Question: I am currently a 10th grader, applying to boarding schools in the U.S for 11th grade. I am applying to HADES and Groton. I just got my SSAT score back and I got 78th percentile on it. I cannot retake the SSAT because there are no seats in the next upcoming test. Does SSAT matter THAT much in the admissions process? Will this lower my chance of getting in? I am really worried and stressed. Thank you for taking the time and responding to my question.
Let’s start with the bad news: As you seem to have correctly surmised, your SSAT score is below the average at the hyper-competitive prep schools on your list. This isn’t an automatic deal-breaker since “average” means that there are always higher … and lower … contenders, but it does drop the odds that you’ll be admitted unless there are other aspects of your application that intrigue admission officials. For instance, if you hail from an atypical background, if you are either very rich or very poor, if you have unique talents (in art, music, writing, science, math, etc.) or are an exceptional athlete or student, then the admission committees may not care that your SSAT is somewhat sub-par. Note, however, that being an “exceptional” student means that you really must stand out, which is tough to do in the applicant pools at places like Hotchkiss, Andover, Deerfield, Exeter, St. Paul’s, and Groton where many candidates boast high grades in challenging classes.
But there’s some good news, too: Most folks in the universe don’t care where you go to high school, and certainly the most sought-after colleges accept freshmen from a wide range of secondary schools. Places like Harvard and Yale could probably fill a big chunk of an entering class with hotshots from the snazziest private academies. And in the old days, they did. But that ship has long sailed. So if you believe that a rigorous U.S. boarding school is the right fit for you, there are plenty of them with median SSAT scores that are just like yours … schools that are very well regarded and that offer all or most of the same bells and whistles that you’ll get on the HADES campuses.
“The Dean” spends a fair amount of time convincing teenagers that their lives won’t end if they’re not accepted by an Ivy League university. I certainly believe it, yet it is a gazillion times more true that attending a big-name prep school shouldn’t matter. So if it DOES matter to you and to the people around you, it’s time to expand your circle of friends (or search for a few long-lost and less judgmental relatives). You really should not be stressed over this although I understand why you are.
Don’t give up on the schools on your list because of your test results, but do hone in on some additional options where you are very likely to be accepted … as well as successful … and happy.