Preparing for College

Early Decision and SAT Deadlines

Question: I will be a high school senior in the fall and want to apply to a college via Early Decision, but I haven't yet taken the SAT. Are SAT's required of Early-Decision candidates? If so, am I too late? Can I take tests in November or even December?

If a college requires the SAT (either SAT I or SAT II or both) of its Regular-Decision candidates then these tests are required of Early-Decision candidates as well. Typically, you will need to finish your testing in October, but sometimes November test scores are available in time. Some colleges that require the SAT II in addition to the SAT I will be flexible with ED applicants and agree to make decisions--at least provisional ones--before both sets of test scores have been received (but assuming that they have one set on file). Others will not. In many cases, the ACT will replace BOTH the SAT I and the SAT II.


While paying extra to "rush" your scores to colleges may be necessary, many institutions (especially smaller ones, not huge state universities) will accept preliminary score reports by fax, e-mail, or over the phone when provided by your guidance counselor (not by you!). Official score reports will still need to be sent eventually, but admission officials are commonly willing to evaluate your candidacy based on these unofficial (but usually very reliable) score reports. (Scores are available online about two weeks after the test date.)

In addition, keep in mind that a growing number of colleges now offer two separate Early Decision deadlines. Typically, the first of these is in mid-November and provides a decision in mid-December. This plan is designed for applicants who are organized enough to get application forms and testing requirements out of the way very promptly and who also are certain that they have identified a top-choice college by the first weeks of their senior year.

When a second round of ED is offered, the deadline is usually in January or even February. If you are thinking about being an ED applicant but haven't completed your testing by October, inquire to see if your target college has a second ED round that might be better for you.