For low-income families, free SAT days can mean a better shot at college
Many students who have never considered going to college rethink their future when given the opportunity to test for free. Photo by Priya Patel

For low-income families, free SAT days can mean a better shot at college

Attending college is full of numerous learning experiences, both academic and personal. However, getting to college has many difficult, confusing and expensive steps. One of the major requirements for acceptance into schools and receiving scholarships is a standardized test such as the SAT or ACT.

There are a growing number of states and several individual school districts that have implemented a free SAT (or ACT) day. This initiative requires every student to take the SATs, sometime during their junior or senior year, with some variation depending on the district. This one free SAT test has proven to assist many students who were not even considering college as an option and those who could not afford multiple retakes.

The commonly used SAT is currently priced at $54 and while some financial waivers exist, they are not enough to cover every student. Studies show that those who take the test more than once are very likely to improve their scores. Prospective college students are allowed to retake the SATs multiple times without penalty, but the cost prevents many from doing so.

Through free SAT days, students are able to determine their level of ability. This is especially important for those with less financial flexibility compared to their peers.

Dr. Manuel A. Burciaga is the principal at Northview High School, which is in one of the Californian districts that offers free SAT days. He writes in an email, “There are some kids that [free SAT day] is the only time they take the SAT and [they] had not planned to go to college, but when they see how well they have done on the SAT they now plan to go to a 4-year college.”

Burciaga asserts that this is important for his students because “when most of [the] student population is low [socioeconomically], this creates opportunity and resources for them.” There have been a plethora of studies that prove differences in familial income play a large role in determining whether a student takes the SATs more than once or even attends college, regardless of their personal ability to succeed scholastically.

Socioeconomic status additionally impacts a student’s perception of college. Studies reveal that low-income students are less likely than high-income students to apply for more advanced college programs despite actually being qualified to attend. Free SAT day is a step that helps close an economic gap early on in a person’s academic career.

Burciaga likes to think of it as a fixed- vs growth- mindset: “A fixed-mindset is just focusing on a high school graduation rate. A growth-mindset is focusing on enrolling our students to a 4-year college, so a free SAT develops a Growth Mindset on our campus.”

If schools nationwide adopt a similar philosophy and free SAT day is implemented throughout the country, a massive amount of students can receive a better opportunity to be successful in college and beyond.