We are registering for the ACT and it says we can send test scores. Should we do that now?

 

My daughter just took the SAT and they said we have one week to add the names of schools where we want to send test scores. We don’t have a full list, but know a few she will definitely apply to. Should we go ahead and send scores now?

I get questions like these all the time so I wanted to explain some of the issues so you can make the right decision for your situation. 

“Free” Score Reports

Both ACT and SAT include four score reports in the cost of your test registration. The only catch is those reports have to be requested ahead of time. This means you are agreeing to send your scores before you see the numbers. 

The Benefits

The most obvious benefit is cost. Sending score reports after you know your results costs about $15 per report ($12 for SAT; $16 for ACT).

The other benefit is speed. If you request your scores to be sent to schools, as soon as the results are available, they will be sent. You don’t have to remember to log into your account and request them after the test date. 

The Drawbacks

The most obvious problem with requesting scores be sent to colleges before you know your results is loss of control. What if you don’t make your score goal? Are you sure you want scores sent to all of the schools? What if you decide you are better off applying to some schools without scores (test optional)?

Won’t We Be Sending Scores Eventually?

Ten years ago the answer was probably yes, but the role of standardized test scores in admissions has changed significantly. Now there are some schools that will not consider test scores even if you send them (University of California) and the list of colleges that make the ACT / SAT optional for admission is growing. Most colleges suspended their testing requirements due to the pandemic and we won’t know until 2022 which schools will extend these policies for the juniors applying to college next fall. In other words, even if you have a confirmed list of colleges, you may not need to send your SAT or ACT scores to all of them. 

Why You Want Control

The decision to send (or not send) test scores can be the difference between admission and rejection. You want to make that decision when you have all the information. You also may decide to send scores to one school on your list, but not others. 

Here are some examples: 

  • One of my clients has an unweighted 4.0 GPA with many advanced classes. She’s taken the SAT and ACT multiple times, but her 1280 SAT / 29 ACT are below average for the top schools on her list. These scores don’t match her 4.0 transcript or excellent extracurricular involvement. She chose not to send scores unless a school required them. 
  • Another client attends a private college preparatory high school and has a 3.7 unweighted GPA. Although her school does not rank, she knows her 3.7 plus her ACT score of 29 should get her into Texas A&M so she is sending her ACT results there. She has a few other selective schools on her list where her 29 is unlikely to help (and could hurt) so she is not submitting scores to those colleges. 
  • Another client took the SAT multiple times. He is proud of his last two results, but does not want to send his first set of scores (the time he took the test cold because his family didn’t realize he should have taken an at-home test to practice!) Fortunately, none of his schools require him to send all results, so he is sending only his best two. 

Conclusion

Most of my clients take their ACT / SAT multiple times during their junior years. They haven’t finished their college lists and will possibly take the test another time. They aren’t ready to consider sending scores to colleges. 

This means not taking advantage of the four “free” score reports included in the cost of your ACT or SAT registration. Once you have your results and know where you want to send them, you will need to log into your ACT or College Board account and pay to send the scores you choose to the schools you decide. Yes, this may cost you an additional $100, so plan for that as part of your application fee costs. (Good news— students who use fee waivers to take their exams can send scores for no charge, even after results are in.) 

You want to know your results first. Then you can research the policies and average scores for each college on your list. You might decide to send scores to some schools, but not to others