College Myth: Elite Colleges Prefer SAT over ACT

The ACT vs SAT. A battle of the standardized tests. If you’re in college, thinking about college, or know anything about college- you’ve heard of them. You think they’re the same, right? Wrong. The ACT and SAT are both college entrance exams but have different components. The SAT’s test structure includes math, reading, writing and language, and an optional essay.

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Should you take the SAT or the ACT? Do colleges prefer SAT over ACT?

The ACT has Math, Reading, English, Science, and an optional essay. The largest difference there is the inclusion of science in the ACT. That can be a deciding factor based on scientific abilities. In the past, the ACT is was the only test designed to not penalize the test taker for guessing, but the new SAT no longer penalizes, either. The most glaring question students face is: which should I take? Some take both, many take only one. Your decision could be based on the components of the test as we just stated, but a lot of your preference has to do with where you are geographically. You’ll see that SAT dominates the coast and the ACT dominates the Midwest and parts of the North and South.

A common myth is that prestigious schools, like the Ivy League (Yale University, Princeton University, Cornell University, Harvard University, Columbia University, Brown University, Dartmouth College, University of Pennsylvania) prefer the SAT. This is not true, though. Schools have no preference in regards to ACT vs. SAT. Both are regarded as equal and have no bearing on your acceptance. There is no valid reason for them to prefer one because incredible students across the nation take both the ACT and SAT.

What about the geographic argument?

In regards to the geographic argument, Yale University, an Ivy League school, has an approximate 6% in-state undergraduate population. From the students they enrolled, 74% took the SAT and 45% took the ACT. That indicates some students took both. This may make you think well then I need to take the SAT to get into Yale, but it is not true. It’s only that most of their students are coming from SAT dominated states (California and New York.) Again, this does not mean you need to move to the coast and study like mad for the SAT. Yale, like all schools, will judge your application on merit, not your chosen test platform.

Another prestigious school, Northwestern University in Evanston, IL with an acceptance rate of about 13%, is dominated by the ACT. Around 72% of first-year students enrolled submitted an ACT score. Why the jump in ACT percentage from Yale to Northwestern? You guessed it-location. Northwestern is in Illinois, an ACT dominated-state.

Conclusion, the test you choose to take will not indicate whether a school, even the best of the best, will accept you. The ACT or SAT is not seen as more valuable by college admissions. They’re looking for a good score on the test, GPA, leadership, and many other things when choosing their incoming freshman class.

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