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Articles / Applying to College / Which Test Scores to Send: Should I Trust My Gut or the Admission Guy?

Oct. 4, 2012

Which Test Scores to Send: Should I Trust My Gut or the Admission Guy?

Question: My daughter took both the SAT and ACT exams. She did okay on the SAT's, but did extremely well on the ACT. Should she submit the scores from both tests, or just the ACT? A college admissions officer told her to submit the scores from both exams. My thinking was that she should just submit the ACT scores.

Today you get The Dean's favorite answer, "It depends." ;)


I'd have to know more about your daughter to answer this responsibly, but --from the little that I DO know--I think that you're right about sending only the ACT.

BUT … here are a couple questions that would help me to provide a more accurate answer:

Where is she applying … to highly competitive colleges or just fairly competitive ones?

The hyper-selective places typically require two SAT Subject tests. Most of these colleges (though not all) will waive the Subject Test requirement for applicants who took the ACT with writing. BUT … if a student like your daughter submits ONLY the ACT scores, even though she will fulfill the college’s demands she will still be up against “competitor” applicants who have shown off strengths in a broad range of areas by submitting strong SAT II results in history, physics, chem, bio, foreign language, etc. Thus your daughter might disadvantage herself by not sending Subject Test scores, too.

Some colleges will allow your daughter to send ACT results plus Subject Test results without sending SAT I scores as well. But others say that if a student is sending ANY sort of SAT scores, she must send ALL of her SAT scores.

For example, here is an excerpt from Yale’s testing policy:

As long as you provide a complete set of score reports from one testing agency (either the College Board or ACT, Inc.), you are not required to report scores from both. You can choose to report either all of your SAT results (both SAT and SAT Subject Tests) or all of your ACT results. If you want us to have any scores from both the College Board and ACT, Inc., you must report all scores from both testing agencies.

Confusing, eh? But that’s why I had to ask where your daughter is applying. If she’s aiming for Yale or a college with a similar “All-Tests” policy and sends no Subject Tests, she might be hurting herself just a little bit.

Does she have any good AP exam results?

As noted above, strong Subject Tests can show off strengths in areas that the ACT and SAT I don’t cover, which can be a big plus (if not actually an imperative) at the most selective schools. But, if your daughter can similarly show off such strengths via some AP exam results, then the Subject Test issue isn’t a biggie.

Finally, keep in mind that advice that comes from this “Dean” is unbiased, but advice that comes from real ones may not be. Colleges want as much data as they can get in order to help themselves to make some potentially tough decisions. So, based on the incomplete info that I have here, I suggest that you follow your own gut and send just the ACT.

(posted 10/4/2012)

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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