You didn’t score well on the SAT or ACT. Now what?

Martha Collins
Martha Collins

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Taking the SAT or the ACT can be one of the most stressful parts of the college application process. Receiving the test scores themselves can be just as nerve-racking. No matter whether you score well on SAT or ACT tests, sometimes you need to figure out your next steps logically.

A lot of students (including myself) will receive their test scores and feel disappointed. However, steps can be taken to alleviate the anxiety students may feel about their low test scores, especially if they took the exam sooner rather than later.

Retake the exam:

See if you can retake the SAT or ACT in the following month or so. During the time between the two tests, work on your worst subject and stay motivated. Retaking the exam is the best option for raising your test score, which is why taking the SAT or ACT early is a smart move. 

Consider taking a different test:

If you did poorly on the SAT, think about taking the ACT (and vice versa). Empowerly discusses the differences between the two exams, and how to tell which one is suited for you, here.

Concentrate on your essays: 

If you do not have enough time to retake an exam, work towards writing incredibly powerful and eloquent college essays.  Here are some tips that Empowerly has come up with that can greatly improve your writing skills. Having strong essays can help soften the blow of a low test score. 


Remind yourself that colleges are looking for well-rounded students who can bring something unique to their campus. Just because you are not a natural test taker does not mean you cannot get accepted into a top university. However, you must show that you are a top contender throughout the remaining portions of your college application. 

I, for example, did not do wonderfully on the ACT. However, I maintained my grades, wrote compelling essays, excelled in my extracurriculars, and was ultimately accepted into my dream school. Just remember that people often talk about SAT or ACT scores because it is an easy and standardized way to compare students. But when it comes to getting into college, schools are much more interested in the overall package than a simple number. 

If you’re looking for extra support for you (or your student) stand out from the crowd, we understand. Reach out today to schedule a free consultation with one of our experts, and we can review your student’s profile and determine what level of support you may need in the upcoming months, to help you put your best foot forward.

Questions? Let us know!