Aaron Tompkins spent last fall shifting between football practice, AP classes, a weekend job in retail and a leadership role with his school's branch of the National Honor Society. In addition, his parents registered him for the fall ACT exam date – a schedule he felt was too overbearing. “I didn't mind taking the test, but studying for it in between everything else I had going on was impossible," he said. Fortunately, the answer to such jam-packed schedules may have arrived in the form of summer testing.
For years, students and their parents have wished for summer SAT and ACT dates – after all, this is the one time of year that you don't have to juggle testing with your school course load. Those wishes have been granted, and this summer marks the first time you'll be able to take both tests during your summer vacation.
Background: The College Board began offering the SAT last summer and offers it again this August, and the ACT is rolling out its summer testing this July to all states except New York and California (see below for more on that). If your summer schedule isn't already filled, you may want to consider registering for one of these tests so you can take it when you don't have scores of other commitments on your plate.
“In my opinion, offering the tests in the summer is a tremendous advantage to the student because the student has the ability to focus solely on preparing for the tests and without being burdened by other classes, term papers, projects or Friday night football games," said J.D. Wyczalek, founder of AZ College Consulting in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Not Just for Juniors
Keep in mind that the summer test dates are available to all students, not just rising juniors. Younger students who haven't taken the exams yet can benefit from summer testing because it allows them to prepare after the school year ends, take the exams later and then identify their problem areas so they can take the test again later during high school, Wyczalek said. Of course, students should consider doing their test prep and studying in between test dates to maximize their scores, he advises.
“The goal of all my students and the strategy for my clients is to earn the score they want sometime in their junior year so they don't have to take the test in the senior year. When you achieve the score you want in your junior year, then the student can start marketing his/herself to colleges and get on their radar early. The early bird gets the scholarship."
Know the Registration Dates
If you're planning to sign up for the summer SAT date of Aug. 25, visit the College Board website and sign up by the registration deadline of July 27, or the late registration dates of Aug. 7 (for mailed registrations) or Aug. 15 (for phone or online registration).
If you've instead got your eye on the July 14 ACT date, you should visit the ACT website to register by June 15, or for late registrations, June 22.
Keep in mind that if you were one of the students holding out to take the SAT in January, that's no longer an option. The College Board is maintaining its plan of offering the test seven times per year, which means that one test had to go to make room for the summer sitting, and it was January that was clipped from the schedule.
As for the ACT, it was offered just six times in the 2016-2017 school year, so the new schedule will allow you to take it one extra time. Check the website, however, to make sure that the summer tests are offered in your area. According to the ACT's site, the July test will not be offered in New York or California this summer or next (2019).
Keep an Eye out for Updates
It's possible that students who now have access to summertime testing will achieve higher scores. Keep in mind, however, that higher scores across the board may prompt colleges to boost their expectations. “It will be interesting to see how colleges react to these new test scores," Wyczalek said. “If more students earn higher test scores, colleges may adjust the minimum score needed to obtain scholarships."
He points to the redesigned SAT test that debuted in 2016, which prompted some schools to list scholarships with required SAT scores that differed, depending on whether the student took the “old SAT" or the “new one."
No matter which test date you choose, keep in mind that your test score is just one piece in the college admissions puzzle. “Cultivating relationships with recruiters, visiting colleges and finding your niche can turn your admission decision into a yes and turn your scholarship into a wow," he said.