College Planning Guide

What to do if you're unhappy with your test scores

Before you even look at your results, remember that colleges look at more than test scores when making admission decisions. At Ithaca, we consider your scores along with everything else that you put into your application package: your high school record, essays, recommendations, interviews, involvement in extracurricular activities, and more. So don't believe for a minute that getting into the college of your dreams depends on a single score.

Of course, that doesn't mean you shouldn't take standardized tests seriously. They're an important part of the admission equation. So if your results are lower than expected, take these three next steps:

Retake the test. Research shows that most students who retake the test do slightly better. You won't see a huge jump in your scores, but you will show admission counselors you're willing to make the effort to do better. If your scores really need to improve, consider enrolling in a test prep course before you sit for another exam.

Schedule a campus visit and interview. Meet with an admission counselor to talk about your scores and explain any extenuating circumstances, such as a learning disability or test anxiety.

Don’t give up. Test scores can be offset by some other strength in your record, such as a rigorous high school curriculum.

Finally, if you believe your scores don't truly reflect your abilities, add a note to your application or write an essay on the subject. Make your scores an opportunity to talk about strengths and weaknesses, and why you expect to be successful in college for other reasons.