What SAT and ACT Score Do You Need to Get into an Ivy League College?

Most Ivy League colleges want to see a composite SAT score of 1500-1600 and a composite ACT score of no lower than 33.

Does that mean that you shouldn’t apply if you don’t have these scores? Not at all. However, if your score is less than the school’s average, you’re best off spending time improving other parts of your application, not retaking the tests.


Two reasons:

  • No matter how many times you retake the SAT and ACT, your scores are unlikely to improve in any significant way.
  • There are better ways to improve your admissions chances.

When high-scoring students get rejected by the Ivy League, it’s most often because they haven’t spent enough time developing their extra-curricular profiles and admissions essays.

Even students with perfect SAT and ACT scores get rejected from Ivy League colleges. Why? Typically, because they haven’t devoted enough time to developing two essential parts of their college applications, their extra-curricular profiles and their application essays.

Your extra-curricular profile and your application essays (both the Common App/Coalition App and the supplemental essays), can set you apart from the crowd in a way that test scores cannot. These essential parts of your application give you an opportunity to show colleges how you are impressive in a way that is different from all the other high-achieving applicants.

Consider Samantha, for example. Samantha fell in love with chemistry in elementary school and now she wants to apply to the University of Pennsylvania to study chemistry. Her SAT score came in at 1490.  She could spend the next six months crushing to move her score over the 1500 mark. But even if she sees a slight boost in her score, the score is unlikely to change in a way that will make an impact on college admissions officers. Instead of wasting time retaking the SAT over and over, she’d move herself into a more competitive position if she spent her time organizing an after-school chem club for girls in a disadvantaged neighborhood.  By so doing, she shows colleges that her interest in chemistry is of long-standing and one to which she is committed, and that she is able to apply her interest in chemistry in a way that is beneficial to others. And that kind of work is going to catch an admissions officer’s eye much more than a slight bump in a test score.

If you’d like more information about how to develop your extra-curricular profile or your college essays, call me.  I’m always ready to help you!


Dr. Osborn works with students from all over the world to help them reach their independent, college, and graduate school goals. Through a personal, one-on-one approach, Dr. Osborn creates an individualized plan for each student based on the student’s strengths, passions, and career aspirations. Her holistic approach helps students perform well in school and secure admission to top colleges.  

About The Author

Susan Osborn, Ph.D., has spent 30 years in higher education, in admissions at Vassar College, in the English department and Writing Program at Rutgers University, in the lab at The New Jersey Center for Research on Writing, and as a private tutor. Dr. Osborn is also an award-winning writer and scholar and she brings both her education smarts and her writing smarts to every student relationship.