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Image from Pexels

Discussing standardized test scores can often be a tricky situation. Regardless of the score you receive, there’s nothing wrong with deciding you don’t want to discuss your score. There are more factors in the college admissions process than a single number, although sometimes it can feel as if your score defines you.

Here are some strategies for handling this type of discussion with a variety of people:


When it comes to discussing scores, it helps to make it clear from the beginning that you would like to keep your results to yourself. If a friend asks you about your score and you do not feel comfortable sharing, say something such as “I have decided to not discuss my test score results. There are many factors colleges use to make their decision and I’d like to focus on the others”. Then, turn the focus of the conversation to more neutral aspects such as extracurricular activities you are involved in or the subject you hope to study. With that being said, do not feel as if you can’t change your mind about not discussing your score later on.

If you do feel comfortable sharing your score, avoid making statements such as “My score is horrible” or “No colleges will accept me with a score of X”. The student you are speaking to may have a lower score or the same score and not view it in the same negative way. If you are concerned about the impact your score will have, it is more beneficial to discuss your fears with a school counselor than to vent to a fellow student. When discussing a score on the high end, avoid sounding as if you are bragging about it.

Family Members

It can be frustrating sometimes to discuss your scores with your parents, especially if you are the first in your family planning to attend college. Keep in mind that if they’re inquiring about your score they likely want to show they wanted to be involved in your college application process. Although that might not always be the case, hopefully your family is supportive of you regardless of your performance on a single test.

Picture this situation. It’s the holidays and your extended family is visiting. Your uncle inquires about the scores you’ve received. So how do you handle this? The same way you do with your peers. Respectfully explain your decision to not disclose your scores, and shift the focus to another college related topic such as the subject you hope to major in.

High School Counselor

It is important to be honest about your test scores with your school counselor or another school staff member who will assist you with applying to college. Knowing your score allows them to have a better idea of colleges that would be a good fit for you or scholarships for which you are eligible. This staff member can also provide you with guidance if you feel that your score is low, and you could benefit from submitting an additional statement explaining it to the colleges on your list. While the score you receive is considered when colleges review your application, the important thing to remember is that you can obtain a college education regardless of your score. Not holding back about your score could also lead you to resources to help you raise your score if you wish to retake the test. Your counselor might also know of exam books you could borrow or an affordable standardized test course that isn’t advertised publicly to students.

Admissions Counselors and Alumni

If you do decide that it would be beneficial to submit additional information to add context to your test score results, after discussing it with your school counselor, there are two ways to handle it. While visiting the college, ask if you can arrange a meeting with your admissions counselor. Discussing it in person with them may be enough information for them, or you could be directed to submit a written statement. Another option if you cannot visit is to develop a connection with your admissions counselor through email. The college may have a certain protocol for how they will accept additional information such as by email to your admissions counselor or through an online portal.

Sometimes the alumni interviewing you will ask about your test scores. While I personally never encountered this, be aware that it may be brought up during the interview. If your score is much lower than the college’s median, it might help to shift the conversation toward other aspects such as the rigor of your current courses or why you want to attend the specific college.

Remember that you are not your score. If you score lower than expected, consider retaking the exam or trying a different exam option. If you are pleased with your score, great! Ultimately, there are many factors colleges will consider before making a decision. Don’t let other people’s comments about your score dampen your spirits.

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the author

Cara Claflin is a senior who attends a public school in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Even though she plans to stay in Minnesota, attending college in a state that doesn’t have snowstorms in May is starting to sound appealing. She hopes to double major in journalism and marketing. Cara loves helping high school students make the most of all the resources available to them. At school, she is an editor for her school’s newspaper and takes part in a leadership group. When she has some free time, she enjoys dancing, listening to music, reading, and watching music and dance competition reality shows.

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