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Articles / Applying to College / What to Do When Low ACT Score Was Sent to Colleges By Mistake

What to Do When Low ACT Score Was Sent to Colleges By Mistake

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Dec. 4, 2019
What to Do When Low ACT Score Was Sent to Colleges By Mistake

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In reviewing the application statuses of the colleges where my daughter applied, we saw that several of them were already in receipt of her score from the first and only ACT she took back in February. She apparently selected to have the four free scores sent to some of her target colleges. Her ACT composite score was a 23 and we hadn't planned to send that score to any schools. Her SAT score was much better: 1350. Will the schools go with the SAT, or will the low ACT score count against her? We're wondering if she should sit for the ACT again in December to try to increase that score, in the event that she gets deferred from some schools and has an opportunity to submit additional information. Her target schools are several of our state public universities. I signed her up for the ACT in an abundance of caution, but she would prefer to focus on her dual enrollment courses and is obviously better suited for the SAT.


Typically, when colleges receive both SAT and ACT scores from an applicant and those scores are not comparable (as in your daughter's case), the admission staff will officially use the higher of the two scores. After all, not only will this benefit the student, but also it will benefit the school! For instance, your daughter's ACT Composite of 23 converts to roughly 1130 on the SAT. So the college folks would rather cite her 1350 SAT score when they publish annual averages for the world to see rather than that 23. Of course, you can't put the toothpaste back in the tube. So it's possible that some of her adjudicators have already reviewed her file and considered the ACT score along with the SAT. But even so, the ACT won't play a starring role.

However, because your daughter didn't intend for her colleges to have that ACT result at all, she should email her regional admissions rep at the four places that received it and ask them to disregard it, explaining that it was submitted as part of her registration process but she prefers to stick with just her SAT scores. She should keep the message brief, but she can still stick in few words about why she's eager to attend each school, as long as these words are specific ("Your astrobiology program is unique") and not generic ("I love that you have internships") and as long as she's careful not to confuse one college with the next. ;-) Your daughter may not be thrilled with this little extra assignment, but she ought to be pleased that "The Dean" says that no new ACT is required!

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Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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