Should You Submit Your SAT/ACT Scores?
College applications are rarely straightforward, and as the process evolves over time, aspects that used to be fairly standard are becoming less so. This is especially true of standardized tests.
While some colleges still place a great deal of weight on SAT or ACT scores, sometimes even using them as an initial screening tool, other colleges no longer require them at all. This leaves some college applicants wondering when and if they should submit their SAT or ACT scores. In this post, we’ll discuss how to decide when to submit your scores and when to withhold them. If you’re planning to apply to college this season, don’t send those score reports without reading this post first.
Know the Testing Policy at Each School
Testing policies are different at each school. Some colleges require that you submit every score from every test you’ve taken. Some want to see only your highest section scores. Other colleges want to see only your highest composite score. It can all get a little confusing when you’re trying to apply to seven or eight different schools.
Luckily, checking the score policy at each college is usually fairly straightforward. For one, when you log onto the CollegeBoard’s Score Report page and begin to select the schools you’d like to send your scores to, the form will automatically suggest which scores to send based on that specific school’s testing policy. This is a great tool, but it’s no substitute for doing your own research. The admissions page for each college generally lists its testing policy in an obvious place. If you can’t find it, check the FAQ page or contact the office of admissions directly.
The bottom line is that you need to understand the specific testing policy at every school you apply to in order to make an informed decision. Before you send any score reports, research the testing policy at each school on your list and come up with a score report plan for each school individually.
If I Took Both the SAT and the ACT, Should I Submit Both Scores?
At CollegeVine, we recommend choosing only one standardized test and sticking with it. This means that if you choose the ACT, you should focus exclusively on the ACT, and the same vice versa if you choose the SAT. We know, though, that sometimes students choose to take both tests. In this case, you might have a trickier time deciding which score to submit, or wondering if you should submit them both.
You should only submit both scores if both are exceptionally impressive. Submitting both scores still won’t necessarily set you apart from someone who submits only one equally as impressive score, but at least it can’t hurt. If you’re not sure how impressive your scores are, you should look up how they compare to the test scores of last year’s admitted students. You can generally find this information through a simple web query. Your scores are considered impressive if they place comfortably above the 75th percentile of admitted students.
If your scores on the ACT and SAT are not equally impressive, do not submit both. Instead, only submit the scores that place you higher amongst other admitted students. Again, use the information available from a web query to see how last year’s admitted students faired. Then, select the scores that place you closer to the top. For example, if your SAT scores place you at the 75th percentile of admitted students, but your ACT scores place you at the 50th percentile, stick with your SAT scores. Even though your ACT scores are comfortably within the acceptable range, they aren’t as impressive as your SAT scores, and submitting them could take away from the good impression left by your SATs.
Should I Submit Scores to Test Optional Schools?
Test optional schools are one of the scenarios that elicit the most questions about submitting test scores. While testing policies used to be fairly black and white, test optional schools definitely leave a gray area. In general, when a college application lists smoothing as optional, you should considered it required unless it will ultimately be a big strike against you.
Basically, this means that you should still submit your best SAT or ACT score to a test optional school, unless it is poor enough to really count against you. You can determine this by checking the scores of admitted students from last year. If your score places you below the 25th percentile, think twice about submitting it.
To learn more about test optional schools, check out our post What Test-Optional Means for College Admissions.
Of course, your best offense is always a good defense, so we suggest avoiding any questions about submitting test scores by maximizing your SAT or ACT performance from the get go. If you achieve a score you’re proud to submit, you won’t have to worry about it. For advice about preparing for standardized tests, check out these important CollegeVine posts:
Preparing for the SAT? Download our free guide with our top 8 tips for mastering the SAT.
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