To get into a top college a good SAT or ACT has been crucial in the past. In past years, the SAT/ACT scores were key components of the college admission application. However, this year, most schools have gone test optional and many have abandoned standardized testing completely. This leaves many students asking whether they need to take the SAT or ACT tests to get into top universities and, if so, what score do they need to get in order to get into the best universities in the U.S.? Opus College Prep admissions experts work closely with students and families to assess applications to different universities and to weigh the ACT and SAT score students need to look strongest in their college admissions applications at the top 50 colleges in the USA.  

Do I need an SAT, ACT, or standardized exam score?

During COVID-19, many students are asking whether they even need to take the SAT or ACT tests to get into top US colleges. For students wondering whether the schools they want to attend require the SAT or ACT, Fairtest tracks 1200+ schools and their test-blind and test-optional requirements.

ACT/SAT scores are only one component colleges weight in evaluating admissions candidacy. Other factors colleges consider are academic rigor, academic grades, other students at your school compared to you, extracurricular activities, personal qualities, and how much support your school shows you. These are just a few factors, but academics and testing are just one part. 

In past years, standardized testing, SAT and ACT scores have been key for admissions evaluations. An SAT/ACT score offers universities with a touchstone to understand how a student  compares with other students at his/her school.  In the past, universities used ACT/SAT scores to understand whether a student could handle the academically challenging curriculum being offered.

What impact can high ACT/SAT scores have on college admissions?

Filtering: First, a high score means that a student can often make it through some intense filtering on the part of highly selective universities. 

Scholarships: Top colleges also use SAT scores and cutoffs to earmark merit aid and scholarship money for top students. 

While many students are opting out of SAT or ACT testing and many schools are going test optional, we believe universities will begin leaning into GPA against peers, high achievements, stellar accomplishments, and standout factors among students. Still, being that many students are still taking the SAT, we are sharing the SAT scores for the top 50 US universities. 

SAT Statistics for Top 50 U.S. Universities

UniversityLocation25th Percentile75th Percentile
Brown UniversityProvidence, RI14501570
California Institute of TechnologyPasadena, CA15401580
Carnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburgh, PA14101540
Columbia UniversityNew York, NY14901580
Cornell UniversityIthaca, NY13901530
Dartmouth CollegeHanover, NH14301560
Duke UniversityDurham, NC13151570
Emory UniversityAtlanta, GA13601490
Georgetown UniversityWashington, D.C.13201520
Harvard UniversityCambridge, MA14701570
Johns Hopkins UniversityBaltimore, MD14801560
Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridge, MA15001570
New York UniversityNew York, NY13601500
Northwestern UniversityEvanston, IL14401540
Princeton UniversityPrinceton, NJ13801540
Rice UniversityHouston, TX14401560
Stanford UniversityStanford, CA13901540
Tufts UniversityMedford, MA14101540
University of California, BerkeleyBerkeley, CA12801490
University of California, Los AngelesLos Angeles, CA12801500
University of ChicagoChicago, IL14601560
University of Michigan, Ann ArborAnn Arbor, MI13801540
University of Notre DameNotre Dame, IN13901530
University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphia, PA13701520
University of Southern CaliforniaLos Angeles, CA13201480
University of VirginiaCharlottesville, VA13201500
Vanderbilt UniversityNashville, TN14001550
Wake Forest UniversityWinston-Salem, NC13201490
Washington University in St. LouisSt. Louis, MO15001560
Yale UniversityNew Haven, CT14601600
Tufts UniversityMedford, MA13801530
University of North Carolina-Chapel HillChapel Hill, NC12701470
University of RochesterRochester, NY13201500
University of California-Santa BarbaraSanta Barbara, CA12301480
University of FloridaGainesville, FL12801440
University of California-IrvineIrvine, FL11801440
Boston CollegeChestnut Hill, MA13201490
University of California-San DiegoSan Diego, CA12501470
University of Cailfornia-DavisDavis, CA11501410
Boston UniversityBoston, MA13001500
Brandeis UniversityWaltham, MA12801500
Case Western UniversityCleveland, OH13501520
College of William and MaryWilliamsburg, VA13101490
Northeastern UniversityBoston, MA13601540
Tulane UniversityNew Orleans, LA13501490
Villanova UniversityVillanova, PA13001470
University of Illinois-Urbana ChampaignChampaign, IL12201480
University of Texas-AustinAustin, TX12301480
Lehigh UniversityLehigh, PA12701450
Pepperdine UniversityMalibu, CA12201420

Where should my SAT range fall and what do 25th and 75th percentile mean?

The 25th and 75th percentiles show the range in which students fall at each university. For the most selective universities, students should plan on falling closer toward the 75th percentile. 

The 25th percentile score shows students the score that a group under 25% of total students at a college scored under. Conversely, the 75th percentile score shows us the score at which only 25% of students at a university scored above. The range between 25th and 75th percentile score is called an interquartile score. If you plan to apply to a university, it is helpful to be somewhere in the middle 50% as a starting point. This is especially true for University of California, University of Texas and other state-based systems that often do take raw data and lean into testing and grades more than some smaller private schools. 

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