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Articles / Applying to College / Can Daughter Apply Now, Submit Improved Test Scores Later?

Sept. 17, 2017

Can Daughter Apply Now, Submit Improved Test Scores Later?

Question: My daughter scored an 850 on her SAT and 19 on ACT. The deadline is approaching for early admissions for some colleges. She is in the process of being tutored for an upcoming SAT in December (which is past the deadline for many early priority applications). Should she still apply before the deadline and can she still submit her test scores if they improve after the fact?

A student can always submit improved test scores after an application deadline, and—in most cases—admission officials will use them in place of the lower ones IF the new scores arrive before a verdict has been issued.


However, in this case, I can't advise you responsibly without having more information. Here are two important questions:

1. WHAT ARE THE DEADLINES AND NOTIFICATION DATES AT THE COLLEGES TO WHICH YOUR DAUGHTER WANTS TO APPLY EARLY?

For instance, if your daughter is applying via Early Action or Early Decision to colleges with notification in mid-December, then her decisions will probably be made at some point in late November or early December, and so her fate will be sealed before colleges receive her new scores later in December. If however, the notification isn't until January or thereafter, then the colleges are likely to consider the December scores.

2. WHAT ARE THE SAT AND ACT MEDIANS AT THESE TARGET COLLEGES?

If your daughter's current scores are below the median range at her target colleges, then I don't recommend that she apply Early unless she has a major “hook" (e.g., she is a recruited athlete, underrepresented minority student, has a truly atypical background, or is a VIP). I would also recommend that, if she does apply now, she should submit ONLY her ACT score since her ACT Composite of 19 converts to roughly 980 on the SAT ... thus better than her 850.

But do be careful about urging her to apply Early if her ACT of 19 is not in the median range and if she has none of the aforementioned hooks. Although there is no guarantee that her scores will go up in December, you don't want colleges to knock her out of the running before she's even had the chance to show them her best stuff.

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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