As you apply to college, it's important to understand how high of an SAT score you will need to aim for on test day. This raises the question: what are good SAT scores for colleges? And not just any colleges, but your colleges specifically?
In this article, we'll examine the SAT scores needed for college and how these scores can vary due to differences in factors such as school prestige and competitiveness. We'll then show you how to look for average SAT scores for colleges and how to set your own SAT goal score.
Schools Temporarily Going Test Optional in 2020-2021 Due to COVID-19
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, SAT exams have been canceled across the United States. To accommodate this, some schools have instituted a temporary test optional policy for students who are applying to college during the 2020-2021 admissions cycle.
For a list of schools that are temporarily test optional (and what "optional" means), check out this article.
What Are Good SAT Scores for Colleges?
First off, what are good SAT scores for colleges? In reality, there's no single answer to this question because good SAT scores for universities vary depending on where you're applying. For some schools, an SAT score of 1400 will be significantly high, whereas for others (i.e., top-20 colleges) it'll be fairly low.
As you might've guessed, ultra-competitive, top-ranked schools typically look for some of the highest SAT scores in applicants.
Below is a chart containing the top 25 US schools (as ranked by US News) and their ranges of SAT scores for incoming students. This data highlights the SAT score you'll need to get in order to give yourself the best shot at securing admission into a highly competitive school. For each school, we give you the average SAT score, 25th percentile score, and 75th percentile score of incoming students.
A 25th percentile score means that 25% of students scored at or below this threshold, while a 75th percentile score means that 75% of students scored at or below this threshold. Thus, the 25th and 75th percentiles represent the middle 50% SAT scores of admitted applicants—the average SAT score range for a particular school. Good SAT scores for universities are usually those in the 75th percentile or higher (i.e., anything above the middle 50%).
Note: For those curious about what kinds of SAT scores are required for Ivy League schools, I've bolded all eight Ivies in the table below. This should make it easier to compare the SAT scores of Ivies with those of non-Ivies.
SAT Scores for Top 25 US Schools
|School||US News Ranking||25th %ile SAT Score||75th %ile SAT Score||Avg SAT Score|
|Johns Hopkins||9 (tie)||1470||1570||1520|
|University of Michigan||24 (tie)||1340||1530||1430|
As you can see from this chart, the SAT scores you'll need for top 25 schools vary slightly but are overall quite high. Of these schools, UCLA has the lowest SAT scores: the middle 50% of its incoming students scored between 1280 and 1530, or the 84th and 99th percentiles.
By contrast, Caltech maintains the highest SAT scores: only 25% of incoming students scored at or below 1530—an extremely impressive SAT score in the 99th percentile! Even more impressive, a whopping 75% of Caltech students scored at or below a 99th+ percentile score of 1560.
Top schools are like center brownies: lots of people compete for them, but only a few will win access to one.
But what if you're not interested in applying to only top-25 schools?
To lend you a hand, we've gathered SAT score information for 76 additional schools. All of the schools selected for this list are relatively well known—some more so in their respective regions—and vary from large public institutions to small liberal arts colleges. Whereas some are extremely competitive, others are more laid-back. But all are definitely worth considering for college!
All schools below are organized alphabetically. To find a specific school, use ctrl + F to type in the name of the school you're searching for. Note that University of California schools are listed using "UC."
SAT Scores for 76 Popular Schools
The list above is only a fraction of the length of Santa's naughty-or-nice list.
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How to Find Average SAT Scores for Colleges
With these two charts, we've given you—in addition to the 25th and 75th percentile SAT scores for each school—the average SAT scores of admitted applicants. These averages tell us what kinds of SAT scores you should aim for in order to match (or even possibly exceed!) the qualifications of previously admitted students.
But where can you find average SAT scores for colleges? The two best resources to look for SAT averages are our PrepScholar database and official school websites.
Method 1: Use the PrepScholar Database
We at PrepScholar maintain a robust database you can use to get more information on the SAT scores needed for college.
Start by typing in "[School Name] PrepScholar" or "[School Name] PrepScholar SAT" on Google. For example, here's the page I got when I searched for "university of oregon prepscholar":
Click the link to either your school's Admission Requirements page or SAT Scores and GPA page in our database. I decided to look at the University of Oregon's Admission Requirements page (the first link in the screenshot above).
Once on your school's PrepScholar page, scroll down to look for a section about its SAT scores. Straight away, you should be able to spot your school's average SAT score in a blue banner:
If you'd like to see the 25th and 75th percentile SAT scores for your school as well, simply scroll down to look at the percentile chart:
This is all you need to do to find the average SAT scores for colleges. However, if you're having trouble locating a specific school in our PrepScholar database, move on to Method 2.
