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 them!
Read on to find out the latest dates on which you can take the SAT and ACT, and 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 1, and promise to have a result to you between December 1 and December 15. Some deadlines are even earlier in October, meaning your application will be evaluated during a pretty narrow window in November.
As a result, typically the last ACT date you can take for early decision is in October and the last SAT date is in November. Scores from these test dates usually arrive in November—just in time for early decision. (For the 2017-18 school year, this means you can take the October 28 ACT or the November 4 SAT.) This is just a general rule, however, so don't automatically assume these dates will work for the school you’re applying to early decision!
For some schools, the last possible ACT date is in September and the last SAT date is in October. (In other words, you can take, at latest, the September 9 ACT or the October 7 SAT for the 2017-18 school year.)
If you’re taking the last possible ACT or SAT, 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 in time to be considered!
If there is a problem with your score reports (for example, say they get delayed), colleges will sometimes accept a screenshot or printout of your test report sent from your guidance counselor as a provisional result. That said, they will want the official report eventually.
Once again, don't assume this will be the case for your particular school, so always plan to get your scores in by the application 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, aim to have your testing done before senior year—ideally by June.
Remember, though, that if you’re applying early decision, you'll need to work on your college applications earlier than normal—and studying for the ACT or SAT while applying to college can be stressful. (The College Board says October should be your last possible SAT date but recommends taking the test by June.)
Getting your testing done by June will free up the whole summer before senior year as well as senior fall to give you time to work on your application. With this time, you can write your best possible essays, come up with great answers for smaller application questions, and decide who will write you the most effective letters of recommendation. Ultimately, if you also had to study for the SAT or ACT, you'd waste time that would be better spent improving your college applications.
Summer means sun, sand, surf ... and college application essays.
Plus, if you’re sending scores from the last possible test date, you’re taking a pretty big risk. If it’s your first score and it’s not within your school’s score ranges, your chances of admission could be compromised. 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 March, May, June, or August SATs or December, February, April, June, or July ACTs) is best. Waiting until the September/October ACTs or October/November SATs your senior fall will only create a serious time crunch.
That said, if you do need to take the SAT or ACT during your senior fall (either for the first time or as a retake), don't stress out. You can still study enough to get a high score and put together a great application—just be prepared to be busy during the fall!
Latest Early Decision ACT/SAT Test Dates for Top Schools
In this section, we look at the ACT and SAT dates and deadlines for popular schools' early decision plans. We also show you how to look up this info at any school you might be applying to in case your school didn't make our list.
Schools With Earlier Than Usual SAT/ACT Deadlines
The following schools have SAT/ACT deadlines earlier than the more common "November SAT/ October ACT" rule we discussed above. If you're applying to any of these schools early decision, try extra hard to complete your 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's 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.)
According to Princeton, "You are strongly encouraged to complete your standardized testing before the Nov. 1 deadline. If you take standardized tests in November, you should have your scores sent directly to Princeton." (Source: Princeton Undergraduate Admission Single-Choice Early Action.)
Keep in mind, this means they likely won’t get the November SAT in time to consider it for admission. So to be safe, submit scores from October of your senior year or earlier.
Stanford’s last ACT date is in September, and its last SAT date is in October. (Source: Stanford Undergraduate Admission Application Deadlines.)
"For students applying to Vanderbilt under Early Decision I (submission deadline November 1), the October administration of the SAT or ACT is the final opportunity to take the exam." (Source: Vanderbilt University Undergraduate Admissions FAQ.)
Washington University in St. Louis
“In addition to the Common Application/Coalition Application and Application Fee, you must submit the following supporting materials [including SAT or ACT scores] by the deadlines.” Since Washington University’s early decision deadline is November 1, you can submit either the October SAT or September ACT. (Source: First-Year Undergraduate Admissions, Washington University in St. Louis.)
Williams requires applicants to take the ACT or SAT by October. (Source: Early Decision and Regular Decision, Williams Admissions.)
Schools That Follow the October ACT/November SAT Rule
These next schools stick to the October ACT/November SAT rule we found when researching early decision testing deadlines. Still, whenever possible, it's best to submit scores from 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 1, you can take the October SAT or ACT (though the September ACT will be a much safer bet) 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 also submit additional test scores from the November administration of the SAT; however, we cannot guarantee that these test scores will be received in time to be reviewed with your application. All applicants should have a complete set of test scores sent to Brown prior to the November 1 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 1 deadline. So do your best to have scores in before November 1!
“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 Office.)
Dartmouth’s website says that the last test date for the SAT is in November, and the last date for the ACT is in October. (Source: Early Decision, Dartmouth Admissions.)
“Duke is happy to accept scores for Early Decision applicants from the October ACT and the November 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 that 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 "October test date," meaning you can take the October SAT or ACT at latest. (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 October ACT and November SAT scores for Early Action and Early Decision I.” (Source: Standardized Testing, University of Chicago College Admissions.)
University of Pennsylvania
For Penn, the last SAT date is in November and the last ACT date is in October. (Source: Checklist & Deadlines, Freshman Admission.)
"Provided that your official scores reach us by the first week of December for Early Action ... they will arrive in time for consideration." In other words, the last SAT date is in November and the last ACT date is in October. (Source: Yale Undergraduate Admissions Application Deadlines.)
How to Find Early Decision Testing Dates for Any School
Although we’ve gone over the early decision policies of many top colleges, you might be wondering about the last possible SAT/ACT dates for different schools not mentioned above.
To find your school's SAT/ACT testing deadlines, start by searching for “[College/University Name] early decision” on Google. Here's an example:
You can see I'm searching for Pomona College's last possible SAT/ACT dates. Now, I'll click on the "Application Deadlines" link since this seems like the most promising page 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 you can't find the deadlines on this page, however, you might instead be able to find a page with overall application dates and deadlines.
Check out the page I found for Pomona below:
Pomona's Early Decision 1 deadline is November 1, and its "deadlines require receipt of ... entrance examination results." That means that the November SAT would be too late as its scores would arrive after the November 1 deadline. Thus, we can assume that the October ACT and SAT would arrive in time, as long as Pomona can receive scores as soon as they are available. (Still, earlier test dates are 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" or "Dates and Deadlines" page, check the FAQ—you'll often run across a question or two about SAT and ACT testing. Look for questions specifically dealing with “the last time to take the ACT or SAT” or “how long it takes SAT/ACT scores to arrive.”
If you can’t find a precise date on any of the above pages, go ahead and call or email your school's admissions office. (Keep in mind that testing 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.