Should I Submit ACT score or SAT Score?

To submit ACT score, or not to submit, that is the question. While students (and their parents) spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, on test prep and college applications, very few tutors (and even guidance counselors) know how to answer this question.

Most tutors and test prep companies do not give students and parents adequate counseling in sending test scores. Why? Because it's complicated. Most tutors and test prep companies would prefer to keep it simple, but if you plan to apply to the selective and highly selective colleges and/or as a recruited athlete, you need to understand the which scores to send to colleges.

Best Submission Options

Hang in with me as I try to enumerate the different options for submitting scores, so you can decide whether or not to submit ACT score or SAT score or both.   If you are unsure which test is right for you, then I suggest reading "Should I take the ACT or New SAT?" for an overview of both tests. If you are looking to score higher on the tests, here are my book recommendations for the ACT and new SAT and online SAT program recommendations.

Option#1: Submit ACT score and SAT score

Students and parents may be surprised to learn that I hardly ever recommend students submit the results of both tests to colleges. Why? Because in my experience, typically one of the tests is stronger than the other, so there is really no benefit to submitting the weaker test, especially the SAT. And if you read further, there are several reasons why a student may benefit from submitting the ACT scores or the SAT scores, not both.

Option #2: Submit ACT score or SAT Score

Most often I recommend students submit the test score(s) from the exam the student performed better on. If you take both the SAT and ACT, you are not obligated to send both scores, unless the individual college has a very restrictive policy (which is rare, such as Stanford). If you are not sure how to compare the scores from each test, then you will need to convert the ACT score to the New SAT or (Old SAT), before you decide to submit ACT score or SAT score to colleges.

Because colleges are obligated to report the median SAT scores for all entering students to the college ratings organizations, like US News and World Reports, if you send in a lower SAT score, the college must report that score, even if your ACT score was higher. Up until now, these ratings groups have been focusing mainly on the SAT scores, not the ACT scores, so sending in lower ACT scores is typically less of a problem. As the ACT becomes more popular, this advantage may disappear.

*Note: The methodology for calculating scores is based on the test score for whichever test was most taken by students submitting applications to that college. 

Option #3: Do Not Submit Any Scores

You mean, I can skip the SAT and ACT altogether? Sounds like a dream come true. And it can be for some students. Some colleges realize that not every student is a standardized test taking whiz. Colleges also know that some students perform poorly on the SAT or ACT for multiple reasons. Therefore, some colleges have decided to make the SAT and ACT "test optional".  What does that exactly mean? For less selective schools, particularly public state schools, students with a strong GPA (3.0 to 3.5 and above) may not need to submit any test scores to gain admission. These schools believe the GPA reveals the student's strong academic abilities not a single exam.

For more selective private colleges, students who choose to apply "test optional" will need a stronger GPA (3.8 and above typically) and other academic and non-academic strengths in the application. Some of these colleges make the SAT or ACT optional but still expect the student to submit Subject Tests instead. If you would like to explore this option, here is a list of  800 colleges that make the SAT or ACT test optional.

Be Careful!

CautionIf you are a good student with a strong GPA (3.5 or higher) who might qualify for merit-based college scholarships, you need to check with the individual college to see if the merit aid scholarship requires you to submit official test scores (most likely so). If so, you may want to submit ACT score or SAT score, especially if they are within the upper range of the average test scores of that college.

Do I Have to Send SAT Subject Tests?

There are very few colleges now that require students to submit Subject Tests scores from typically two content areas. These tests are typically submitted in addition to the SAT or ACT. Most of the colleges that require (or highly recommend) these Subject Tests are highly selective ones (like Harvard and other Ivy League) and selective, small liberal arts colleges (like my alma mater Vassar College). To make things easier, here is a list of colleges that require Subject Tests as part of the college application.

Note: If college asks for Subject Tests, they expect these scores to be very strong (650+) to stay competitive with other applicants, so you need to study for them.

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