Method 2: Use Official School Websites
This method involves looking for SAT score information on a school's official website. The easiest way to do this is to hop on Google, search for "[School Name] average SAT scores," and then click any links to official pages discussing SAT scores for your school.
Another (slightly less convenient) method is to browse your school's website and intermittently use ctrl + F to look for any mentions of SAT scores. The best pages to search are those offering information on admission statistics, the new freshman class, and facts and figures.
That said, not all schools report average SAT scores. Whereas some won't release any SAT score information at all, other schools might report SAT scores of admitted applicants in the form of 25th and 75th percentile scores.
One example of this is Princeton, which offers middle 50% SAT score ranges for both sections on the SAT. According to this Ivy League school, the middle 50% is 750-800 for Math and 710-770 for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. In other words, 25% of students scored 1460 or below and 75% of students scored 1570 or below.
Although this range isn't the same as an average, it does give us the information we ultimately want to know: what kind of SAT scores are considered better than average (and below average) at this particular school.
This freakishly beautiful kitten is anything but average.
How to Set an SAT Goal Score
We've seen how widely SAT scores for universities can vary; now, it's time to figure out what score you'll need for your colleges specifically. In other words, what should your SAT goal score be?
A goal score is the SAT score most likely to get you into at least one of the colleges you're applying to (excluding safety schools). Ideally, it'll get you into all of them!
Because SAT expectations can vary greatly by school and because there's such an enormous array of colleges you can apply to, your SAT goal score will be yours and yours alone. Other students might have higher or lower goal scores than you—but none of that matters. In the end, what does matter is your goal score's likelihood of getting you into the college of your dreams!
To find your SAT goal score, follow these three simple steps.
Step 1: Make a Chart
First off, make a table for the schools you're applying to and their 25th/75th percentile SAT scores. You may download our worksheet or draw a table similar to the one below.
On the left, list all the schools you plan to apply to (excluding any safety schools you're about 90% certain you'll get into). Here's an example:
Step 2: Find SAT Score Info Online
Your next step is to look for SAT score information for each of the schools in your table. To do this, follow the same steps as outlined in Method 1 for finding average SAT scores for colleges.
Once again, here are the steps you'll need to take:
- Step 1: Search for "[School Name] PrepScholar SAT" on Google and click on the PrepScholar page for your school (either the Admission Requirements page or SAT Scores and GPA page will work).
- Step 2: Scroll down to the SAT section on this page to find a chart listing the 25th percentile, 75th percentile, and average SAT scores for this school.
- Step 3: Record the 25th and 75th percentile scores in your chart.
In addition to using our database, you can search for "[School Name] SAT scores" on Google and look for official web pages for your school. Many schools will report either average SAT scores or the middle 50% of SAT scores (which is what you'll want for your chart).
As a reminder, the minimum score in a 50% range is the 25th percentile, and the maximum is the 75th percentile.
Once you've found SAT score information for all your schools, your chart should look like this:
Step 3: Find Your Target Score
Now, you'll use the information in your chart to find your target SAT score. To do this, simply look for the highest 75th percentile score in your chart. This will be your SAT target score. You must hit this (or near this) score in order to give yourself the best chance of admission to all the schools you're applying to.
In this case, my goal score would be 1470 (for UT Austin), as this is the highest score in my chart.
To figure out your (estimated) goal scores for each section (Evidence-Based Reading and Writing + Math), you can divide your goal score by 2. So a composite 1470 goal score would come out to a 730-740 EBRW goal score and a 730-740 Math goal score.
My goal score? 100% completion in Breath of the Wild. (Brett Chalupa/Flickr)
Summary: What Are Good SAT Scores for Colleges?
Simply put, there is no one definition for good SAT scores for colleges. On the contrary, the SAT scores needed for college can vary significantly depending on schools' SAT expectations and where you're applying. While some institutions might look for scores in the 99th percentile, others might accept scores closer to the national average.
In general, good SAT scores for colleges are those that are in the 75th percentile or higher for your schools. Such a score should elevate you well above the average SAT scores for your schools, ultimately allowing you to stand apart from other applicants.
To find average SAT scores for colleges, we recommend perusing either our PrepScholar database or your schools' official websites.
Finally, to set an SAT goal score, just follow these three easy steps:
- Step 1: Make a chart with all of the schools you're applying to (excluding safety schools) and their 25th and 75th percentiles.
- Step 2: Find SAT score information online by using either our database or your schools' official websites. Record the 25th and 75th percentiles in your chart.
- Step 3: Locate the highest 75th percentile score in your chart. This will be your SAT goal score, as it's the one most likely to get you accepted to all the schools you're applying to.
Need additional help with setting an SAT goal score? Check out our step-by-step guide on how to set a target score for your schools.
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Hannah received her MA in Japanese Studies from the University of Michigan and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California. From 2013 to 2015, she taught English in Japan via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.