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Articles / Applying to College / Should I Apply Early Action or Wait for New ACT Scores?

June 27, 2018

Should I Apply Early Action or Wait for New ACT Scores?

Question: If I have already taken an ACT, and I got a fairly good score (31), but I want to try for a better score. Should I just go ahead and do Early Action with the 31 and then send them my next score, or should I just wait for the new test and then apply regular decision? Will I be allowed to send them a new score, or will they only see my first one? I am applying for some fairly competitive schools, and I am confident that I can do better because I experienced problems during the test that inhibited my ability to focus. Thank you for your time!

If the rest of your application is strong and you're not hoping that your first-quarter senior grades will be better than your junior grades were, then go ahead and apply with your 31. I'm assuming that you are taking the ACT by the end of October. If so, you will have your new scores by the middle of November and can get them to your Early Action colleges right away. A growing number of colleges and universities don't even require “official" scores from the testing agency until a student has been accepted and committed to enroll. So if your EA colleges are on that list, you can just send the updated scores yourself. If not, you should ask your school counselor to fax or email the scores as soon as you view them online, if you're worried about a timely arrival. Although such scores won't be considered “official," many colleges will still use them in the evaluation process while they wait for the official version to show up. Thus, if your revised ACT composite is higher than 31, you do want to get your results to your EA colleges pronto. Even if the EA deadline has passed, the admission committees will not make a final decision until after they've seen your new scores … as long as you send them promptly.


It's hard to advise you without seeing the big picture (e.g., where you're applying and your overall profile) but -- from what you have told “The Dean"-- it probably makes sense to apply Early Action if the rest of your application is strong, and then get your fall ACT results to colleges ASAP, if you did better than you did last time.

Keep in mind, however, that Early Action does not provide the admissions-odds boost that binding Early Decision usually offers. (Colleges do not want to save a space for a so-so candidate who may not even show up in September.) So don't rush to apply EA if you feel that not only your test scores but also your grades and extracurricular activities could use a little extra polish before you submit your applications.

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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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