STOP Automatically Sending SAT / ACT Scores

A recent conversation with a client:

Me: Once you finish your college list, you will need to do a little more research on each school’s testing policy. Are they test optional? What are the average scores for admitted students? Then you will decide if you want to send your ACT results.

Client: But I already sent my SAT scores to some of these schools!

Me: Why? When did you do that?

Client: When we took the SAT at school. My teacher said to list four schools and they would get our scores for free. He said we would have to do it later anyway, so it was better to do it when there wasn’t an extra fee.

[Me trying not to scream in frustration because this client is the ideal candidate for test-optional admission and this teacher’s well-meaning advice could cost her admission at one or more of these schools.]

A Lot Has Changed

College admissions is an ever changing field. Over the past two years, we have seen some dramatic changes, some of which will remain.

A big change, impacting many students, is the rise of test-optional admission. (I will go into details on this in next week’s article.) Essentially, test optional admission means students have a choice when it comes to submitting ACT or SAT scores. If a student chooses not to send scores, the university simply puts more weight on other parts of the application. Some schools were test optional in response to limited testing during the pandemic and will return to requiring scores. Other schools are opting to make test optional a permanent change to their admissions approach.

Bad Advice

Because a growing number of schools no longer require test scores, some students, like my client, may have a better chance at admission if they are evaluated without scores. The teacher who said “you will have to send results eventually” was incorrect.

Too many educators unknowing give students bad advice. Maybe the information was accurate five or ten years ago. But I’ve had too many clients get bad advice from well meaning adults.

Solutions

First, stop sending test scores automatically. Yes, ACT and SAT offer four “free” reports with the cost of your test, but requesting score reports before you even know your results can be a costly mistake.

Second, work to become informed on current policies and issues in college admission. I’ll continue to keep you up to date, but I can’t report on every policy and every single school. This is where your visits (in person or on Zoom) with admission offices pay off. Information sessions from the college admissions office are the best way to stay current on policies. If you don’t understand something you hear, ask. Schools want you to know and understand their admission requirements.

Finally, recognize that there are lots of rumors surrounding college admission and testing. Some come from well meaning people, like my client’s teacher, who are either passing on outdated information or who misunderstood something. Other rumors may spring up from less genuine sources. (I could write a book about the lies told by rejected students, competitive mothers trying to scare away the competition, shady tutors or advisors trying to sell their “secret” method, embarrassed parents, or applicants trying to make themselves seem more impressive.) The bottom line is you can’t believe everything you hear.

Conclusion

My client is stuck with those four schools having her SAT scores. If she does apply, she will need to send her ACT scores because they are better. Two of the four schools require test scores anyway. The other two do not and she would have been better off sending her stellar transcript and not sending her above average (but not stellar) scores.

You can avoid this situation by not automatically sending your test scores. Wait. See how you did. Determine which schools will require test scores and whether your scores will help or hurt your overall application.

Most importantly, stay informed.

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