Should I Apply Early Action or Wait for New ACT Scores?

Question: If I have already taken an ACT, and I got a fairly good score (31), but I want to try for a better score. Should I just go ahead and do Early Action with the 31 and then send them my next score, or should I just wait for the new test and then apply regular decision? Will I be allowed to send them a new score, or will they only see my first one? I am applying for some fairly competitive schools, and I am confident that I can do better because I experienced problems during the test that inhibited my ability to focus. Thank you for your time!

If the rest of your application is strong and you're not hoping that your first-quarter senior grades will be better than your junior grades were, then go ahead and apply with your 31. I'm assuming that you are taking the ACT by the end of October. If so, you will have your new scores by the middle of November and can get them to your Early Action colleges right away. A growing number of colleges and universities don't even require “official" scores from the testing agency until a student has been accepted and committed to enroll. So if your EA colleges are on that list, you can just send the updated scores yourself. If not, you should ask your school counselor to fax or email the scores as soon as you view them online, if you're worried about a timely arrival. Although such scores won't be considered “official," many colleges will still use them in the evaluation process while they wait for the official version to show up. Thus, if your revised ACT composite is higher than 31, you do want to get your results to your EA colleges pronto. Even if the EA deadline has passed, the admission committees will not make a final decision until after they've seen your new scores … as long as you send them promptly.

It's hard to advise you without seeing the big picture (e.g., where you're applying and your overall profile) but -- from what you have told “The Dean"-- it probably makes sense to apply Early Action if the rest of your application is strong, and then get your fall ACT results to colleges ASAP, if you did better than you did last time.

Keep in mind, however, that Early Action does not provide the admissions-odds boost that binding Early Decision usually offers. (Colleges do not want to save a space for a so-so candidate who may not even show up in September.) So don't rush to apply EA if you feel that not only your test scores but also your grades and extracurricular activities could use a little extra polish before you submit your applications.


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