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? And how do score reports work if you’re taking the digital SAT? I'll answer these questions and more in this short article.
How Long Does It Take to Send Digital SAT Scores?
Starting in Spring 2024, all students who take the SAT will take it in a digital format, without a paper booklet and pencil. If you’re planning to take the digital SAT in 2024, you’re probably wondering: How will the new digital format affect score release timelines?
At present, it looks like score release dates won’t change significantly with the digital SAT. According to the College Board, students’ SAT scores will be available online through their College Board about 2-3 weeks after test day.
But when will colleges receive official digital SAT score reports? Schools listed on your SAT registration will receive your scores online about 10 days after you receive your scores. That means that colleges will receive your SAT scores around 3-4 weeks after your exam date.
To sum up, as of right now, the College Board doesn’t plan to change the time frame in which students and schools receive official score reports for the digital SAT. That means that planning your SAT exam dates in order to get your scores submitted on time won’t change much once the digital SAT arrives!
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.
With the digital SAT, you’ll still be able to choose four colleges to send free score reports. You’ll still have until nine days after your exam date to add or change those colleges, and students with fee waivers will still be able to send unlimited score reports. And just like with the paper and pencil SAT, digital SAT scores will be sent to your free score report schools within 10 days of you receiving your official 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.
It’s likely this won’t change with the digital SAT. The College Board hasn’t released official information about how rush score reporting will work with the digital SAT yet. Nevertheless, we can guess that the timeline for rush reporting digital SAT scores will be similar to the timeline for the paper and pencil exam.
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. These timelines account for both the paper and pencil and digital SAT.
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.
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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.