Taking the SAT Two or Three Times Can Help You Score More Scholarship Money
If you’ve taken the SAT, you probably swore you’d never go back and relive the horror that was that grueling four(ish) hours.
But, if you’re reading this today, you have to admit that you at least survived the experience of filling in hundreds of tiny ovals with your No. 2 pencil as your hand cramped in places you didn’t know you even had muscles and your eyes crossed from reading the same paragraph over and over again while you silently pleaded with your stomach to just stop growling — and (more than likely, anyway) that you could survive it again.
And that’s good news, because bringing up your SAT scores (by retaking the test) can actually help you secure merit-based financial aid when you start applying to colleges.
Retake the SAT for a Chance at More Financial Aid
While a high SAT score could be the key to getting into your school of choice, being admitted won’t be quite as sweet a victory if you can’t afford to attend without taking on massive student loan debt.
Luckily, the other perk of having a high SAT score is that you’re more likely to receive merit-based financial aid and will have a better chance at earning outside scholarships — those not affiliated with the school.
Now listen, I know that taking the SAT isn’t an inexpensive endeavor. Each test costs between $46 and $64.50 depending on whether you opt for the essay portion.
But if you can make it happen, $65 on the front end seems like a worthy investment if it helps you get more money for college later on. (Plus, students who qualify could get an SAT fee waiver to take the test for free.)
Really, though, a jump of a couple of hundred points on your SAT score could mean thousands of dollars in merit-based financial aid and scholarship opportunities.
This post from PrepScholar outlines how a high SAT score can automatically qualify you for a scholarship or merit-based aid at several universities across the U.S.
For nonresidents attending Colorado State University, for example, a student with a 3.8 GPA could receive $5,000 per year with an SAT score of 1190 — but could receive double that amount each year with an SAT score of 1350.
That’s an extra $20,000 over the course of a four-year college career.
In addition to merit-based financial aid at colleges, freestanding scholarship programs often look at SAT scores as a determiner.
That essay about how your leadership skills took your robotics team to victory at States? Yeah, it’s pretty good. But probably a hundred other applicants’ essays are just as great — and chances are, some of them had higher SAT scores.
So are you ready for the best news about retaking the SAT?
You don’t have to freak out if you receive a lower score on one or more sections the second time around because most colleges will put together your superscore.
That means if, for example, you scored better on the math section the first time around but better on the reading section the second time, they’ll use the top score in each section in your new total and ignore the lower ones.
Just imagine what could happen if you took the test three or four times and managed to do a little better each time.
OK, Sure — But Will Retaking the SAT Actually Help Me Bring My Score Up?
According to the College Board, two out of three students (67%) who retake the SAT will improve their score.
Think back to the first time you took the SAT. You were probably feeling a lot of pressure, right?
You weren’t thinking clearly, you had a nerves-related stomachache and you had no idea what to expect once you walked through those doors.
After you left the testing center that day, you were kicking yourself because you didn’t move quickly enough through certain sections and left too many questions blank when the clock ran out.
That day was a learning curve.
Trying a second (and maybe even a third) time will give you an opportunity to focus on the information itself — not on the ticking clock and the cold room (no one told you to bring a jacket!) and all the frustrating unknowns you weren’t prepared for.
If you’re able, try taking an SAT prep course before you sign up to take the test again.
If you can’t afford it, you can find plenty of free resources for practicing for the SAT online.
Khan Academy, the free online learning resource, has a whole SAT practice program that anyone can use.
According to a 2017 College Board analysis, studying for six hours using Khan Academy’s tools helped students raise their SAT scores an average of 90 points above their PSAT scores. When students spend 20 hours studying, that increase jumped to 115 points.
After you’ve studied for your retake, make sure you’re better prepared in other ways also for your next testing experience. Check out this page of things to know before you go if you need a refresher on what you should and should not bring to the testing center.
All right, now take a deep breath. You’ve got this.
Grace Schweizer is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She took the SAT no less than five times, the PSAT twice and the ACT once. So she really, truly feels for you.