Over the years, I have learned every trick in the book when it comes to sending test scores to colleges. I know when you can pick and choose which scores are sent, how self-reporting impacts the application, and whether colleges know if a student got extra time to take the test. But most students do not know all of their options and how their score reporting can affect their ultimate admissions decisions.
Here are the secrets you've been waiting for:
1. The student gets four free score reports included in their registration fee every time they take the SAT, ACT, or Subject Tests.
This means that if a student lists certain colleges to receive their scores from that sitting, the college will automatically get them—free of charge.
2. But just because something is free, doesn't mean you have to do it!
Students taking these tests for the first time usually get their lowest scores. If you want to see your scores before deciding whether or not to send them to a college, do not choose the four free score reports. This means that the student would need to pay a fee ($12 per report for the SAT and $13 for each ACT score report) to have their scores sent to each college. (Fee waivers are available.)
3. Using the free score report option can be a smart move for a student who is taking one of these tests in the fall of senior year right before Early Decision or Early Action applications are due.
If the student is worried that their scores will get delayed, they should list their Early Decision/Early Action college choice as the recipient of one of the free score reports.
4. Most applications give the student the option to self-report any test scores.
This is OPTIONAL. If you want more control over which scores the college sees, then leave this section blank and only send official test scores through the testing agency (College Board or ACT).
5. Some elite colleges request that the student send all test scores.
If this is required, the student is technically supposed to send all test scores no matter what. There are only a handful of colleges that fall into this category.
6. Most colleges allow the student to pick and choose which scores are sent.
For example, the College Board offers Score Choice (free of charge) which allows the student to send only their highest scores on the SAT and Subject Tests. For the ACT, only one single test appears on each score report so there is no need for Score Choice for the ACT as students can automatically pick and choose which test scores to send to the colleges.
7. Almost every college in the country will use the highest score on each section of the SAT (even if it happens on two different dates) to create the highest combined SAT score possible.
8. Only some colleges will take the highest scores on each section of the ACT (even if it happens on different dates) to create the highest composite ACT score possible.
9. Colleges never know when students get accommodations (like extra time) for standardized tests.
The only way they would know is if the student or counselor shares this information in the application.
10. If a student is considering applying under a test optional plan (which means standardized tests are not required), they should not have any test scores submitted to that college.
They should also ensure that they do not self-report any test scores on their application.
One of the most empowering things to learn about reporting test scores to colleges is that students have more control than they think. Almost always, the student can decide which scores the colleges see when evaluating their applications. Be thoughtful about which tests you take and which scores are sent. It can make a huge difference in the student's admissions decisions.