Submitting SAT Scores: Strategizing Which Results to Send


Submitting SAT Scores: Strategizing Which Results to Send

When putting together applications, students have so much to think about, from essays and extracurricular activities, to transcripts and letters of recommendation. This often means dedicating countless hours to an application that, in the end, admissions officers spend just 10-15 minutes reviewing. In other words, applicants must make a compelling argument about themselves in roughly the same amount of time it takes to unload the dishwasher. When deciding what you feature in that rapid read, you’ll have to make some tough choices. So it’s essential for you to learn which information to cut and which to keep, and submitting SAT scores is no exception. 

You might have taken the SAT more than once and scored differently each time. Since you get a very small window to impress colleges, you want to put your best scores forward. Enter the SAT Score Choice program, which allows students greater agency when it comes to submitting SAT scores. Many top schools such as Brown, Columbia, Dartmouth, Johns Hopkins, UChicago, and Northwestern let you decide which scores you want to submit. In order to use Score Choice to your advantage as an applicant, you should keep the following in mind:

1. Score Choice is not the same as Superscoring.

When submitting SAT scores, remember the distinction between Score Choice and Superscore. While Score Choice lets you decide whether or not to send a complete SAT report from a certain test day, it doesn’t allow you to pick and choose specific section scores. In other words, it’s not possible to send a Math score from one test day and an Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) score from another day, even if that may be your highest possible combination of scores.

For example, if you’ve scored 800 in Math and 680 in EBRW during your first SAT sitting, but 750 in both sections in the second sitting, you will not be allowed to choose the Math score from your first sitting for a composite score. When submitting SAT scores to schools with Score Choice, choosing the highest composite score is more important, even if that means sacrificing your perfect score on the Math section. 

This is where Superscoring comes in handy when allowed. Superscoring is a policy used by some colleges committed to considering the best score from each section when you’ve sat for the SAT multiple times.   

2. School policy determines how your scores will be evaluated.

Because schools have various policies about submitting SAT scores, it’s important for applicants to understand the differences. According to the College Board, policies regarding submitting SAT scores can generally be divided into three different practices:

Highest section scores across test dates: The school considers your highest section scores across all SAT test dates that you submit. Note that there are two versions of this practice: one that keeps lower scores visible and one that only sees the highest scores (a true Superscore).

  • Schools with this policy: Boston College (version 2), University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign (version 2), Princeton (version 2)
  • For these schools, you should send scores from all dates that will contribute to the highest Superscore.
  • To check whether a school uses either of these versions, look up the college on College Board’s SAT Score Use Practice by Participating Institutions handbook.

Single highest test date: The school considers SAT scores from your single highest test date. Note that there are two versions of this practice also: one that also considers scores from other test dates and one that only considers the single highest test date.

  • Schools with this policy: Ohio State (version 2), Penn State (version 2), University of Minnesota (version 1)
  • For these schools, it’s only necessary to send scores from one test date. However, if the school states it also considers scores from other dates and you performed better in one section on another date, there’s no harm in sending scores from multiple dates.
  • To check whether a school uses either of these versions, look up the college on College Board’s SAT Score Use Practice by Participating Institutions handbook.

All SAT Scores Required: The school considers all SAT scores and requires submission of all SAT scores from all test dates.

  • Schools with this policy: Yale, Barnard, all UC system schools 
  • This policy is in place precisely because the schools will be considering your lower scores; however, one relatively low score on your record can be balanced out by other components of your academic record, like your GPA. If you apply to schools that consider all scores and some of your SAT scores are on the lower end, invest extra work into developing your personal statement and activities list. Make your background so compelling that admissions officers are ready to admit you anyway!

Here is an overview of the information directly from College Board:

Submitting SAT Scores

It’s essential that you do the appropriate research and understand the policies of each school and their specific requirements in advance.

To obtain score policy information on the school you’re applying to, Google “SAT Score-Use Practice” or click here to access the handbook. In the book, you can view the policies for every school - listed in alphabetical order - from page 4 onwards. Find the school of your choice, and note whether the school requires you to submit all scores, highest sitting version 1 or 2, highest section version 1 or 2, or whether some schools, such as Caltech and Wake Forest don’t publicly state their policies and instead ask applicants to contact them directly with questions.

The score policy each school uses could impact which colleges you apply to. If you really don’t want a school to see your scores from a certain test date, it’s important to look up their policy before you’re sure you want the school on your list.

3. “Good” or “bad” scores depend on YOUR profile and target schools.

If you’re wondering whether your SAT score is competitive enough for a certain school on your list, you should compare what you will be submitting (highest section scores or highest test date) to the median scores of admitted students at the school.

For example, let’s say you have a single highest test date score of 1390 and a Superscore of 1470. Your dream school is Case Western Reserve University. By looking at admissions statistics on the school website, you find that the middle 50% of SAT scores for the latest incoming class is 1350-1490, with a median of 1420.

Because Case Western’s policy for submitting SAT scores is only to take the highest section scores across test dates, you would use your Superscore (1470) to assess your competitiveness, which in this case places you near the 75th percentile of admitted students. While not at the very top of curve, this is a strong score and is unlikely to limit your chances of admission in the way a score below the 25th percentile might.  

This same process can be used to determine the competitiveness of SAT Subject Test scores, which will be discussed in the next section.

4. Score Choice also applies to SAT Subject Tests, but you should first be aware of what colleges are looking for.

Although most students don’t take SAT subject tests more than once, it might be useful for you to know that SAT Score Choice also applies to SAT subject tests. In the case of submitting SAT Subject Test scores, the SAT reasoning test submission rules apply to the submission of subject tests as well.  As long as the college you’re applying to doesn’t require sending all test scores from all dates, you can send just the best score from a single test date. 

If you’re not happy with your subject test scores, you don’t always have to submit them. For example, many college websites state that SAT subject test scores will be considered. This means that they don’t necessarily expect you to send them, but will weigh them as a factor if you do. So sending these schools a subject test score only makes sense if it’s strong and/or aligns with your primary academic interest. 

There are also many colleges – especially those that are more selective or specialized in certain areas – that require scores from at least two different SAT subject tests. This list includes Caltech, Harvey Mudd, MIT, and several others. Because these colleges are expecting excellence across the board, applicants should choose the subject tests that will not only result in a higher score, but also fit their academic interests. 

Since the college application process is a holistic one, your SAT score is just one piece of your overall profile. But, that doesn’t mean that submitting SAT scores should be taken lightly. Score Choice is a policy which can benefit you if used appropriately, especially if you’re not a good test taker. So when choosing your colleges, check their score submission policy. It might end up being a lifesaver.

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