Monday Morning Q&A: Send test scores now, or later?

Bernice asks:

Should I wait until my SAT or ACT scores arrive before I apply to the top colleges of my choice? Or should I go ahead and apply?

This is a good question, Bernice, one that has both simple and more complex versions of the answer. The simple version is to go ahead and apply. Most colleges will allow you to not only list whatever scores you have, but also list the dates you intend to take future tests. They’ll wait to make a decision until they have all the required test scores, and delaying your application process usually isn’t a good strategy.

But the more complex and college counseling-nuanced version of the answer requires more information, including:

  • Where are you applying?
  • Are you applying to an early action or early decision program?
  • Did you take the tests already? If so, how many times and what are your scores?
  • When do you plan on (re)taking the exam(s)?

So here’s what I recommend you do:

1. Consult the websites of each of your chosen colleges and find out two things—what tests are required, and by what dates do they recommend taking tests and sending scores?

2. Register for the test(s) soon if you haven’t done so already. Fall test dates are popular and you don’t want your preferred location to fill up.

3. Meet with your high school counselor, share your findings, and get her thoughts about whether or not to apply before you have test scores on file.

4. In the meantime, work on your applications. Whether or not you wait to file them is a separate decision from whether or not you start (and complete!) them.

If all of this gets too complex, or if you can’t get the information you need, play it safe and go with the simple answer I shared above—apply now and send your test scores as soon as you have them. You can’t get into college if you don’t submit completed applications by the deadline, and I’d hate for testing confusion to stop you from getting your applications filed on time.

Thanks for the question, Bernice. I’ll answer a different one next Monday. Interested readers can submit their own question here.