When’s the latest you can take the SAT or ACT if you’re submitting an Early Decision college application? You might be surprised by how late some colleges accept SAT and ACT scores... and how early others require theirs.
Read on to find out the latest you can take the SAT and ACT – and to get specific dates for top colleges.
General Info on Early Decision
Early Decision gives you the chance to apply to your first-choice college early and get an admission decision before winter break. Early Decision application deadlines tend to be around November 1st, and promise to have a result to you between December 1st and December 15th. Some deadlines are earlier in October. That means your application is being evaluated during a pretty narrow window, sometime in November.
Typically, this means the last ACT date is in October, and the last SAT date is in November – these scores will usually arrive on time to be considered for Early Decision during the month of November. (For the 2016-17 school year, this means the November 5 SAT and the October 22 ACT.) But this is just a general rule – do not assume it’s true for the school you’re applying to Early Decision!
For some schools, the last ACT date is September, and the last SAT date is October. (This means the September 10 ACT and the October 1 SAT for the 2016-17 school year.)
If you’re taking the last possible ACT or SAT, you have to make sure you mark your Early Decision school down to receive your scores when you sign up for the test. Don’t wait to see your scores first before sending them; they won't arrive on time to be considered.
If there is a problem with your score reports (for example they get delayed), sometimes colleges will accept a screenshot or printed version of your test reports sent from your guidance counselor as a provisional result, but will want the official report eventually. And again, don't assume this will be the case. Plan to get your scores in by the deadline, if not earlier.
Our Advice for Applying Early Decision
If you’re reading this as a junior or younger, and you’re planning to apply early somewhere, you should aim to have your testing done before senior year – ideally by June. If you’re applying Early Decision, you will be working on your college applications earlier than normal. Studying for the ACT or SAT while also working on an early application would be very stressful. (College Board's Big Future says October should be your last possible SAT date, but encourages you to complete your SATs by June.)
Getting your testing done by June will free up the whole summer before senior year as well as senior fall to work on your application. This will give you time to write the best possible essays, write great answers for the smaller application questions, and decide who will write you the best letters of recommendation. If you also have to study for the SAT or ACT, you're wasting time that could be spent bettering your applications.
Summer means sun, sand, surf... and college application essays.
Plus, if you’re sending the last possible test date, you’re also taking a pretty big risk – if it’s your first score, and it’s not within the school’s score ranges, it won’t help your chances of admission. If it’s a retake, and your score goes down, that won't look great either. Though most colleges focus on your highest scores, some schools require all SAT scores or all ACT scores and will evaluate every test result they receive, high or low.
Ideally, you should have already achieved scores within your school’s score ranges by your senior year. Taking the ACT or SAT during your junior year (including the January, March, May, or June SATs or December, February, April or June ACTs) would be best. Waiting until the September/October ACTs or October/November SATs your senior fall will create a serious time crunch.
But if you do need to take the SAT or ACT during your senior fall (either for the first time or for a retake), don't stress out. You can still study enough for a high score and put together a great application. Just be prepared to be quite busy during senior fall. Here are the ACT and SAT dates and deadlines for several popular schools' Early Decision plans.
We will also show you how to look up this info at any school you might be applying to in case they didn't make our list.
Specific Dates for Top Schools
Earlier Than Usual Testing Deadlines
These schools have SAT/ACT deadlines earlier than the more common "November SAT, October ACT" rule that we discussed above. If you're applying to any of these schools early, try extra-hard to complete standardized testing as early as possible.
You don't have to panic if your top school is on this list. But you should plan ahead!
Caltech says that their standardized testing deadline is October for both tests. This means that you can take administrations of the SAT or ACT in October of your senior year, but no later. (Source: Deadlines and Forms for First-Year Applicants, Caltech Admissions.)
“While we recommend that Early Action applicants complete testing requirements in their junior year, scores from the September and October test dates will typically arrive in time for consideration at Early Action. Students should make certain to request that scores be sent to Georgetown well in advance of the deadline to ensure timely receipt.” (Source: Georgetown Early Action Program for First Year Applicants.)
Princeton says the "Recommended deadline for standardized score submissions" is November 1. (Source: Princeton Undergraduate Admission Single-Choice Early Action.)
Keep in mind this means they likely won’t get the November 5 SAT in time to consider it for admission. To be safe, submit scores from October of your senior year or earlier.
Stanford’s last ACT date is September, and their last SAT date is October. (Source: Stanford Undergraduate Admission Application Deadlines and Fees.)
“For students applying to Vanderbilt under Early Decision I (postmark deadline November 1), the October administrations of the SAT or ACT represent the final opportunity to take the exams.” (Source: Vanderbilt University Undergraduate Admissions FAQ.)
Williams requires both the ACT and SAT by the October test dates or earlier. (Source: Early Decision and Regular Decision, Williams Admissions.)
Schools that Follow the October ACT/November SAT Rule
These schools stick to the October ACT/November SAT general rule we found when researching Early Decision testing deadlines. Still, whenever possible, it's best to submit earlier test dates to ensure your application is reviewed on time.
