Six Things I Learned About how SAT Scores are Used After Enrollment

On the second day of College Board’s 2021 Forum, Terrance Dixon, Vice President of Enrollment Management at Shaw University and Emily Shaw, Executive Director of Research at College Board, discussed the value and validity of the SAT in serving the needs of students after enrollment. After introductions by moderator Stephen Handel, Senior Strategist at College Board, the speakers explained the following ways how SAT scores can be used after students are admitted to college:

1. The SAT is used for more than just recruitment and admissions.

  • ACT’s survey of higher education enrollment and admissions officers indicated that standardized test scores have a range of post-admission uses, including: financial aid and merit scholarship calculations, major/program or class placement decisions, career services support, academic support, and student success modeling/supports.

2. SAT School Day propels a more diverse group of students to the college pipeline and using SAT scores post-enrollment can help institutions support students’ continued success.

  • Participation in SAT School Day by has increased from 43% of SAT takers to 62% since 2019. Compared to Weekend test takers, more SAT School Day students attend high-poverty high schools, have parents without college degrees, and/or are underrepresented minorities.
  • “At Shaw, we find a lot of our population coming from the state of North Carolina, but coming from rural places. We think about where that student came from geographically and the type of college preparation they may have had. All of those things go into the conversation with our faculty and success teams,” Terrance Dixon said.

3. SAT scores and high school GPAs work together to show students’ likely retention rates.

  • SAT scores contextualize high school GPAs and how those GPAs may ultimately translate to college performance. Though students may have the same high school GPA, lower SAT scores indicate lower second-year retention rates, showing institutions which students they may need to reach out to for additional support.

4. SAT scores provide important information, beyond GPA, about student preparedness for first semester coursework.

  • SAT Math score information is essential to understanding how students will perform in college level math courses. High GPAs without strong SAT Math scores cannot make up for the lower SAT Math performance in terms of college math performance.

5. SAT scores can be used to make decisions for merit scholarships and honors programs.

  • High school GPAs and SAT scores together can show the probability of students earning a 3.5 or higher in their first year of college. SAT scores help differentiate students who will most likely be able to maintain their scholarships or honors program placements throughout college, and can help identify students who may struggle to do so and need extra support.
  • This is in many ways the gist of the session: sometimes you want to admit students that maybe you wouldn’t have normally admitted. And this allows you to identify those students, give them the opportunity, and support them in having the opportunity,” Emily Shaw said.

6. Across all academic majors studied, for students with the same high school GPA, their chances of earning a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher varies greatly depending on their SAT scores.

  • The SAT can be used to increase diversity in STEM fields by identifying admitted students who may benefit from additional instructional support. Institutions can look at SAT math score and GPA to identify future students who may benefit from targeted support.