officers deem relevant. If you've faced any significant obstacles, colleges will also take this into account.

Just because you don’t reach your target score doesn’t necessarily mean that you have no chance to get admitted. However, while most colleges don't claim to have a minimum SAT score, if your score isn't close to the average score for a particular school, you may have virtually no chance of getting accepted.

Even if you have great grades and stellar extracurricular accomplishments, you probably don't have a realistic shot of getting into Harvard if your SAT score is lower than 1000. While standardized tests aren't the only determining factor in college admissions, most colleges use the SAT to ensure that you're capable of succeeding academically.



Do your best to get your target score!


What's Next?

Check out our conversion chart for the most accurate way to convert old SAT scores (out of 2400) to scores from the redesigned SAT (out of 1600).

Also, learn more about what the new SAT format means for you.

Now that you're familiar with the average SAT score for colleges, learn more about minimum SAT scores for colleges.


Disappointed with your scores? Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points? We've written a guide about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

Get eBook: 5 Tips for 160+ Points


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Justin Berkman
About the Author

Justin has extensive experience teaching SAT prep and guiding high school students through the college admissions and selection process. He is firmly committed to improving equity in education and helping students to reach their educational goals. Justin received an athletic scholarship for gymnastics at Stanford University and graduated with a BA in American Studies.

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