The early bird gets the ... early application review?
“Testing should be completed by the appropriate deadline (either ED or RD).” Since Amherst’s early decision deadline is November 15th, you can take November SAT or October ACT at the latest. (Source: First-Year Applicants, Amherst College.)
“Early Decision applicants should complete all required testing by the October test date and arrange for results to be sent directly to Brown on or before the November 1 Early Decision deadline. You may still submit scores from the November administration of the SAT and they will be added to your file. In addition, Brown will consider up to the October ACT test for Early Decision. Please note, we encourage students to have at least one set of scores in our office by the appropriate application deadline.” (Source: Brown Undergraduate Admission, First Year Applicants.)
Note that while Brown will accept the October ACT and/or November SAT, they prefer to have at least one set of scores before the November 1st deadline. Do your best to have scores in before November 1st!
“You must have all standardized testing completed by the November test date, and you must be very certain to have your scores reported directly to Columbia by the testing agency.” This means both the October ACT and November SAT would arrive in time to be considered. (Source: Columbia Undergraduate Admissions Early Decision.)
“You should plan to take the SAT before November of your senior year, or the ACT no later than October. Early decision applicants are strongly urged to take the SAT Subjects Tests (if required) no later than October, because the scores are used in the selection process.” (Source: Early Decision, Cornell Undergraduate Admissions Blog.)
Dartmouth’s website says the last test date for the SAT is November, and the last for ACT is in October. (Source: Early Decision, Dartmouth Admissions.)
“Duke is happy to accept scores for Early Decision applicants from the October 22 ACT and the November 5 SAT tests.” (Source: Duke Admissions Application Timeline.)
"If you are applying Early Action, we would like your testing results by the end of October; however, you may submit the November series if needed. Those results will arrive in time for consideration without the need and expense of “rush reporting.”” (Source: Harvard Admissions Application Timeline.)
Keep in mind that even though you can submit November tests, you should aim to complete your testing earlier so your application can be evaluated sooner.
MIT's says to take the ACT and SAT "on or before the November test date," meaning you can submit the October ACT or November SAT at the latest. (Source: Tests & Scores, MIT Admissions.)
Northwestern requires both the SAT and ACT by the "November test date," meaning you can take the November SAT or the October ACT. (Source: Application Options, Northwestern Undergraduate Admissions.)
University of Chicago
“While we would of course like to receive your scores before the appropriate deadline, we will accept November SAT scores and October ACT scores for Early Action and Early Decision I.” (Source: First Year Applicants, University of Chicago College Admissions.)
University of Pennsylvania
For Penn, the last SAT date is November and the last ACT date is October. (Source: Application Deadlines and Fees, Freshman Admission.)
Washington University in Saint Louis
“In addition to the application forms and essay, you must submit the following supporting materials [including SAT or ACT scores] by their deadlines.” Since Washington University’s early deadline is November 15, you can submit either the November SAT or October ACT. (Source: Freshman Admission, Washington University in Saint Louis Admissions.)
Yale says their last SAT date is November, and their last ACT date is October. (Source: Yale Undergraduate Admissions Application Deadlines.)
How to Check the ED Dates at Any School
While we’ve gone over the Early Decision policy at many of the country’s top colleges, you may be wondering about the last possible SAT/ACT dates at a different school. To find out, search “[Name of College/University] Early Decision.”
I'm searching for Pomona College's last possible SAT/ACT date. I clicked on "Application Deadlines" since that seemed like the most promising place to get info on dates.
Many colleges have a separate section just for Early Decision or Early Action applications. This page typically lists special deadlines for early decision, including the last ACT or SAT test date. If not, there is usually a page with overall application dates and deadlines. Check out the page I found for Pomona below:
Pomona lists the Early Decision 1 deadline as November 1st, and says "deadlines require receipt of...entrance examination results." That means the November SAT would be too late, since it would be sent well after that November 1 deadline. We can assume the October ACT and October SAT would arrive in time, as long as Pomona is listed to receive scores as soon as they are available. But earlier test dates would be safest.
If you're searching for a different school's policy, and can’t find the last SAT/ACT date on either an "Early Decision" page or "Dates and Deadlines" page, check the FAQ – there is often a question about SAT and ACT testing. Look for questions about “the last time to take the ACT or SAT” or “how fast it takes SAT/ACT scores to arrive.”
If you can’t find the precise date on any of the above pages – Early Decision info, Dates and Deadlines, or the FAQ – go ahead and call and email the admissions office. (Keep in mind this information should definitely be on the admissions site, even if it’s buried in an unlikely place.) Ask the admissions representative: “When is the last possible date I can take the SAT/ACT for early admission?”
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Halle Edwards graduated from Stanford University with honors. In high school, she earned 99th percentile ACT scores as well as 99th percentile scores on SAT subject tests. She also took nine AP classes, earning a perfect score of 5 on seven AP tests. As a graduate of a large public high school who tackled the college admission process largely on her own, she is passionate about helping high school students from different backgrounds get the knowledge they need to be successful in the college admissions process.