Even if a student has a first SAT that leaves her way below a likely admission to the elite college she's pining for, if she has the right attitude, her continued work towards SAT greatness makes sense.
1) Falling a little short of a really huge goal leaves you...hugely improved! So you didn't make that 500 point improvement. You got 80 percent of the way. Here, 80 percent is not "B minus"; it's 400 SAT points.
2) Falling a little short might keep you from your top choice college, but working towards a top choice college just opened up oodles of other colleges whose doors were previously closed to you.
3) She might become one of those rare 500+ point improvers. Ivy Bound has at least six former students in that category. Diligence could propel her to that elite echelon.
4) If mediocre grades as a freshman and sophomore preclude admission to a top tier college, a big SAT score will likely yield admission to a lower tier college with merit money. Merit-based scholarships typically have SAT score as a one of the top factor, if not the top factor. We know of students going to very good Universities who are giddy that they are at a good college and will come out with no debt. (Their parents are usually more giddy). The Merit money available via grades and SAT Scores (not PSAT) is $5,000 to $25,000 per year, renewable for four years.
To the extent a diligent student is hurt when a "denial letter" arrives, she can take solace that there would be worse hurt had her "next" choices also denied her and she's heading instead to her "backup" college.
To the extent a student is hurt when the top choice college denies him, the hurt is mollified by knowing, "I did everything I could". The hurt is likely magnified when the student chose not to go "full throttle" and thereby reduced the chance of acceptance.
Finally, the hurt of having to attend your "second choice" college almost always evaporates when you begin freshman orientation week at your new college.