It’s fair to ask ourselves the question, what is good SAT score worth? Those in the college prep field often discuss this question in the framework of college admissions in general. However, would it surprise you to know there is an actual dollar value to a good SAT score?
The Mediocre SAT Score Myth
For some odd reason, parents like to believe schools when they tell us that test scores matter less these days. We want to take them at their word when they say they perform a “holistic” review of our child. We talk about it ad nauseum on in chat rooms and on Yahoo questions until we are blue in the face.
Since starting my podcast, I have learned the truth is very different. The truth is that parents and students alike are trying to convince themselves that test scores don’t matter. The parental rumor mill continues to perpetuate the notion that there are a plethora of gem colleges out there that are truly holistic. That these same colleges will award gobs of merit aid regardless of test scores.
I’m here to tell you that they don’t.
More kids than ever are applying to college. Even with all of the bad news out there of large student debt and college students not being able to find jobs, they keep coming. And the reasons for it is simple…
The odds of your finding a profitable and successful life get lower without a college education, and that college degrees are still worth the effort.
People love to tout the successes of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg. However people forget that all three tested highly and had resources that allowed them to self-actualize and create their companies sans college degree.
In short, they are exception, not the rule.
The Actual Dollar Value Of A High SAT Score
Merit Aid issued by colleges to admits have the biggest impact in lower the cost of attending college in terms of overall value. However, the awarding of Merit Aid is at the discretion of each college individually, according to their priorities.
Often a secretive process, the University of Rochester in New York once released to its incoming class the formula of the average Merit Aid award. When looking at the data, the University of Rochester offers us a glimpse into the value of an SAT score.
Among many factors, it was found that every 10 points a student earned above the average SAT score was worth around $115 in additional funds per year. For that university, the average score was 2040 out of 2400 possible.
How Much Is A Good SAT Score Worth For My Student?
Let’s do the math. If we average it out, we see that each point above the average is worth $11.50. If we look at college test prep as not only making college admission possible, but as a potential Merit Aid factor as well, the return on investment of test prep can be significant.
Lets imagine a student applying to the University of Rochester today earned a 2140 SAT Score. Lets also presuppose the student took part in test prep that cost them $500. Finally, let’s say this student is accepted to the university and receives the average award according to the formula.
The first year scholarship value for just the test score for this
student would $1150. Given that test prep costs this student only $500, the payback on this test is $650 in the first year.
But college isn’t just a one year excursion. Most colleges that award scholarships do so for at least four to five years depending on performance! That means the total value of this award over four to five years years is $4600 to $5750. Since test prep was a one time expense, the total payback on test prep for this student is between $4100 and $5250.
If we look at test prep for this student as an investment, we need to think about Return on Investment, or ROI. Or, how much did our investment earn overall. Using simple ROI calculation (Profit / Investment), we see just in the first year this student had a 130% ROI. Over 4-years the ROI is 820%, and 5-years 1050%! That kind of ROI is usually only seen when selling popcorn at a fair.
The Value of a High Test Score Is Beyond Dollars and Cents
Given what we know about the effect of test scores on additional aid, we see the immediate and long term value of testing well. Beyond that we have to keep in mind that the SAT is part of the most basic requirements of many schools.
Schools use your college-bound teens SAT score and GPA as a barometer of whether your child’s application and essay should even be read. There are plenty of students that never even get a shot at being reviewed holistically because their scores are below par. Holistic review is usually done AFTER a student meets basic score requirements. So keep the following tips in mind when trying to make the most out of your child’s test score.
- Know Where The Floor Is – Many schools are open about their floor for SAT scores and grades. Others leave it in the ether, yet publish the “average” SAT score of incoming freshmen. A good rule of thumb is to think of the target schools average score as the floor to be considered.
- Target The Test Score to the School – Lisa Bleich reminds us in her book, Surviving the College Application Process, that its important to target your efforts where they will have the most impact. It is useless to attempt entry into a school where the the average score is 2200 and your child’s score is 2000.
- Keep the Money in Mind – Test scores matter. Period. And when it comes to aid, we know that the four year payback on higher scores is large. Aid will not come easily to a student that lacks special skill sets and is under the class average. Parents should target schools for their financial value as well as academic.
- Find The Right Test Prep Fit – The SAT is an ever changing test that is as we speak reverting to its former 1600 score glory. However that doesn’t means it getting easier. If you use a test prep firm, make sure it is one that is keeping abreast of changes in the test. In addition, find one that will offer a some level of personalized service. Also, make sure they recommend practice conditions that match those of the test.
While we would all like to avoid having our kids pigeon holed by a test, it does no good to fight it when your kid is 1 year away from the test. It is best to play their game and win, making the most of the opportunity a high SAT score can bring both in terms of admission and higher financial aid.
About the Author: JR Vazquez is the host of the College Money Man Podcast, and blogs at CollegeMoneyMan.com. JR received over $250,000 in scholarships and financial aid he never had to pay back and graduated debt free. He now teaches parents and college-bound teens what he has learned about earning a college degree debt-free. Get more from JR on Twitter.