SAT Scores for Admission to 30 Top Liberal Arts Colleges

A Side-by-Side Comparison of Top College Admissions Data

Middlebury College Campus
Middlebury College Campus. (Alan Levine/Flickr)

Some of the top liberal arts colleges in the United States have admissions standards that are comparable to the elite schools in the Ivy League. Others will be more accessible. For all 30 schools included here, however, you're going to need to have academic measures that are well above average. For those schools that require SAT scores, a 1200 combined score is at the low end of the scale, and scores up around 1400 or higher are not at all uncommon.

SAT Score Data for Top Liberal Arts Colleges

If you're wondering if you have the SAT scores you'll need to get into one of the top liberal arts colleges in the United States, here's a side-by-side comparison of scores for the middle 50% of enrolled students. If your SAT scores fall within or above the range presented here, you're on target for admission to that college..

Top Liberal Arts College SAT Score Comparison (mid 50%)
(Learn what these numbers mean)
 SAT Scores
Amherst College700770700790
Bowdoin CollegeTest-Optional Admissions
Bryn Mawr College650730660770
Carleton College680760680770
Claremont McKenna College660740680770
Colby College670740670760
Colgate University660730650770
College of the Holy CrossTest-Optional Admissions
Davidson College660740650730
Denison University600690600690
Dickinson CollegeTest-Optional Admissions
Gettysburg CollegeTest-Optional Admissions
Grinnell College640740670770
Hamilton College680750680760
Haverford College700760690770
Kenyon College640730623730
Lafayette College630710630730
Macalester College660740640740
Middlebury College660750660760
Oberlin College650720630730
Pomona College690760680770
Reed College670740640760
Swarthmore College690760690780
Vassar College670750660750
Washington and Lee University680740670750
Wellesley College690760670770
Wesleyan UniversityTest-Optional Admissions
Whitman College570690570690
Williams College710780690790
View the ACT version of this table

Realize that the lower numbers in the table are not cut-off points. 25% of all admitted students had SAT scores that were equal to or lower than the bottom number. You'll clearly be in a much stronger position for admission if your SAT scores are not in the bottom quartile, but many students are admitted with scores below the lower numbers in the table.

At the same time, those students most likely had some other strengths to make up for the less-than-ideal SAT scores.

SAT Scores and Holistic Admissions

It's important to put SAT scores into perspective and remember that they are just one piece of the admissions equation. All 30 liberal arts colleges presented here have holistic admissions, so the admissions officers will be trying to get to know you as a whole person, not as an empirical equation of test scores and grades. Perfect 800s on the SAT don't guarantee admission if other parts of your application are weak, and numbers below those in the table to not preclude admission if you are strong in other areas.

The most important piece of your application will not be your SAT scores, but a strong academic record. The admissions folks will want to see that you earned high grades in challenging, college preparatory classes. AP, IB, and dual enrollment classes can all play a meaningful role in the admissions process. The colleges will also be looking for evidence of your strengths and passions from non-numeric measures such as a winning essay, meaningful extracurricular activities, and good letters of recommendation. In many cases, demonstrated interest can also play a role in the admissions equation.

Impressive strengths in these areas can help make up for SAT scores that aren't quite ideal.

Test-Optional and Test-Flexible Liberal Arts Colleges

Colleges that are test-optional don't require students to submit SAT or ACT scores as part of the admissions process. Such schools also don't need to report their SAT score data to the Department of Education, and that's why there are no scores in the table above for Bowdoin College, College of the Holy Cross, Dickinson College, Gettysburg College, and Wesleyan University. Several other schools on the list did report their scores even though they are test-optional: Bryn Mawr College, Denison College, Hamilton College, Whitman College

Colby College and Hamilton College are "text flexible" schools meaning that students need to submit standardized test scores, but they don't need to be from the SAT or ACT.

SAT Subject Test Scores, AP scores, or IB scores can be used instead.

If you are planning to apply to a school that doesn't use the SAT as part of the admissions equation, it may still be to your benefit to take the exam. If your scores are in the upper end of the ranges presented in the table, you should submit them since they will strengthen your application. You'll also find that SAT scores are used for more than admissions. For example, scores can play a role in winning scholarships, getting placed into the appropriate college courses, and determining NCAA eligibility.

A Final Word About the SAT and Top Liberal Arts Colleges

Be sure to keep your chances of admission to these top colleges in perspective. Many of these schools have acceptance rates in the teens, and many students who have grades and test scores that are on target for admission will still be rejected. Schools like Williams and Pomona should be considered reach schools even if your academic measures are in line with admission.

Data from the National Center for Educational Statistics