My child is taking a tough course load and is making terrific grades, but his SAT scores are weak. Should he even bother applying to UVA?

Admission counselors at UVA use a holistic approach when evaluating applications.

“Students are more than the sum of three numbers,” says Greg Roberts, dean of admission. “Most people who work in admission at highly selective universities believe that standardized testing is a useful but imprecise instrument, an axe, not a scalpel. Setting an absolute minimum ‘1400 in, 1390 out,’ would be asking these tests to do something they weren’t designed to do.”

Strength of curriculum and grades are the most important part of the evaluation process. Four years of coursework provide more insight into a student’s academic prowess than standardized test scores.

Of course, SATs are important, Roberts says. UVA will take a student’s highest score in critical reading, math and writing, and they will not average the scores no matter how many times they take the test. “All other things being equal, applicants with good numbers stand a better chance of being admitted,” says Roberts. “And because UVA’s applicant pool is broad and deep, most admitted students have excelled in school and scored well on the SAT. But we don’t have set minimums, and we try hard to take into account all of the information we see in each application.”

The admission office also accepts ACT scores as well as SAT scores and will use whichever score is higher. Further, UVA highly recommends two SAT subject tests. Because the student gets to select which subjects they take and when they take them, the admission counselors expect them to be good. “These tests provide an opportunity for the student to shine,” Roberts says.