Getting Into College With High GPA But Low SAT

Admissions officers consider all kinds of numbers when deciding whether they should send acceptance or rejection letters to applicants.

It’s a good idea for all the figures on your transcript and the rest of your application to be high for higher chances of getting accepted. So, can you get into a good college with a high GPA but a low SAT score?

Students with high GPAs but low SAT scores may apply to test-optional schools where applicants may or may not submit their test scores. Submitted SAT scores will be considered. Students who do not submit SAT scores will not be asked to explain and be disadvantaged in the admissions process.

You can never have it all, which is why your GPA could be amazing while your SAT could be the opposite.

If you are thinking about settling for a bad college because your low SAT score makes your application look horrible, don’t stop reading. You will learn that it’s not the end of the world — there are good colleges that will accept students regardless of their SAT scores, particularly if they do not submit them.


Are There Good Test-Optional Colleges?

Many good colleges and universities have a test-optional admissions policy. As a matter of fact, some are prestigious institutions. However, it doesn’t mean that gaining admission into them is easier. Having a strong application is still a must to get accepted into competitive test-optional schools.

Just because a college or university does not require applicants to submit their test scores doesn’t mean that it’s a terrible school and the programs it offers are worthless and not respected by employers.

It’s true that the admissions officers at good colleges tend to check out a lot of things before deciding. However, these days, many of them can come up with a decision even without taking into account SAT scores.

What they do is take a look at other parts of an application that will allow them to gauge a student’s chances of succeeding in college.

Refrain from assuming that only bad schools have a test-optional admissions policy as they prefer quantity over quality. Believe it or not, many prestigious colleges and universities do not care about test scores, either.

The following are some examples of high-ranking test-optional institutions in the US.

NOTE: These colleges were test-optional at the time of writing, mainly due to COVID. Check their current policies on the official websites. Rankings may have also fluctuated slightly.

Brown University14837
Carnegie Mellon University262146
Columbia University3115
Cornell University181711
Dartmouth College131025
Duke University12616
Harvard University221
Johns Hopkins University92213
Northwestern University91414
Princeton University154
Rice University16760
Stanford University633
University of Chicago6156
University of Notre Dame191964
University of Pennsylvania897
Vanderbilt University141332
Yale University448

Are Test-Optional and Test-Blind the Same?

Test-optional and test-blind admissions policies are different things. Test-optional schools allow applicants to choose between submitting and not submitting SAT scores. Submitted test scores will be considered. On the other hand, test-blind schools do not consider SAT scores at all.

Some colleges and universities will give you the freedom to provide your standardized test score if you are proud of it or keep it to yourself if you are not happy with it.

If you choose to submit your SAT score to any of those test-optional institutions, it will be factored into the admissions process.

So, in other words, it will have an impact on your decision. But if you decide not to submit it, worry not. That’s because a test-optional school will not ask you to explain yourself.

Then there are also colleges and universities that do not care about standardized test scores, which is why submitting them is not a requirement. As a matter of fact, if you submit yours, they will not take a look at it.

Let’s check out some test-blind schools that do not consider SAT scores even if submitted:

  • Alaska Pacific University
  • Augsburg University
  • Boise State University
  • Dickinson College
  • Eastern Washington University
  • Hampshire College
  • Loyola University New Orleans
  • Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
  • Merrimack College
  • Northern Illinois University
  • Northern Michigan University
  • Pitzer College
  • Plymouth State University
  • St. Mary’s University
  • University of Lynchburg
  • Washington State University
  • Wells College

It’s true that test-blind schools are not as common as test-optional ones. Of all the higher education institutions in the US, only about 10% have a test-blind admissions policy.

Since you can also skip submitting your SAT score to a test-optional school, then the fact that there are only a tiny fraction of test-blind schools should not be a concern.

According to the survey of Higher Education Enrollment and Admissions Officers, however, more than 20% of today’s test-optional schools are likely to adopt a test-blind admissions policy in the next three to five years.

Related Article: Pros and Cons of Test-Optional Admissions For Students

Universities in California

The University of California (UC) system now does not take into account SAT scores in the admissions process.

The admissions policy, which is effective through at least 2025, is not the UC system’s choosing — rather, it’s a settlement reached between the public land-grant research university system and plaintiffs.

Besides the admissions process, the UC system is also barred from using test scores for financial aid decisions.

Due to going test-blind, the UC system has received the highest-ever number of applications in its entire history, which amounted to 249,855.

What’s more, its various campuses have seen an increase in the number of underrepresented applicants — 21.8% African-Americans and 12.2% Latinos.

The UC system is made up of ten different schools, and they are:

  • UC Berkeley
  • UC Davis
  • UC Irvine
  • UCLA
  • UC Merced
  • UC Riverside
  • UC San Diego
  • UC San Francisco (only offers graduate education)
  • UC Santa Barbara
  • UC Santa Cruz

By the way, California is in the top 5 states with the most diverse colleges.

What are Open Admissions Colleges?

Open admissions colleges and universities are higher education institutions that accept all applicants with a high school diploma or something similar to it, such as a General Educational Development (GED) certificate. Schools with an open-admissions policy accept applicants no matter the GPA.

The mere fact that you have a high school diploma means you have a passing GPA.

No matter how low or high your GPA is, you can still get admitted into a college or university with an open-admissions policy, which is sometimes referred to as an open-enrollment policy. Needless to say, it’s not the most selective or competitive admissions policy among US schools.

Because it can be very easy to gain admission into open admissions institutions, many students apply to them, particularly those whose applications are not strong enough for prestigious schools.

As a result, some students may end up being shortlisted for some or all courses if there are simply too many applicants.

The following are some US colleges and universities with an open-admissions policy:

  • Baker College
  • Cameron University
  • City University of Seattle
  • Life Pacific College
  • Medgar Evers College
  • Missouri Western State University
  • New Mexico Highlands University
  • Northwestern Polytechnic University
  • Oklahoma Panhandle State University
  • University of the Potomac
  • University of Pikeville
  • Weber State University

Almost always, community colleges have an open-admissions policy.


Having a high GPA and an SAT score, too, is important when it comes to applying to good colleges and universities. Well, that’s in the past — these days, many higher learning institutions in the US, including prestigious ones such as high-ranking and Ivy League schools, are becoming test-optional.

So, in other words, if your GPA is high but your SAT score is low, you can keep your test score to yourself and still have a good chance of getting an acceptance letter.

Besides applying to test-optional schools if you are unhappy with your SAT, you may also send applications to test-blind colleges and universities.

At these schools, test scores do not matter, even if they are submitted. And if both your GPA and SAT score are low, you may apply to open admissions schools where having a high school diploma is enough.

Read Also: High GPA, Low ACT: What to Do

Related Questions

Is it better to have a higher SAT score?

Either a high SAT score can increase a student’s chances of gaining admission into a college or university. Higher education institutions do not prefer one standardized test score over the other. A high test SAT score is preferred by colleges and universities.

Related Article: Is It Harder to Get 36 on ACT or 1600 on SAT?

What is a failing SAT score?

There is no such thing as a failing SAT score. All SAT scores are passing scores. The lowest possible SAT score is 400. While there are no failing SAT scores, there are bad SAT scores that can impact admissions decisions.

Related Article: Is It Bad to Fail the SAT? Consider These 5 Things

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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