Preparing for College

Must Daughter Submit Subject Test Score?

Question: My daughter (who finished 10th grade today) struggled for a B- in Chemistry at a very competitive boarding school. She is scheduled to take the SAT 2 Chem test Saturday. If she doesn't do well does she have to submit the scores to colleges?

Will there ever be world peace? Is God dead? Why do some things at the Dollar Store cost five dollars?

Your question ("If she doesn't do well does she have to submit the scores to colleges?") is yet another one of the great mysteries of our times.

In theory, your daughter will have a "Score Choice" option that will allow her decide which scores to submit to colleges and which to withhold.

However, many colleges have proclaimed that they are not participating in Score Choice, and thus they require students to submit all scores from all tests taken. (It's impossible to guess how many students are risking bad karma by ignoring these edicts, but I think it's safe to say that not everyone plays by the rules and there's no way for colleges to know when scofflaw applicants are not complying.)

This is the current list of test-submission policies: You'll see that there's no pattern that governs the roster of institutions that require "All Scores." This list ranges from some of the most hyper-competitive schools to the most obscure.

Note, too, that this list is from last fall and is likely to change by your daughter's senior year. So, when the time comes, her best bet is to read college Web sites carefully to see what each college she's applying to demands.

In most cases, if ALL scores are required it will say so clearly. For instance, on the Cornell admission site, you will see:

Please note that Cornell requires students to submit all scores from tests taken and does not participate in the College Board’s Score Choice.

This means that applicants are on their honor to report all test results, whether they like 'em or not.

But if the instructions simply say, "We require SAT or ACT scores," then this usually means that the college participates in Score Choice, so she will only have to send some scores, not all, if she doesn't wish to.

Note also that, regardless of which scores your daughter plans to withhold, college admission officials may see them anyway if her high school includes them on her transcript. If she does plan to utilize the Score Choice option, you should check with the college counselor to see what the school policy is regarding test scores and transcripts. If the school plans to put scores on the transcript that your daughter would like to withhold, ask the counselor to delete them. (Most schools are good about this, although I've heard some reports of battles over this issue, especially at larger high schools where it is time-consuming to accommodate individual needs. But this shouldn't be the case at your daughter's boarding school.)

In any case, good luck to her on Saturday. She may find that, even if she struggled in a tough class, she'll still be well prepared for the chemistry Subject Test and will happily submit her score, thus avoiding all the Score-Choice confusion. And, perhaps by the time she reaches 12th grade, this process will be simpler and saner ... but I wouldn't bet the mortgage money on that. ;-)