sending scores to colleges

I have a few questions about submitting official test scores to the colleges on my son’s list. When should we be sending my son’s scores? Is there any reason why we would not take advantage of the free score report option and submit them before we actually see his scores? 

Many College Coach students ask us about the best time to send in their standardized test scores when applying to colleges. The best time to send SAT, ACT and/or SAT subject test scores is about a month before the application deadline (in the case of rolling admissions, the scores should go out about a month or so before the application is submitted). You can certainly send them earlier than that, as they will simply go into a holding place at each institution until your son submits his application.  Then his scores will be matched with the file. The ACT and the College Board, which offers the SAT and subject tests, will allow you to submit scores at any point after they are available. To mark other important dates, view our college preparation timetable for parents. 

Why You Should Not Submit Scores Directly Through the Free Score Option

We do not recommend submitting the scores without seeing them first. One of the things you control in this process is which scores to send to each school. The SAT and ACT allow you to choose the test dates that you would like to submit (not the individual sections), and the College Board allows you to select the specific SAT subject test scores (if your son takes any) you would like to send regardless of the date on which they were taken. This means that if your son takes three subject tests on one day, he can opt to submit one, two or all of the scores from those tests.

The ideal situation is that you receive all of the test scores from different test dates, review them, and then select the strongest scores to send to the schools on your son’s list.

It’s important to keep two things in mind. First, many colleges and universities will mix and match SAT scores from different dates to give students their best possible composite score. This means they’ll take the highest math, critical reading and writing scores earned in each section regardless of the date on which they were taken. Some will do the same with the individual sections of the ACT, though this is less common. As a result, it’s usually a good idea to send the scores from all of the test dates that feature a high score in a particular section.

The second important point is that some schools require students to submit ALL scores regardless of the fact that the ACT and the College Board allow them to only send specific dates. Our college admissions consultants always stress the importance of adhering to individual colleges’ policies, since the consequences—denial, revocation of an acceptance—can be dire. Contact us today to get help from our experts on your college application plan.



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Written by Elizabeth Heaton
Elizabeth Heaton is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions experts. Before coming to College Coach, Beth worked as a senior admissions officer at University of Pennsylvania and an alumni admissions ambassador at Cornell University.