Test Prep

How Your SAT/ACT Score Can Help You Get Scholarships

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What do Clemson University, The Ohio State University and the University of Kentucky have in common? These three colleges are among the many schools that consider students who meet specific GPA and test score benchmarks for high-value scholarships. Such offers range from full-ride scholarships to half-tuition to many other dollar values, potentially worth thousands of dollars.

For many students who are considering skipping the SAT or ACT, or who settle for a score right on the edge of the scholarship-qualifying scores, it’s important to understand what’s at stake. Taking a look at the three colleges we mentioned above, for example, consider these sample scholarship levels, which the colleges list among many others. You can be considered for the following scholarships if you meet these benchmarks:


University of Kentucky

- Presidential Scholarship: In-state students can be considered for this full in-state tuition scholarship if they have an SAT of at least 1420/ACT of at least 31, an unweighted GPA of 3.50.

- Otis A. Singletary Scholarship: Out-of-state students are considered for this full four-year out-of-state tuition scholarship (which also includes a housing stipend for the first two years) if they have a minimum SAT of 1490/minimum ACT of 33 and unweighted GPA of 3.80.

Source: University of Kentucky freshmen academic scholarships page, 2018-2019.

The Ohio State University

- Buckeye Scholarship: Out-of-state students are considered for this $12,500 annual scholarship if they have at least an SAT of 1350/ACT of 29 and are ranked in the top 25 percent of their class.

Source: The Ohio State University Merit-Based Scholarships page.

Clemson University

- Out-of-State Tuition Scholarship: Clemson considers students with a minimum SAT 1360/ACT 29 and a ranking in the top 10 percent for this scholarship, which has an annual value of $7,500 to $15,000.

Source: Clemson University Freshmen Academic Recruiting Scholarships and Grants page.

Know the School’s Requirements

Although many schools, like those listed above, will publicly share their SAT, ACT, class rank and GPA benchmarks, that doesn’t mean the student will automatically receive the corresponding scholarships. “Schools have no way of knowing how many students will apply that meet the criteria, so they may not have it in their budgets to give every student who fits into those benchmarks the scholarships,” said Peggy Jennings, EdD CEP, a college admissions consultant with Jennings College Consulting.

Therefore, you should check the scholarship websites of your goal colleges. If you meet the benchmarks for specific scholarships, find out the application processes for them. “Many schools will consider you automatically for these scholarships if you meet the criteria, but some schools will require you to complete an application or even a FAFSA before you’ll be considered for the scholarship,” Jennings said.

Is Your Score on the Borderline?

Suppose you are an out-of-state student and Clemson is your goal school. You are ranked in the top ten percent of your class and you achieved a 28 on the ACT. In this case, being just one point away from scholarship consideration, it could be worth it to invest more time in test prep so you could potentially bring your ACT score up to scholarship contention. “We all know it's possible to bump your score up with practice,” Jennings said.

Even at the lowest scholarship value of $7,500, that’s still a potential $30,000 over the four years of college, so it could be worth your time and effort to aim for a slot in scholarship contention.

To find out if your goal schools offer scholarships based on your test scores and high school performance, check their websites or call their financial aid offices to get more information.