Question: My son scored a 31 on his ACT in June. He is taking it again tomorrow. If he scores lower this time, will his prospective colleges see this new score--or will they only see it if we send it to them? (Obviously we are happy with the first, but just trying to see if he can improve it by a couple of points.) However, if it would hurt him if he went down, I would not want to take that chance.
Your son may require a college degree ... preferably from an elite school of technology ...in order to decipher which scores colleges will ... and must ... see. ;-)
Short version (well, sort of):
If your son entered any college names on his ACT registration form (in order to take advantage of the "free" score reports the ACT provides) then those schools he named will receive his new score. (Colleges to which he sent scores in the past will NOT automatically receive the new one if your son did not list them on his latest form.)
Other reasons that colleges might see the new score:
1) Some high schools put them on transcripts. Does yours?
2) Many colleges require that students send ALL test scores. (If your son is applying to colleges with this requirement, it is up to him to forward the scores. The colleges will only get the new score if your son has proactively ordered it.)
Here, for instance, is Yale's score submission policy:
Yale requires results from all of the SAT I and SAT II tests or all of the ACT tests you have taken. If you choose to fulfill our testing requirement with SAT scores, then it is not necessary to send any scores from the ACT, even if you have taken the ACT. And if you choose to fulfill the requirement using the ACT, you do not need to send us any SAT scores, unless you wish.
However, and this is important, if you elect to use the SAT scores, you must report all scores from all SAT exams (both SAT I and SAT II) that you have taken. If you elect to use ACT scores, you must report all scores from all ACT exams you have taken. And if you choose to use a combination of SAT and ACT results, we require that you report all scores from both agencies.
So if your son is applying to Yale--or to any college with similar requirements--he's supposed to send in all of his ACT scores if sending in any ACT's. But, again, this won't happen automatically if your son did not include a college's name on the sign-up form.
Finally, if your son's newest test result turns out to be lower than a 31 and the colleges do get a gander at it, most will still officially "use" the higher score. Granted, if the second score is a lot lower, this may have some subconscious effect on those admission folks who view it. But, with everything else there is to worry about throughout this frustrating process, that should be pretty low on the list.