Test Prep

Test Score Was Higher Than Expected -- Should You Change Your College List This Late?

iStock

It's October of your senior year, and you just got your SAT or ACT score report back with a nice surprise – you did a lot better than you expected!

What's especially exciting is that these strong scores may impact your college choices in a good way. As you start looking back over your college list, you'll realize that such solid test scores mean you can now realistically apply to several of your dream schools that were previously unreachable.


This is great news, for sure, but first thing's first. Before you totally modify your list of target schools, be sure that your new and improved scores at least fall into the median score range for the school(s) you want to add. You can find this information on the school's admissions page. Once you've confirmed that your new scores do, in fact, fit your new school's class profile, read on to find out what's involved in changing your college list this late in the game.

Meeting Deadlines

Wendy Williams, an educational consultant and owner of Williams Educational Consultants in Roswell, Ga., says that even when students receive better scores, she recommends they continue with Early Action deadlines (usually Nov. 1 or 15) for the colleges already on their lists. If you can get the required application materials together in time, you can also apply for the Early Action deadline for any additional schools.

“Students should feel free to add additional regular applications to schools that could possibly fit their needs. As long as the student meets the required deadline, then he or she can still apply to the university of his or her choice. My students have a working list of colleges up until January of their senior years. Most of our students keep their list the same regardless of awards, test results, etc., but students are aware that their college list can be changed if needed,” explains Williams.

If you apply Regular Decision at your additional schools, you will have plenty of time to do more research on them. Start researching when you get your scores in October, and then you can be ready to apply in mid-December (before Christmas break starts) for the January deadlines.

Research New Schools

Just because your better scores could possibly get you into a school on your dream list, you should first take the time to understand exactly what it is about the school that makes it an important addition to your college list. Williams says that students should ask themselves the following questions before applying to any additional schools:

- What is the college offering?

- Why are you attracted to this particular school?

- Is the location similar to the locations of the other schools?

- Are there clubs, internships and/or study abroad programs that make this a good choice for you?

“I would also highly recommend that students complete their other applications prior to adding on any new college names to their list. Once the student has finished their applications, then he or she can begin working on the additional schools of interest. Students should not lose sight of schools that were discussed and agreed upon through a lens of a possible additional institution.”

Withdrawing An Application

While adding extra colleges to your application list is fine as long as you can apply by the deadlines, you could also withdraw an application from a school you are no longer interested in -- perhaps you applied to it as a safety school or simply changed your mind. However, be aware that colleges do not ever offer refunds for application fees. Most colleges will warn you about this before you click the “Submit” button at the end of the application process. If you decide to go through with the withdrawal, Williams advises contacting the admissions office of the school to let an admissions representative know that you are withdrawing your application.

It's also unnecessary to cancel your SAT or ACT score reports if you decide not to apply to a certain school where you have already sent your score report. If the college does not have a complete file from you by the application deadline, the admissions office will contact you to let you know that there are documents missing (namely, your entire application!). Williams says that in this case, “the only thing the student should possibly do is to let the college know that he or she is not applying and to disregard the scores.”

Look at it this way: If your new scores are well within the median range of the new target school's class profile, the rest of your application also positions you as a strong match for this school and your research shows that the school is a strong match for your academic and career goals — well, there will be nothing to regret except not applying!