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Is Your Child’s SAT/ACT Score or GPA More Important To College Admissions?

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What do you think is more important: your child’s GPA or SAT/ACT score? Well, most people think that a high school grade point average is more important than a standardized test score. But for a lot of high school students, this definitely isn’t the case. If your child is looking to attend a competitive university, then her SAT/ACT score is more important than her GPA.

Firstly, grade point average has a high level of variability from school to school. For example, a 3.6 GPA at a college preparatory academy in Long Island may be worth much more than a 4.0 GPA at a rural high school in Idaho. There’s also the issue of “weighted” GPAs. School administrators may choose to “weight” honors and AP classes on any arbitrary scale they see fit. So a 4.4 weighted GPA may not be as impressive as it seems. In addition, the difficulty of courses can vary greatly. I remember “AP Biology” was a joke at my high school, but is a very difficult class at many high schools. With so much variability from GPA to GPA, college admissions officers can’t fully determine the value of a high school student’s grade point average.

So they need other measures to assess the academic ability of an applicant. And those measures should be standardized. The SAT and ACT serve as the biggest standardized measures for high school students applying to competitive universities. Fifty years ago, SAT and ACT scores were of little importance in a college application. But in this new era of competitive higher education, SAT and ACT scores are more important than ever. This could mean that if you’re not near perfection on the SAT or ACT, your child can kiss her Ivy league dreams goodbye!

Is the system fair? Definitely Not. Your child spends over 4,000 hours in a high school classroom working on her GPA. She spends just 4 hours taking the SAT or ACT.  And ultimately for students looking to attend competitive universities, their SAT or ACT scores is valued more than their GPA. Unfortunately, this is the grim reality of the educational system that high school students face today. But instead of quitting, your child should learn how to play the game: prep for the SAT or ACT.

In general, your child’s GPA is the most important factor when applying to college. Your child cannot get into a Harvard, Stanford, or Yale with a 2.0 unweighted GPA. But your child’s GPA is also just the baseline. Every student applying to competitive universities already has a high GPA. Therefore, for students applying specifically to competitive colleges, their SAT or ACT scores are more important. Test scores can differentiate your child from other students.



Shaan Patel

Shaan Patel is the founder of Prep Expert Test Preparation (formerly 2400 Expert), a #1 bestselling SAT prep author, an MD/MBA student at Yale and USC, and winner of an investment deal with billionaire Mark Cuban on ABC's Shark Tank. He raised his own SAT score from average to perfect and teaches students his methods in an online SAT prep class.