Score Choice Policies for Ivy Leagues: A Complete Guide
You already know that it’s important to get high scores on your standardized tests if you’re applying to competitive colleges like the schools of the Ivy League. However, how you present your test scores—namely, which scores you choose to send to colleges if you’ve taken a test multiple times—can also make a difference.
Score choice options give you more control over which of your scores a college sees, so you can pick and choose which scores you want to present as part of your application. Not all colleges allow you to use score choice, but for those that do (including some of the Ivies), it’s an option worth considering.
Read on to learn more about what score choice is, which schools accept score choice, and how to decide whether the score choice option will benefit you during college application season.
Score Choice: A Refresher
In the field of college admissions, “score choice” refers to a process by which you select certain standardized test scores to send to colleges, rather than simply sending every college all your scores from every time you’ve ever taken that test. Technically, “Score Choice” is the specific name of this policy for the SAT. However, the ACT offers a similar option, so the term is often used generically to refer to both.
Let’s say that you take the SAT three times and get three different total scores: 1200, 1400, and 1500. Without score choice, the colleges that receive your SAT scores will be able to see that you’ve taken the test three times along with your scores for each test date. If there’s a trend of improvement over time, the college can see that as well.
This score report format is the default for the SAT. It’s also what your score reports will look like if you apply to any colleges that don’t allow you to use score choice, instead requesting that you send all your scores from all test dates.
If a college allows score choice, and you choose to use that option, you can personally control which of your scores are sent to each college. What scores you choose to report are up to you. Using the above example, you could potentially drop the 1200 score, sending only the 1400 and the 1500, or you could withhold both lower scores and only send your top score.
Scores that you don’t report to one or more colleges don’t disappear; they remain on the record that you and your high school can access. If you wish to use those scores for another application or score report in the future, you’re able to do so.
It’s important to note that score choice is not the same thing as superscoring. Superscoring is a process by which, after you submit all your test scores to a college, the college breaks those scores down into section subscores and recombines scores from different test sittings to come up with your highest possible overall score. (For more information about superscoring, check out our post Superscoring on the SAT and ACT: What College Applicants Need to Know.)
Score choice is also not the same thing as cancelling a test score. If you come out of a test session knowing that your performance was unusually bad, perhaps because of illness or some other disruptive event, you can cancel your scores so that they never show up on any score report. However, you can only do this immediately after your test and that test will never even be scored, so it’s only for use in special circumstances.
There’s a further wrinkle to keep in mind when it comes to score choice: not all colleges allow you to use it. Some require or strongly recommend that you send all your scores, and in some cases, this may even be to your advantage. Next, we’ll go over which colleges in the Ivy League (and a few notable others) allow you to use score choice if you wish.
Colleges that Allow Score Choice
The following colleges currently allow applicants to use score choice to control which test scores are sent. Individual schools may word their policies on this issue slightly differently, so if you have any questions, consult that school’s application instructions and contact their admissions office to clarify.
Colleges that Don’t Allow Score Choice
The following colleges don’t allow applicants to use score choice; they require or strongly recommend that all applicants submit all scores from all testing sessions. The only way to leave out a score would be to cancel it, which, as we’ve discussed, is an emergency option you’d need to exercise immediately after the test session.
Princeton University (recommended)
University of Chicago (recommended)
Vanderbilt University (recommended)
Should I Use Score Choice? Pros and Cons
If one or more of the colleges you’re applying to allows applicants to use score choice, should you take advantage of that option? While there are benefits to reporting only your higher scores, there are also some downsides that you may want to consider first.
Colleges where you use score choice won’t know how many times you took a given test. Some feel that this creates a better impression, especially if you took a test many times in an effort to improve your score.
These colleges also won’t know about the test sittings where you didn’t do so well. This may or may not actually help your application, as some colleges only consider your highest scores anyway. However, some people feel that choosing not to send these lower scores creates a better impression of your overall fitness as a candidate.
Using score choice might be a particularly appealing option if you have one test sitting with a dramatically lower score, and you’re afraid that this will create an inconsistency in your applicant profile. It can also be helpful if you took a standardized test at a younger age as practice, and your scores have increased substantially since that initial attempt, so it no longer represents your ability.
First of all, not all schools allow score choice, and you’ll be expected to heed their application requirements. Chances are that some number of the schools you apply to will require you to send all your scores, so it’s always best to approach testing as if the results will be visible and important.
Using score choice can also interfere with superscoring for colleges that practice it. If you choose to send only your highest overall SAT score, but one of the SAT sessions you don’t send contains your personal-best score on a specific session, you’re missing out on a potential boost if superscoring is employed. (Check with individual colleges to determine whether and how they practice superscoring.)
Finally, in some circumstances, using score choice may not make much of a difference. If you’ve taken a test twice and received roughly similar scores, these scores only reinforce each other, so holding one back won’t change much. If your scores show an upward trend over time, that fact might even help you by showing your willingness to work hard and improve.
Clearly, there are some potential advantages to using score choice when applying to colleges where it’s allowed. However, using score choice may not be the best choice for every single student. It’s up to you and your mentors to decide which test score strategy will work best for your individual circumstances and goals—and it’s still always a good idea to take every test session seriously!
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