Should I Send My Test Scores to Colleges Before I Know Them?
It’s no secret that standardized testing is a huge part of the college process. Some students consider their ACT or SAT test date one of the most stressful days of the entire college process, second only to the day they find out their test scores. How well you do on these exams can play a major role in your admissions decision from many selective colleges and universities. This being said, many students are left wondering if they should send their test scores to schools before they actually find out how they scored on the exam.
There are a lot of things to think about when making this decision. Some factors include cost, superscoring, and how many times you plan on taking the exam. Regardless, there’s no need to fret. Like many other parts of the college process, the decision you make regarding your test scores and whether or not to send them can help get you the acceptance letters you’re looking for—you simply need to make a critical, informed decision about what will be right for you and your application. Read on to figure out which score-sending strategy will be the best for you!
The process of sending your scores
When you register to take the ACT, SAT, or SAT Subject Tests, you have the option to enter in “college codes” that will send your scores on the exam to several colleges of your choosing. This option is free, and colleges will receive your score reports at the same time that you do. If you don’t want to send your scores to colleges at the time of registration, you have the option to wait until afterwards. When you wait until afterwards, though, you’ll be charged a fee, usually around $12-16 for each score report that you want to send to each individual school.
Avoiding fees when sending test scores
Between standardized testing registration fees, application fees, AP testing fees, college visits, and filling out the CSS profile, the college process can certainly put a dent in the wallets of many—not to mention the serious burden of paying tuition once you actually get into college. It can be wise to think about how you can potentially save money during this time period.
Sending your scores to colleges before you actually know what they are can certainly be more affordable. $12-16 per score report can be a lot of money, and it can add up quickly especially if you’re applying to many different schools.
However, if you don’t do as well as you would have liked on the test, the decision to send scores preemptively might hurt your chances of admission. If money is something you and your family are concerned about, remember that you can apply for a waiver for the Common Application fee as well as the SAT and ACT registration fee.
What if you don’t do as well on the test as you would’ve liked?
If you end up walking out of your testing center feeling less-than confident, you have the option to change who sees your scores. You can make changes to the list of schools that will see your score reports for the next few days after your testing date (for the SAT, you have 9 days after the test, and for the ACT you have up until the Thursday after your testing date). If you feel you might not have done as well as you think you can do, you can easily withdraw your score report sending for the four schools you might have originally written down.
On the other hand, you might end up walking out of the testing center feeling like the Michael Phelps of standardized test-taking. If this is the case, you can go ahead and add four schools to send your score reports to–for free, nonetheless!
Make sure you exercise caution, though, as not everyone is always able to accurately gauge their performance on an exam before they get their score back. It’s possible you’ve had this experience before in one of your classes (wait, I got WHAT score?!). You are human and thus you’re unfortunately bound to make mistakes, but these mistakes shouldn’t have to affect your chances of getting into the school of your dreams, and if you make thoughtful decisions throughout the college application process, they won’t!
How many times are you taking the test?
If it’s your first time taking a standardized test, you may want to hold off on sending your scores before you know them. Many students end up doing better on a given standardized test the second time around, and the existence of superscoring also works in the student’s’ favor in terms of showing them your best possible scores. Given that most U.S. colleges superscore the ACT and SAT, it might be wise to wait until you can view your scores to send them. You never know if you might end up doing even better the second time around!
You should also keep in mind that assigning to have your scores sent beforehand will send all the past administration’s test scores as well. If you know that this will be your last time taking the SAT or ACT, you should sign up to have your scores automatically sent–even if you don’t do as well as you hoped, the colleges you are applying to will have access to your better scores from past test dates.
Additionally, if you’re only taking the test once, you should definitely take advantage of the four free score reports. Assuming that the schools you’re applying to require standardized test scores, you’re going to have to send them regardless. So if it’s your first and only time taking the test, you may as well take advantage of the deal!
If you’re a senior taking the ACT or SAT, keep in mind that deadlines for your applications will also come into play. If your test date comes dangerously close to the application deadline for a particular school, you should probably think about automatically sending your reports to schools rather than risking paying the extra fees to have them express mailed after your scores are released. Since you know this will be the last time you’re taking the exam before you submit your application, signing up for free score-sending can be a wise choice given that the schools you’re applying to use superscoring.
Superscoring takes your best scores from multiple test dates and combines them into one composite score–the best score you could’ve possibly gotten!
For example, let’s say you take the SAT once and your math score was a 780 but your reading score was a 710. You decide to take the exam a second time, and this time you receive a 750 in reading but a 740 in math. With superscoring, your highest two scores (780 in math and 750 in reading) will be combined into a 1530 even though your two scores on the individual exams might have been lower.
Therefore, if the schools you’re applying to use superscoring and you’re running close to an application deadline, you should take advantage of the free score reports–your scores can only improve!
The bottom line
All in all, sending scores before you’re actually aware of what they are can be a good way to save money, but it can also negatively affect your application if you’re not careful. You should consider factors like deadlines and how many times you’re taking the exam, but know that if you’re taking the exam multiple times, it’s probably best to wait before sending your scores.
There are resources available to help you with the financial burden that is the college application process, and paying extra money to send score reports after scores are released is usually a worthy investment. After all, showing colleges and universities your best possible scores on standardized tests is a great way to get your application noticed.
For more information on standardized testing and the college application process, check out these articles: