SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

Important: Read This Before You Send SAT Scores to Colleges

Posted by Dr. Anna Wulick | Sep 27, 2015 9:00:00 AM

SAT Logistics, SAT General Info

 

 

No matter how stellar your transcript, no matter how mastered your extracurricular activities, no matter how lyrical your essay, no application is complete without your SAT scores.

So how do you make sure your SAT scores are sent properly, at the right time, and with only those scores you are most proud of? Read on for our best advice on the decisions you'll be faced with and what to do in case something goes wrong.

In this article, I'll describe the process of sending SAT scores, the ins and outs of Score Choice, when to send SAT scores (and when not to!), and what to do if your scores go missing. I'll also explain the pros and cons of every option and give you my suggested way forward any time there are multiple possible ways to proceed. 

 

How to Send Your SAT Scores

You can send your scores either when you take the test or any time after you get your scores.

When you register for the SAT and for 9 days after you take the test, you can also send out 4 free score reports to colleges and scholarship programs but without first seeing your scores.

Our advice about whether you should take this free reports offer:

  • Pros: These 4 reports are free. A dollar saved is a dollar earned.
  • Cons: You won't see your scores before they get sent out. This means that you won't be able to use SAT Score Choice to pick which scores colleges see and which they don't (more about Score Choice in the next part of the article). Your scores will be sent out even if they aren't as strong as you'd like. 

 

Ben Franklin and his three-pence paper money are proud of your frugality.

 

You can also order reports from your My SAT account any time after getting your test scores. In your account, you can see all of your SAT test dates and scores, and you can send them out.

Our advice about whether you should send scores after seeing them:

  • Pros: You can see all your score reports first, so you can select only your best scores to be sent out (again, I'll address SAT Score Choice in more detail in a bit).
  • Cons: It costs $12 to send a score report to a college, but each college report can include any number of test scores on it. In other words, if you want to send 3 SAT scores to the University of Vermont and 2 SAT scores to the University of Hawaii, you'll pay $24. (Fee-waiver eligible students get 4 of these reports for free.)
  • Recommendation:
    • Send scores with your best subsection results to colleges that superscore. They will make a new composite from your best Math, Reading, Writing, and Essay scores from any tests you took (here is a list of superscoring colleges).
    • Send your single highest score to colleges that neither superscore nor require all your scores, to SAT scholarship programs, and to the NAIA if you are going to play college sports.

To send scores from an SAT test you took more than a year ago, you have to request it from the archives. You can do this in a number of ways, each of which has extra fees attached:


Pro tip: You might run across on Q&A websites that tell you to simply mail or fax a copy of your own score report to colleges as a way of sending scores for free. Don't listen! Most colleges only count as official SAT score reports sent by the College Board, so you cannot simply send them a copy of your own report even if the application deadline is approaching.

 

Faxed a copy of your scores? Might as well have sent them this note.

 

Can You Choose Which Scores to Send?

You can now decide whether you want the College Board to send all your scores to your target college or whether to use the program called Score Choice. SAT Score Choice lets you pick which scores to send out. You can select individual test dates, but not test sections. In other words, you pick the date of the test you want to send, and the College Board will send out that test’s entire score.

Say you took the SAT three times, and the second time you were nursing a fever and generally having a bad day. Score Choice lets you send only the first and third test scores to colleges, and to consign that second one to the dustbin of history.

Score Choice also applies to SAT Subject Tests – it lets you pick which Subject Test score to send to your target college.
  • Pros:
    • Score Choice is awesome for colleges that don’t require all your SATscores.
    • It is also perfect for colleges that superscore – you can send them the test dates that have your highest subsection scores.
    • It's also great for any SAT Subject Tests you’ve taken multiple times, since you just want colleges to get your highest score.
    • Finally, it’s the best way to send your best single SAT score to scholarship programs and the NAIA.
  • Cons: You have to be careful and read your target colleges score submission policy carefully. Failing to send all your scores to colleges that require all your scores could land your application in hot water. To make keeping track of different policies easier, the My SAT section of the College Board website has info about each college’s score policy.

 

When Should You Send Your SAT Scores?

Let's now discuss the best timing for sending scores out. 

 

Should You Send Your Scores Early?

The College Board argues that sending scores very early shows colleges that you are a very interested applicant. So if you first take the SAT in your junior year, should you go ahead and send that score to colleges you are interested in?

It's true that some colleges do sometimes ask to see proof that an applicant sincerely wants to go to that school  this is called “demonstrated interest." But this is something that comes into play after your full application is already in, usually as a way to move up on the waitlist.

Sending scores early does not typically give you an edge or count as "demonstrated interest." This is because generally, if you send scores to a college but haven’t applied there yet, the admission staff will simply save them under your name in a general file until your application shows up.

And it's not only that. If you send your scores early and are planning to retake the SAT, you won't get the full benefit of Score Choice since you won't be able to compare that early score to ones from later testing.

 

Save getting there early for the Harry Potter swag line.


When Should Scores Get to the Admissions Office?

