college mail

by Ian Fisher, former admissions officer at Reed College

How Long Does It Take for SAT Scores to be Sent to Colleges?

When students find themselves at the edge of their college application deadlines, I find they tend to whip themselves into a frenzy over every component of their applications. Many students are concerned that test scores may not arrive in the hands of colleges and universities on time. And this is a reasonable concern. For the vast majority of schools, you need standardized test results to be submitted by the testing agencies in order to receive a decision from colleges.

At this late date, many students are still submitting scores to places like the University of California or the University of Washington and wondering what to do to get scores submitted on time. Our resident Common App expert and jack-of-all-trades, Elyse Krantz recently placed a call to the College Board—administrator of the SAT and all its derivatives—to get answers to the most frequent questions from our students.

College Coach (CC): How long, on average, does it take for scores to arrive if a student indicated they wanted them sent on the actual test (i.e. aren’t waiting to see their scores first)?
College Board (CB): If a student utilized the free score report option, the scores will be sent to colleges (electronically, for those that accept them that way) one day before students see the scores. This generally happens two and a half weeks after the exam date. If it’s a college that only accepts paper score reports, the scores will be mailed to the college around the same time the student is able to see the results online (two and a half weeks after the exam date).

CC: How long after a student makes a request to send scores online do they go out?
CB: If a student waits to see the results of the scores before requesting that they be sent it, it will take an additional one to two weeks (although in my experience it’s usually about one week). So two and a half weeks after the test date plus an additional one to two weeks adds up to approximately four weeks after the exam date.

CC: In many cases, “rushed scores” are sent through snail mail. Why would rushing be any faster if it’s through the snail mail?
CB: The College Board only rushes scores by snail mail if it’s a college that only accepts paper scores. If the college accepts electronically downloaded scores, the College Board will process the request in one to two days and then they’ll be sent electronically to the college. If the college accepts paper scores, the College Board will process the request in one to two days and then send the scores by postal mail. Many colleges don’t accept rushed scores because the score report is incomplete. It’s kind of like an abbreviated version of the report. So unless a student is sure that a college allows rushed score reports, it’s probably best that students send the scores regular speed.

So there you have it. Even the most quickly submitted scores won’t arrive in the hands of colleges until about a week after you have the scores in your hands. And colleges know this. There are many cases where the official scores arrive after the posted application deadline without any penalty to the student. Consult the admissions website for the schools on your list to see what is required for an application to be considered on time. Call an admissions office if you want to ensure late scores will be considered by the committee. Above all, manage the content you control, and leave the worry for the birds.

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Written by Ian Fisher
Ian Fisher is an experienced educational consultant, part of College Coach’s team of college admissions consultants. Ian received his master’s in policy, organization, and leadership studies from the Stanford Graduate School of Education. Prior to joining College Coach, Ian worked as a senior admissions officer at Reed College. Visit our website to learn more about Ian Fisher.