Dec 18, 2015

College Board reporting problems result in more SAT delays

Iowa State University only requires score reports after admission

It turns out that score reporting problems experienced by the College Board are more serious than originally thought. In an email sent to colleges, many of which still working on admissions decisions for early action or early decision candidates, the College Board recently announced changes to the schedule and frequency with which SAT scores would be delivered to institutions.  

“We will be processing SAT score send orders somewhat less frequently than we have in the past,” explained the email.  “We know this may impact your application processes…”

Well, yes, it does have an impact on the ability of admissions offices to make final decisions and convey those decisions to students in a timely manner.

“I feel for all those students who are anxiously waiting. Most colleges go on break, so they will have to wait even longer,” said one local admissions officer. “Families get mad at us thinking we are dragging our feet, when in fact we have been working hard to get every decision that we can out by Christmas!”

The most recent notification follows a notice circulated at the end of November in response to complaints that scores from October and November had not been posted or sent to colleges.  

According to the College Board, beginning with the October 2015 SAT administration, score reports were reformatted and delivered through a new electronic reporting system presumably redesigned to accommodate the complicated series of scores generated by the “new” SAT set to launch in March 2016.

And in the middle of what is the busiest season for score report requests, the new system failed. Scores were delayed and the College Board was unable to provide reports as promised.

In the November communication, the College Board assured students and their families that “Scores from the October and previous SAT administrations have been delivered to colleges, with the exception of a very small number of outstanding scores that we are working directly with students and institutions to resolve.” 

The status of the November scores, however, was less clear.  Students were advised they could view their scores online and that these scores were in the process of being delivered to colleges—maybe.  Students were directed to an overburdened and difficult-to-access phone system with questions, particularly those arising from situations where in fact the scores had not been delivered to institutions.

High schools were also not so lucky.  The College Board reported, “We are working to deliver electronic score reports to K-12 institutions as quickly as possible.” In other words, high schools would be unable to provide back-up score reporting services for institutions agreeable to receiving this information from school counseling offices on behalf of students whose reports were significantly delayed or who simply could not afford additional reports.

And rushing scores was a waste of time and money. In fact, rush orders placed after October 15 were subject to a refund of the $31 fee if the order was not fulfilled within two days from the time it was placed. Students were asked to “order additional score reports using only the regular reporting service” as “processing times vary and delivery times cannot be guaranteed.”

Evidently, the problem is so bad that it’s beginning to affect colleges trying to complete admissions reviews before the holidays.  Reports are not only late, but have been riddled with problems.  The entire batch of reports sent on December 15 had to be re-sent the next day because of “an error in the format of .txt files.”

The College Board advised colleges on December 15, that between December 16 and December 30, they will be processing and delivering “only score sends students ordered when they registered for the December SAT.” In addition, colleges “will not receive additional or rush score report orders during this time.” It appears that any of those orders placed between December 13 and December 28 will be delivered to colleges on December 30, 2015.

“Unbelievable! We are trying to complete our last few EA apps that have been missing their SAT scores,” complained an admissions director based in New England.  “Very frustrating to say the least.”

Note that many colleges have indicated a willingness to accept screenshots of scores and/or score reports provided by high schools, provided they have them.

But even better might be the model adapted by the University of Iowa and Iowa State University, in which official score reports are submitted only after the student has been admitted.

And then there’s always the test optional route.  Between score reporting problems experienced this year by both ACT and the College Board, the list of colleges moving in this direction continues to grow—and for many good reasons!

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