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How To Get Into An Ivy League With A Low SAT Score

Many students take our SAT prep courses with the intention of getting into an Ivy League school. However, getting into an Ivy is easier said than done!

Are you trying to make it into an Ivy League school with a low SAT score? We’re here to help!


One step that will absolutely help out is taking either our SAT prep or ACT prep courses.


Improve Your Current SAT Score!

When you consider the price of an Ivy League education, the additional funds put into improving your test score is simply a tiny fraction of the equation.

Spending these hours with a seasoned SAT instructor is perhaps the best investment in yourself you could possibly make as a high school student.

In fact, I always recommend taking one of our six-week courses before taking your next exam, or at the very least going through something like an SAT tutoring session or weekend review camp.

However, that may not always be an option. Whether it’s money, time, or you’re past the deadline to actually take another exam, sometimes formal test prep just isn’t in the cards.

But at the very least, I recommend doing the following:

  • Study with official test questions. Study with official test questions from the College Board, who writes the SAT and is the only trusted name in SAT test content.
  • Treat the SAT like a class. If you can’t attend a test prep class, then find a way to treat the SAT like a class! That means studying for the math and reading sections along with your general coursework and taking your improvement on the test seriously.
  • Take the exam…for real. I also recommend taking the exam as if it were real as often as possible. Yes, that means sitting down for four hours and taking the test! We want to try and get physically and psychologically used to the agony of this test, and that does mean practicing in a way that actually helps us improve.

Remember: the SAT is similar to many sports you probably already play in high school. The more you practice, the better you’ll become…so long as the way in which you are practicing is actually helpful.



Focus On The Rest Of The Pie: GPA And Extracurriculars

I’ve seen students with comparatively low SAT scores get into the Ivy League school of their dreams simply because they improve the other portions of the admissions pie.

Many college admissions experts suggest that they can gauge a student’s success based on three things:

  • Test scores
  • GPA
  • Extracurricular activities

While that may seem short-sighted, it’s important to remember that admissions directors see thousands of applications every year. How would you sift through so many applications so quickly?

The answer is coming up with a baseline to group students in certain categories. If your SAT score isn’t as high as you’d like after trying to improve it, then you’ll need to make sure that your GPA is exceptional and you beef up your extracurricular activities.

So long as you have a truly terrific GPA — 3.99-4.0 unweighted — coupled with interesting, diverse and creative extracurricular activities, you’ve got a shot to get into any Ivy. However, your SAT score must be within a reasonable shot of the school’s 25th percentile.

Use This Tip When Looking For Extracurriculars

Always engage yourself in extracurriculars you actually enjoy, not just ones that look good on a resume

We want to do things that we like and love, and let the results follow. So long as you are passionate about the things you are doing outside of the classroom, the results will take care of themselves.

If you enjoy it, joining your high school’s debate team is a sure-fire way to improve your overall recommendation. It shows admissions boards that you are willing to dedicate your free time to something intellectually challenging.

Debate team is essentially a competitive academic sport. Succeeding in the public forum or other formats tells an admissions consultant a lot about your potential for future growth and achievement.


Snag An Exceptional Letter(s) Of Recommendation

Providing a really wonderful letter of recommendation helps a lot.

I’ve written about getting great letters of recommendation from your teachers and counselors. It’s a topic I’m familiar with, having helped students through this process.

A really great letter of recommendation tells an admissions consultant or executive:

  • You are unique
  • You have the capacity to achieve something great

It’s a blanket statement to instruct the person reading your application to take the rest of it seriously, regardless of how high your SAT score is.

Colleges and universities respect and take seriously the opinion of teachers and instructors. A wonderful letter of recommendation is an x-factor that can help make up for a low SAT score.



Meet With An Admissions Representative From Your Target Ivy

This kind of meeting gives you an opportunity to explain things like low standardized test scores and highlight other resume components to someone in a position to help.

This is another low-key tip that I’ve come to find out can produce radically successful results. Meeting with an Ivy League admissions representative is another step you can take to bolster your resume and application.

There are many times throughout the year when you can meet with one of these admissions associates. In high school, I met with a woman who oversaw Brown University’s admissions.

I spoke with her at length about my goals, aspirations, and successes in high school. And what do you think happened? I got into Brown!

I attribute my conversation at my college fair to doing so. It was one of the wisest things I did when going through the college process.

Letting an admissions representative know that you have a low-end SAT score because you struggle with test anxiety or math or whatever the reason is the most productive way to highlight your value as a potential applicant.

You have the opportunity to physically meet and converse with the very people who read and analyze applications. Why not make the connection and get your name out there!?

Take A Risk: Stand Out!

If your SAT score isn’t up to typical Ivy League par, take a chance and get wild with your application cover letter.

I like this strategy for students applying to any reach school, such as Harvard, Stanford, etc. that is extremely difficult to get into, even with perfect scores!

Unless you are confident about getting into your dream school with a straightforward resume and application, it’s in your best interest to get a little wild with your cover letter and application.

How To Take Risks On Your Cover Letter

Answer a question that lets you express your creativity and what makes you different.

Take a chance. In the film 21, Ben Campbell, a brilliant MIT student, discusses his up and down career as a professional card counter to make some extra cash for medical school when interviewing at Harvard Medical School.

At first, it almost seems like this would be a foolish thing to tell a superior…especially the person responsible to judge you based on your ethical and academic success as a student! But for Ben and thousands of other creative and passionate students, it worked.

While this example is over-the-top, it shows something that I think is really important. It’s always in your best interest to stand out when you are faced with a tall mountain to climb.

If you’re looking for more information regarding Ivy League Schools, check out our college consulting specialist.

After all, what’s the worst that could happen?


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Getting Into The Ivy League With Low SAT Score FAQ

What should I do if I have a low SAT score?

If your SAT score isn’t as high as you’d like after spending time trying to improve it, you’ll need to make sure that your GPA is nothing short of exceptional and you beef up your extracurricular activities.

What do I need to improve to increase my admissions chances?

Many college admissions experts suggest that they can gauge a student’s success based on three things: test scores, GPA, and extracurricular activities.

What else can I do to improve my admissions chances with the Ivy League?

Meet with an admissions representative from your target Ivy. This kind of meeting gives you an opportunity to explain things like low standardized test scores and enables you to highlight other resume components to someone in a position to both listen and seriously assess your feedback.

What can I do with my application to make it stand out better?

If your SAT score isn’t up to typical Ivy League par (and it is relative based on the Ivy you are interested in attending), take a chance and get a little wild with your application cover letter.

Dr. Shaan Patel MD MBA

Written by Dr. Shaan Patel MD MBA

Prep Expert Founder & CEO

Shark Tank Winner, Perfect SAT Scorer, Dermatologist, & #1 Bestselling Author
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