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Articles / Applying to College / Do Admission Officials SEE All SAT Scores?

Do Admission Officials SEE All SAT Scores?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Oct. 2, 2008

Question: We're told that colleges consider only the highest SAT scores. But the report they receive from the College Board shows all scores. What assurance do we have, if any, that admissions people are in fact only seeing the highest scores? To put it another way, what's to prevent them consulting the full report if they want to?

Depending on the protocol at your child's target colleges, admission committees may indeed see all of the SAT scores, even though they may officially "use" only the highest ones. At some colleges, the secretarial staff will prepare a "tally sheet" (called by different names in different places) which includes the statistical information that will be part of the evaluation process (test scores, GPA, rank, etc.). Commonly, just the top test results go on the tally sheet, so the admission committees won't see the other scores. But, in many cases, the full range of scores will be on score reports in the student's folder or even on the high school transcript, so the decision makers will eyeball them, even if they're not formally considering them.


As you've noted, many colleges do only formally consider the best scores, even if from different test dates. Some schools, however, will use the best overall score but from the same test date. But, as you suggest, it's likely that they'll still get a look at all of the numbers and perhaps will be subliminally influenced at least a tiny bit, even if they're trying not to be. Thus, my advice is to try to avoid thinking about all this hairsplitting stuff, as best you can. It will just drive you nuts!

Note, too, that next year the College Board will introduce a new score-choice option so that students can decide which test results go to colleges. The ACT already allows this choice. Some folks applaud the SAT score-reporting change while others fear that some students will take the tests a gazillion extra times with the hope of bettering their scores, and this will give yet another advantage to the well-heeled who won't flinch at the extra testing costs.

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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