It will be no surprise to hear that official scores reports should be received by each university's application deadlineIn order to figure out what this means in terms of when to send your scores, let’s go through the timing of everything that happens after you take the test.

Step 1: The College Board Scores your test

  • Scoring usually takes approximately 3 weeks.

Step 2: Score reports are posted online and processed for sending

  • Scores are posted on the My Organizer part of the College Board website. 
  • If you registered for the 4 free score reports, they are sent out a few days after your scores appear online.
  • As soon as scores are online, you can order score reports from the SAT website.

Step 3: Colleges receive the scores

  • Most colleges receive scores electronically through software that files your score with the rest of your application materials. Colleges themselves select how often to download new score reports: somewhere between once per day and once per week (for example, UVA gets them daily).
  • Remember: there will be a lag between when a college gets your scores and when it adds them to your application file.

So in most circumstances, the math for ordering the test goes: less than 1 week for ordering scores + 1 week for colleges to get and file scores = order scores at least 2 weeks before the application deadline. I always hedge my bets, so I’d advise ordering test reports at least 3 weeks early for safety or, even better, as soon as you're done testing and know which schools you're applying to.

Your last possible test date math goes: 3 weeks for scoring + 3 weeks for ordering tests = take your last test no later than 6 weeks before the application deadline.


Should You Rush Your SAT Order?

If you are worried about beating deadlines, you can pay extra for the College Board's rush service. 

  • Pros: Instead of taking "a few days" to send out your scores, the College Board guarantees that scores will be sent out within 2 business days.
  • Cons:
    • This service does not speed up how long it takes to score your test.
    • This service also does not speed up how long it takes for colleges to receive your scores – colleges choose the timing themselves, and can take up to 1 week. In other words, while scores are sent sooner, they aren't necessarily going to be seen sooner. 
    • Colleges that receive score reports electronically may not view priority reports at all.
    • It costs $31 (but you can rush many reports at once).
  • Recommendation: If every moment counts because the deadline is very fast approaching, it might make sense to pay extra to buy yourself a little more time. Just keep in mind that colleges may not see your scores any faster if their delivery preferences aren’t set up for priority reports.

 

Yes, sir - we have our very fastest messenger on it, sir.

 

What if You Miss the Deadline?

What happens to applications when scores are received late depends on each college’s individual policy. 

Some schools have a hard and fast rule that late application materials disqualify the applicant. For example, the University of Texas’s policy even overrides the guaranteed admission the school offers to any in-state students in the top 10% of their class. 

At some schools late SAT scores are a gamble – you’re betting that your application won’t be considered until further into the process, so your scores have a chance to get there. For example, Stanford University’s admissions site warns that “We cannot delay the review of an application in anticipation of scores ... nor can we guarantee that late scores will be reviewed." Meanwhile, UVA points out that if your scores are late, “There is a chance that we will have already started the review your file before those scores arrive. [But] there's a chance that the scores will be seen at some point in the process.”

Finally, some schools judge each application on a case-by-case basis. This means that an otherwise excellent application might be put aside until SAT scores arrive, while an application that is clearly not a good fit for the school is rejected even before scores are received.

 

How Do I Make Sure My Scores Don’t Get Lost?

A college receives your SAT scores when you select its name on your SAT registration or select it on the “My SAT” site when ordering scores. Some university systems – for example, the University of California, which has many campuses under one umbrella – share scores between campuses. In other words, if you send your scores to one UC campus, they will be distributed to all UC campuses.

The most likely reason your target college can’t find your SAT score report is that you picked the wrong school's name on the form. If you registered for the 4 free reports, you can check your own score report to see the colleges you put in and double check that they are correct. If you ordered reports from the SAT website, then go to your account and double check the colleges you selected there. 

A good rule of thumb is to wait three weeks after your sending date to check whether your scores have been received. Usually, this info is available on the college’s application site, but in some cases colleges will contact you to let you know which application materials aren't yet in your file.

If you get a notice from the college that your scores are missing, don’t panic: often, it can take up to a few weeks for received application materials to be logged. Chances are the school has indeed received your scores, but they simply haven’t been filed yet. Feel free to call the admissions office, and calmly and respectfully ask them to check whether your scores have arrived.

If your scores do not turn up – either because they got lost in the mail, were somehow electronically derailed, or were simply misfiled – you can still resend your scores by ordering new ones from the College Board's website.

 

Can we somehow get the tooth fairy involved with this whole missing-SAT situation?

 

What’s Next?

Now that we've covered sending SAT scores, it's important for you to know how to get better at the SAT.

Unsure how to study for your next crack at the SAT? We have advice and study plan suggestions for taking the test in your Sophomore and Junior year and the summer before Senior year. Also, check out our Complete Plan for the SAT.

Ready to try for a full score? Learn what it takes to get there from a perfect SAT scorer.

Want to start working on the rest of your application? We have some tips on how to craft a versatile one that will work for many different colleges.

 

Disappointed with your scores? Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points? We've written a guide about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

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Dr. Anna Wulick
About the Author

Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.



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