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

Should I Apply Now or Wait for New ACT Scores?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Jan. 15, 2015

Question: I wanna know when should I apply for college. I have good grades and great extracurriculars, but my ACT scores are on the low side. The first time I took it I think my scores were sent to the school, but I’m going to take it again. So should I wait to apply so I can give the school my better score?

“The Dean” is flying without radar here. It’s hard to answer your question without knowing where you’re applying and exactly how much below the median at these places your “on the low side” ACT scores actually are.

If you were a junior, I’d say that you should definitely wait to retake the ACT before applying. But your “Ask the Dean” form indicates that you are a senior, and so the clock is ticking.  If your top-choice colleges have Rolling Admission and if they accept fewer than about 70 percent of their applicants, then you don’t want to lose out because you applied too late. Instead, send your application NOW but also email your regional admissions rep. (This is the staff member who oversees applications from your high school. You can get his or her name and contact info from the school’s Web site or by telephoning the admission office.) Explain to the rep that you are retaking the ACT and are hoping that your file will be reviewed after the new scores arrive.

If your top-choice colleges have a late admission deadline (in March or thereafter), you can wait for your new scores. However, some universities give financial aid and/or housing priority to those who apply early. So check the policies at each of your colleges before making a decision about when to apply. I also suggest that you take at least one ACT practice test to try to determine if your scores are truly likely to go up significantly. Keep in mind that practice test scores are usually better than the “real” ones, so if you don’t see a big jump when you compute the practice results, then get those applications out right away!

Good luck to you whatever you decide.


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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