Sep 12, 2009

More Headaches from Score Choice™

Students who have progressed to the point of actually completing college applications may face yet another SAT Score Choice™ hurdle. As if it weren’t bad enough coping with which application to use (school-based, Common Application, Universal College Application) and the complications of completing those pesky supplements some schools require, students will now have to coordinate carefully which scores they self-report on the application form with which scores they request from the College Board.

When students request score reports to be sent to colleges on their list, they need to make certain that their self-reporting on applications corresponds to which scores are being sent:

  • ACT or NO ACT
  • SAT Reasoning Score Choice—single highest “sitting(s)”
  • SAT Reasoning NO Score Choice—all scores
  • SAT Subject Score Choice—selected scores only
  • SAT Subject NO Score Choice—all scores from all subjects.

Students using either the Common Application or the Universal College Application have the option of “tailoring” self-reported scores by creating alternate versions of their applications and entering test scores for one set of schools and other test scores for a second set of schools. Instructions are provided with both applications on how to create alternate versions, but it’s a headache and one more administrative problem arising from Score Choice. So much for the efficiency of completing one, single application!

It’s up to students to make certain that they are complying with the various Score Choice policies imposed by different colleges. And, these are not always entirely clear. If applying to Stanford, students must report all SAT Reasoning and all ACT scores. They may, however, use Score Choice for SAT Subject Tests as these tests are considered optional. Penn and Georgetown applicants must submit ALL scores including all SAT Reasoning Tests, all SAT Subject Tests, and all ACT's. If applying to Harvard, students may use Score Choice for both the SAT Reasoning and the SAT Subject tests—or not. In the latter case, Harvard will choose the highest scores from all sittings to use in their evaluations. Students may also elect to send ACT scores. Harvard doesn’t care. But again, once a decision is made about which scores are going where, it would seem important to coordinate both application completion and test report requests. Otherwise, the student takes a chance of not complying with a school’s stated score report policies. And that would not look too good.

In a website note prepared to help students understand its policy concerning Score Choice, Pomona College warns:

"When the College Board offered a score choice option several years ago, literally thousands of students across the country lost track of which scores were sent to which colleges. Many students failed to meet deadlines and many colleges based decisions (including the decision to deny admission) based upon incomplete information."

While referring only to previous College Board policies concerning SAT Subject Tests, the advice should be well taken by applicants and counselors.


  1. I have a question. If a student takes both the ACT and the SAT, and, using the conversion table, one score is significantly higher than the other, can one report only the higher score? The common application seems to require reporting of ALL tests taken, including the dates and scores. It is illegal or unethical to omit a lower ACT or SAT score on the common application?

  2. Ah, but this is the rub. It's not the Common Application that sets the rules. The individual colleges must establish their own policies with regard to reporting. Some are clear and some are not so clear. But, for the most part colleges allow you to decide which scores--ACT or SAT to submit. Unless a college, like Georgetown for example, specifically states that the applicant MUST send all scores, you are free to provide whichever places you in the best competitive light. And then, you request those official score reports from the appropriate testing agency.

    It's up to you to do the research on school test score reporting policies. If you conform to those policies, there are no issues.