College Admissions: Why Standardized Testing Scores Matter

by Ana Felce

As a parent of a high school junior or senior, you’re probably well aware that your child will need to take a standardized test like the SAT or ACT as part of their college application process. You likely know that standardized testing is important for college admissions—but do you understand why?

These exams help colleges and universities evaluate a large number of applications and identify the students who are ready for the rigor of college academics. Plus, they give admissions counselors a more complete view of an applicant’s academic capabilities. Here’s what you (and your student) need to know about standardized testing.

A Measurement of Academic Preparedness

Every year, US colleges receive thousands of applications, making it tough for administrators to narrow the pool of applicants. For instance, Azusa Pacific University typically receives around 6,700 applicants each year and admissions counselors have to choose which students will be accepted.

Because high school grading systems (and GPAs) can vary by school, a standardized test can provide a more objective metric for consideration. Including scores from the SAT and ACT exams among the college application requirements effectively gives colleges and universities a common tool with which they can measure students’ academic preparedness.

A Way to Balance Out Applications

Not only do schools use students’ SAT or ACT scores to determine their readiness, they also use the score to balance out areas of the application where students may not be as strong. For example, if your student’s GPA isn’t as high as they would like—or if they had a semester when their grades slipped below what they’re capable of achieving—standardized testing is another opportunity to show admissions counselors their academic ability.

It’s also important to remember that, in addition to test scores, colleges take many other factors into consideration when reviewing applications. Schools want to maintain vibrant campuses, so many desire students who are actively involved in their community, take part in academic extracurriculars, or participate in sports or creative endeavors. While academic results and test scores are important, know that they’re not the only deciding factors in your student’s college admission.

A Qualification for Scholarships

A student’s SAT or ACT score isn’t just useful for being admitted to their school of choice; did you know that standardized test scores can also qualify students for certain college scholarships? Some scholarships are automatically granted for academics while others might require an additional application, but talented students who demonstrate their capabilities in college entrance exams can qualify to receive money for college. Achieving a high score can increase the number of scholarships students may earn—and mean more help in paying for their education.

Scholarship amounts vary by institution but are typically available to all students (from every income bracket) and can be supplemented with other forms of financial aid. Parents and students should look into as many scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial aid as possible because chances are good that a qualified applicant won’t need to pay the full cost of tuition. For instance, at Azusa Pacific University, 95 percent of students receive some form of financial aid.

Is your student ready to tackle the SAT or ACT exam? First, find out the differences between the two tests to help decide which one to focus on.