If you're applying to college, you need to know the answer to one question: how long does it take to send SAT scores? Knowing this will help you plan when you will take your SAT.
You want to make sure that whenever you take the SAT, you have time to get that score sent to your target schools before the deadline. When is your last opportunity to take the SAT if you're applying Early Decision or Early Action? When is your last opportunity to take the SAT if you're applying Regular Decision? I'll answer these questions and more in this short article.
How Long Does It Take to Send SAT Scores?
Once your SAT scores are available online (about 13 days after the test), if you order your score reports, it will take approximately 1-2 weeks for a college to receive your SAT scores.
The reason the timing is slightly variable is that colleges do not instantaneously receive your score when the College Board sends the score report.
Each college chooses how they'd like to receive the score reports and how often they'd like to receive score reports from the College Board. 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).
Free Score Report: Is It Faster?
When you signed up to take the SAT, you had the option to choose four colleges to send free score reports. Also, you have until nine days after the test to add or change the colleges. Note: if you qualify for an SAT fee waiver, you can send an unlimited amount of free score reports. Will the colleges receive your SAT scores faster if you used the free score reports?
Yes! When you choose this option, scores are typically sent to colleges within 10 days of you receiving your scores on the College Board website—approximately three weeks after you take your SAT test.
However, as I said above, colleges themselves select how often to download new score reports, so they may not receive your scores right away; it could take up to a week for them to receive the scores.
Rushed Score Report: Is It Faster?
You can also opt to rush your score reports. When you rush your score reports, you pay a $31 rush fee on top of the normal score report fee, and the College Board guarantees that they'll send your already released scores within one to four business days (not including weekends or holidays). If you rush your score reports, I'd estimate that the colleges receive the scores in about 1-1.5 weeks.
The rushed reports don't really make that much of a difference (if any) as to when colleges receive your scores since normal score reports take about two weeks and rushed score reports take about 1.5 weeks. It's a lot of money, and they're essentially never worth it.
When to Send Your Scores
If you already have your scores, and you're happy with them (aka you do not plan to retest), then you should send them now. Sooner is always better than later. Even if you haven't completed the rest of your application yet, colleges will hang on to your scores until you do.
However, if you want to wait, I'd recommend sending your scores at least three weeks before the college's application deadline. All schools have different application deadlines. Check each college's admissions website to find their application deadline or search "[College Name] application deadline" in Google.
Timeline: When to Take the SAT and Send Your Score
What does the score report timeline look like? I've created mock timelines to show you about how long it will take a college to receive your score report based on when you took the test.
NOTE: these timelines that I created are overly cautious. It may take less time than this, but I want to urge caution. Don't wait until the last second to order score reports and count on them getting to the colleges on time. I'll dive into this more in the next section.
If you choose to send the free SAT score reports, the timeline will look something like this:
Day 1 - Take the SAT
Days 1-9 - Order free score reports
Day 13 - Receive your scores on the College Board website
Day 13-23 - The College Board sends your free score reports to the colleges you selected.
Day 23-37 - The colleges receive your SAT score reports.
If you opt to wait to see your scores before sending them, your timeline will instead look like this:
Day 1 - Take the SAT
Day 13 - Receive your scores on the College Board website and order your paid score reports to be sent to colleges
Day 20-27 - The College Board sends your paid score reports to the colleges you selected.
Day 28-42 - The colleges receive your SAT score reports.
If you wait to see your scores but then order a rush report, your timeline will be slightly shortened to this:
Day 1 - Take the SAT
Day 13 - Receive your scores on the College Board website and order your paid and rushed score reports to be sent to colleges
Day 14-18 - The College Board sends your paid score reports to the colleges you selected.
Day 22-31 - The colleges receive your SAT score reports.
So When Do You Need to Take the SAT?
If you plan to use the free SAT score reports, I'd recommend you take the SAT at least five weeks before the application deadline. NOTE: you can find each individual college's application deadline on their admissions website or by doing a Google search for “[College Name] application deadline.”
If you plan to wait to see your score and then order your paid score reports, I'd recommend you take the SAT at least seven weeks before the application deadline. If you're willing to pay the rush fee, you might be able to cut it slightly closer and take the SAT six weeks before the application deadline, but I would strongly advise against this since rushing reports doesn't always get the scores to colleges faster.
DISCLAIMER: I do not recommend waiting for the last opportunity to take the SAT. I highly recommend doing SAT preparation and aiming to take your first SAT during your junior year of high school so that you can opt to retest if you do not like your score. Waiting for the last opportunity to take your SAT may not result in a good score. Read our guide to planning your SAT prep schedule.
Nervous about sending your SAT score report? Read our guide on everything you need to know before you send your SAT score report to colleges.
Need help with your college application? Learn how to write a college essay and how to write about extracurriculars on your application.
Need help finding the right college for you? Read our guide to finding your target school.
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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As an SAT/ACT tutor, Dora has guided many students to test prep success. She loves watching students succeed and is committed to helping you get there. Dora received a full-tuition merit based scholarship to University of Southern California. She graduated magna cum laude and scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT. She is also passionate about acting, writing, and photography.