While the SAT’s accuracy or fairness is debatable, it is undeniably a large part of the college application for many students. Therefore, sorting colleges by average SAT is a good way of measuring their rigor and student body strength; more selective colleges are able to pick students with the highest performance in school and outside.  

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1. California Institute of Technology (CalTech)

CalTech is first on this list with an average SAT score of 1555. As with the other colleges, CalTech has a higher average math score (795) than the ERW score (760). CalTech is an extremely competitive school in Pasadena, California, that accepts approximately 6.4% of students each year. CalTech is a great school, especially for STEM-related majors; it is known for its rigor and focuses on academia and knowledge depth. If this sounds interesting to you, you should make sure you meet its student profile – given the selectivity, you should have a GPA and ACT/SAT near perfect. 

2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

MIT is another large research university with a very high level of selectivity. The average SAT at MIT is 1531, with a 790 Math section and 741 an ERW section. MIT is known for its contribution to modern engineering and STEM fields, so going here would put you on the right track to make an impact. They also have a high-profile business school, the Sloan School of Management, which can be rare in STEM-focused universities. MIT has a strong focus on research, and you’ll find that most professors are tenure track and put out new papers all the time. If you have an interest in STEM and research, this is a great school to apply to.

Related: 14 Summer Activities to Boost Your College Application

3 University of Chicago

UChicago is a large private research university with an extensive breadth of majors available. The average SAT at UChicago 1530, with a 780 Math and 750 ERW. Similarly, the average ACT at UChicago is 35; regardless of whether you go with ACT or SAT, you have to be in the top few percentiles. UChicago is best known for its advancement in various educational disciplines, from liberal arts fields to medicine to STEM. As a result, UChicago is an excellent school if you’re seeking breadth (although it excels in-depth as well in many fields – it’s hard to go wrong with any of the schools on this list for any major).

4. Harvey Mudd College

Harvey Mudd is a slightly less well-known college but is just as competitive as the other colleges on this list. Harvey Mudd is a smaller liberal arts college with an average SAT of 1530, with a Math average of 790 and an ERW average of 740. In essence, Harvey Mudd is a liberal arts college, meaning that there’s not a focus on academics. Nonetheless, Harvey Mudd is best known for its engineering and scientific contribution, rather than focusing on humanities (despite not being a research college). If you’re a STEM-focused major looking for a smaller college with a very low student/teacher ratio, Harvey Mudd is a great school to check out.

5. Johns Hopkins University

While Johns Hopkins is best known for its medical school, JHU is an excellent institution in Baltimore, Maryland, that excels in many fields. Johns Hopkins has an average SAT score of 1515, with a Math subsection average of 780 and an ERW subsection average of 735. Johns Hopkins was founded over a century ago and had a strong medical and engineering program. Unlike some of the other schools on this list, JHU focuses on post-graduate students with over 20,000 post-graduate students compared to 6,000-7,000 undergraduates. If you have an interest in research in various majors, JHU is a great school to apply to.

Related: List of college interview questions that admission committees might ask

6. Washington University in St. Louis

University lecture hall

Washington University in St. Louis is an excellent private research university with an average composite SAT score of 1515. Their math subsection average is a 780, and their ERW subsection average is a 735. WUSTL has a slightly higher admissions rate than some of the other schools on this list, at 15%, mostly because of their larger size and slightly smaller relative applicant pool. Nonetheless, WashU is a very competitive university, and its application isn’t one to be taken lightly. WashU excels in a variety of academic disciplines, from business to engineering to medicine.

7. Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon is best known for its extremely competitive computer science field, often ranking best or one of the best in the field. CMU has an average SAT score of 1510, with a math subsection average of 780 and an ERW average of 730. While CMU isn’t as competitive in other majors, their computer science major has an acceptance rate hovering around 5-6%, making it one of the most competitive schools in the nation for STEM. CMU is a vast and research-oriented institution with an endowment of over $2.5 Billion (as of 2020) and approximately 15,000 students, evenly distributed amongst undergraduates and postgraduates.

8. Rice University

Rice University is an excellent school for STEM, medicine, and many other educational fields. The average SAT at Rice is 1510, with a 780 Math score and a 730 ERW score. Rice has a tiny student population relative to some of the other schools on this list and has a student/teacher ratio of only 6:1. Rice also has an undergraduate focus (more undergraduates than post-graduates), a unique differentiator compared to most elite research universities. Regardless, Rice has contributed significant original research, especially in the areas of applied sciences.

Related: 7 Ways to Prepare for the SATs and ACTs

9. Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt has an average SAT score of 1510, with a math subsection average of 780 and an ERW average of 730. VU is evenly split between undergraduate and post-graduate students and has a very strong research presence. Vanderbilt also has a medical center, although it was deemed a separate institution in 2016. Vanderbilt excels in various fields but is best known for its strong (and rigorous) engineering program. Vanderbilt is also a D1 school, adding an extra layer of diversity and enjoyment for those who enjoy college sports. If you are looking for a strong STEM school, Vanderbilt is a great option.

10. Princeton University

Princeton, one of the most prestigious universities on this list, also has an average SAT score of 1510. The Math subsection average at Princeton is 770, and the reading subsection is 740. Compared to the other colleges, Princeton has one of the smallest (tied with UChicago) deltas between math and ERW score. Princeton is an extremely selective institution, typically accepting 5-6% of its applicant pool. Princeton is well-known for the strength of its current and past professors, including Albert Einstein and John Von Neumann. As with any other university on this last, Princeton’s prestige and incredible resource offering makes it a great school to attend.

a test paper

After reading this list, the SAT or ACT requirements may be daunting; however, it is important to recognize the multitude of factors that go into admissions. To stand out as an applicant, you must fit the profile in both an academic and personal sense, by demonstrating proficiency in essays, extracurriculars, tests, GPA, recommendation letters, and more. Nonetheless, your test scores are an essential part of your application, and you should think of them as such.

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