sending test scores

by Abigail Anderson, former admissions officer at Reed College

Sending Standardized Test Scores to Colleges: How and When?

You just hit submit on your last college application and now, the rest is up to everyone else. Your teachers are sending in their recommendations, your parents are working on the financial aid application, and the college counselor is taking care of your transcript and the school report. Time to kick back and watch some Netflix, right?


Submitting standardized test scores is also your responsibility, not your school’s. While some high school transcripts include test scores, most colleges and universities require official score reports directly from the testing agency. That means you need to make sure your SAT or ACT scores are on their way to each of the schools to which you’re applying.

To send your SAT scores, you have three options:

  1. When you initially register for the SAT, you can choose up to four colleges to send your score reports. This is done at no additional cost to you. If you’re not ready to pick four schools at the time of registration, you have up to nine days to amend the registration and add your four free schools. In general, we do not recommend families take advantage of these free reports, as you will not see these scores before they are sent.  As we’ve written before, we feel one of the most important things you have control over in this process is which scores you choose to send to each school. If you would like to take advantage of this option, we recommend you choose four schools that have favorable testing policies (always take the highest score or super score, for example), or four schools that are “safeties” where you know you’ll apply.
  2. After the nine-day registration period, you can send your scores at any time by signing into your “My SAT” account and following all the instructions under the “Send Available Scores” link.
  3. The College Board also offers a “rush reporting” service, wherein they send a score report within two business days of a request being made. Not all colleges will process rush reports, so it’s important to double-check with a school before paying for this option. In our experience, rush reporting usually gets to colleges more slowly because rush reporting is done via paper delivery. This was faster when test scores were always sent by mail, but now that they’re downloaded overnight, sending them standard will happen pretty quickly.

A word about Score Choice

Some schools will allow you to choose which of your SAT tests you’d like to send and which to withhold; for example, the full set of SAT scores from March and May (but not the June test ) or the Chinese and Chemistry subjects tests (but not the Biology).  This isn’t allowed by all colleges. While the College Board does keep a full list of SAT evaluation practices at US colleges, these policies have not been updated since 2012. For this reason, the only true place to get a school’s policy is directly from their admission office or their website. Please note that schools that require “All Scores” will not allow you to use Score Choice.

To send your ACT scores, you also have three options:

  1. Just as with the SAT, you can choose to send your ACT scores to four schools for free. The ACT offers a wider time period for choosing this option, though: you can take advantage of this offering from the point of registration through the Thursday following the regularly-scheduled Saturday test date.
  2. You can send your scores any time by signing into your ACT account and then following all instructions under the “Send Your Scores” link.
  3. ACT also offers priority reports, which are usually delivered within three to four business days. Just like with the SAT’s rush reporting, not all schools necessarily accept the ACT’s priority reports, so it’s important to check with a college before paying for this option.

Because you would never want your application to be incomplete due to late test scores, we recommend sending your scores at least one month in advance of a college’s application deadline. Many highly selective schools will take scores from test dates as late as November, but you must check with each school to very their policy. Keep in mind that colleges set up their own methods for receiving test scores, so time frames for delivery can vary from college to college – even if the request is made on the same day! Furthermore, giving yourself plenty of time in advance of the deadline is always a smart idea because, as we’ve seen this year, testing agencies can sometimes experience delays in scoring that delay test score processing times.

The best thing your son or daughter can do for peace of mind is to reach out to the colleges and universities on their list. Do they need scores by the deadline, or will they accept some score reports a little later? Many schools will allow you to take the October ACT, for example, and still apply for Early Action admission on November 1. How? They wait to review your file until those scores have arrived in their offices. A little extra communication here—by phone or email—can help to quell your concerns and smooth the way to a quiet night binging on your favorite Netflix shows, worry-free.

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Written by Abigail Anderson
Abigail Anderson is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions experts. Abigail received her bachelor’s in sociology from Colby College. Prior to joining College Coach, Abigail worked as a senior admissions officer at Reed College and Emma Willard School. Visit our website to learn more about Abigail Anderson.