Test Prep

Should You Register for Tests If Results Won't Come Back Until After Applications Are Due?

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Most high school students have accepted the fact that life sometimes gets in the way of your most well-thought out plans -- plans like taking the SAT or ACT before your senior year.

Maybe you kept trying to find time to study for the test, but with homework and extracurriculars, things just got too hectic. Next thing you know, junior year is over and you still haven't taken the SAT or ACT. But you really do need those scores for your college applications, which are often due in December of your senior year.


So what can you do? Even if you think your scores may be sent to your target schools past the application deadline, you should still register for the tests. After all, it is your last chance to take the SAT or ACT, and if your applications require test scores, then there's nothing to do but register and start studying as soon as possible.

Register ASAP

If you're now realizing you haven't taken any of the tests yet, register as soon as possible. October test scores will typically make it in time for December deadlines if you are applying under most Early Decision or Early Action programs. If you take the SAT in November, however, you can't always count on your test scores to make it in time for early decision or early action consideration. These deadlines are usually early to mid-November, most often Nov. 1 or Nov. 15.

Maria Laskaris, a senior private counselor at Top Tier Admissions and former Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Dartmouth College, says a student can technically send in test scores after the college application deadline has passed.

However, “the scores may be received too late to have an impact on the review process, especially at schools with large applicant pool and a very low admit rate," she advises. "These highly selective schools tend to have a quick first read process that sorts candidates into groups based on likelihood of admission, and it can be difficult to resurrect a file once it starts move down the path to waitlist or deny.”

But -- because the review of your late test scores can come down to the size and popularity of your target school, you should check the admission statistics to see if sending in late scores could pose a challenge. On the other hand, schools with a smaller application volume will likely have more time for multiple reviews of all applicants.

If you do end up registering for a late test date that won't deliver your scores to colleges until after their deadlines, Laskaris says that you should definitely notify the schools about this. But beware that “at the bigger volume schools, that email will most likely just get routed to your file and never actually seen by a reader,” she adds.

Plan Ahead

Ask any high school counselor or admissions expert, and they will all tell you the same thing about taking the SAT or ACT: “Plan ahead.” It sounds pretty simple and straightforward, but it does mean that you'll have to be prepared to take the SAT or ACT by the end of your junior year or, at the very latest, by October of your senior year.

Although Laskaris admits that colleges “don't frown on late scores per se,” she points out that it's not really a smart strategy to wait until the last minute to take the required tests. She advises students not to procrastinate, especially as some of your target schools will no doubt require or recommend the SAT, ACT and/or Subject Tests.

“Get the tests done before you apply, and put in the necessary prep time to do your very best. Also remember that a school's testing policies can change, but we always advise students to plan to take these exams, even if a school doesn't require them. Great test scores, along with a strong record of achievement in a rigorous curriculum and clear evidence of impact in the school and community, will always strengthen an application.”