1. Take it again. Some colleges will accept the higher score. Some will combine your scores for the best possible number. If you didn’t do as well as you could have on the SAT or ACT, call your prospective college for advice: Should you retake it? If the college rep says you may be eligible for more scholarships or a better chance of admission with a higher score, then retake it immediately.
But you may find that the college you’re considering doesn’t like the exams much, either, and ranks it low on the list of admissions criteria. Go with the school’s recommendation.
2. Get a great letter of recommendation. The folks who review your college application try to see if your test scores match your GPA and your letters of recommendation. If you score perfectly (as if) on the SAT or ACT and have a C- average in school, it’s clear you’re not applying yourself. If you score low on the exams but are a straight-A student, it could mean that you study hard but were sick on test day. Ask your school counselor or favorite teacher to write a letter on your behalf, testifying to the effort you put forth every day.
3. Use this year to boost your GPA. Can’t hurt.
4. Write an essay. Consider an application’s “optional” essay mandatory. Don’t use it to make excuses for why you didn’t do so well on the exam. But do explain your commitment to your education, highlight some examples and tell why you think you’d be a great match for the school.
5. Cast your net wider. It may turn out that a lousy SAT or ACT score means rejection from your first-choice college. But that doesn’t mean college is out of reach. Instead, apply to one or two additional schools where your test scores would fit right in. Then, put your best effort forward throughout the rest of your application. Good luck!
Article reprinted with permission from Next Step Magazine.