Preparing for College

Which Test Scores to Send: Should I Trust My Gut or the Admission Guy?

Question: My daughter took both the SAT and ACT exams. She did okay on the SAT's, but did extremely well on the ACT. Should she submit the scores from both tests, or just the ACT? A college admissions officer told her to submit the scores from both exams. My thinking was that she should just submit the ACT scores.

Today you get The Dean's favorite answer, "It depends." ;)

I'd have to know more about your daughter to answer this responsibly, but --from the little that I DO know--I think that you're right about sending only the ACT.

BUT … here are a couple questions that would help me to provide a more accurate answer:

Where is she applying … to highly competitive colleges or just fairly competitive ones?

The hyper-selective places typically require two SAT Subject tests. Most of these colleges (though not all) will waive the Subject Test requirement for applicants who took the ACT with writing. BUT … if a student like your daughter submits ONLY the ACT scores, even though she will fulfill the college’s demands she will still be up against “competitor” applicants who have shown off strengths in a broad range of areas by submitting strong SAT II results in history, physics, chem, bio, foreign language, etc. Thus your daughter might disadvantage herself by not sending Subject Test scores, too.

Some colleges will allow your daughter to send ACT results plus Subject Test results without sending SAT I scores as well. But others say that if a student is sending ANY sort of SAT scores, she must send ALL of her SAT scores.

For example, here is an excerpt from Yale’s testing policy:

As long as you provide a complete set of score reports from one testing agency (either the College Board or ACT, Inc.), you are not required to report scores from both. You can choose to report either all of your SAT results (both SAT and SAT Subject Tests) or all of your ACT results. If you want us to have any scores from both the College Board and ACT, Inc., you must report all scores from both testing agencies.

Confusing, eh? But that’s why I had to ask where your daughter is applying. If she’s aiming for Yale or a college with a similar “All-Tests” policy and sends no Subject Tests, she might be hurting herself just a little bit.

Does she have any good AP exam results?

As noted above, strong Subject Tests can show off strengths in areas that the ACT and SAT I don’t cover, which can be a big plus (if not actually an imperative) at the most selective schools. But, if your daughter can similarly show off such strengths via some AP exam results, then the Subject Test issue isn’t a biggie.

Finally, keep in mind that advice that comes from this “Dean” is unbiased, but advice that comes from real ones may not be. Colleges want as much data as they can get in order to help themselves to make some potentially tough decisions. So, based on the incomplete info that I have here, I suggest that you follow your own gut and send just the ACT.

(posted 10/4/2012)