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ACT Process

ACT scores are arriving this week and others are getting set to register to take the next test so wanted to touch on some important points about the registration process and what actually happens with your score.

How to Send Your ACT Scores: 2 Methods

You can send your ACT scores either when you take the test or any time after you get your scores.

Method 1: Use Your Four Free Score Reports

From the time you register for the ACT until noon Central Time the Thursday after your test date, you have the option of sending out four free score reports to colleges or scholarship programs. However, this means you'll be sending your scores without having actually seen them.

Whether you should take this free reports offer really depends on your circumstances:

Pros: These four reports are free, so you'll save some money.

Cons: You won’t be able to take advantage of the ACT score choice policy (more on this later). In other words, instead of getting to pick and choose which of your scores colleges will see, your test results will be sent to colleges even if you do worse than you expect.

I recommend using the free reports to send scores to colleges that require you to send all your ACT scores.

Method 2: Order Additional Score Reports

You can also send your ACT scores any time after you receive them by logging into your ACT account or by sending in an order form for additional score reports. In your account, you can see your scores from all ACTs you've taken and create reports of these scores for colleges to see.

Here's some advice about whether you should send ACT scores after you've seen them:

Pros: You can customize each score report to have only the test dates you want to send to colleges. This lets you take advantage of ACT score choice (again, I'll tell you all about this a little further down).

Cons: Each score report costs $13 (even for students eligible for fee waivers), and each report can only have one test date and one college on it. For example, sending one test score to 10 schools costs $130, while sending four test scores to one school costs $52. Priority reports cost even more: $16.50 per report. These fees add up quickly, so think carefully about what you want to send where.

Here are some recommendations on when to send additional score reports:

  1. Send scores with your best section results to colleges that superscore the ACT. These schools will make a new composite score for you using your best English, Math, Reading, and Science scores from any ACTs you took.

  2. Send your single highest score to colleges that neither superscore nor require all your scores, to ACT scholarship programs, and to the NCAA/NAIA so you can play college baseball.

IMPORTANT - Some people and websites claim that you can print out your scores from the ACT website and mail or fax them to colleges as a way of sending scores for free. Unfortunately, the vast majority of colleges only accept score reports sent by ACT, Inc. What's more, most colleges only accept electronic scores through ACT's special service.

Can You Choose Which ACT Scores to Send?

Because of the way the ACT score ordering process is structured—you get to pick which score or scores to send to which colleges—their policy ends up being almost identical to the College Board's Score Choice policy for the SAT. (The ACT doesn’t call it Score Choice, but I will for the sake of simplicity.)

Let's say you took the ACT twice. The first time you took it you were getting over the flu and having a terrible day. The basic idea of ACT Score Choice is that you can send just your second test score to your target colleges and pretend your first test didn’t even happen.

Here are some of the major pros and cons of ACT Score Choice:

Pros: Score Choice is awesome for colleges that don’t want to see all your ACT scores. It's also perfect for colleges that superscore—you can send your schools just those test dates that have your highest section scores. It’s also the best way to send your highest score to scholarship programs and the NCAA/NAIA.

Cons: You have to be careful and read your target colleges' score submission policies carefully. Failing to send all your ACT scores to colleges that require all of them could jeopardize your application! Because each score report can only have one college and one score on it, sending out many reports can get really expensive fast.

Should You Send ACT Scores Early?

Some students have heard that sending ACT scores early (maybe even in your junior year!) shows colleges that you're a very interested applicant. It’s true that there is such a thing as demonstrated interest—admissions committees sometimes want to see proof that an applicant sincerely wants to go to their school. But demonstrated interest only comes into play after your full application has been submitted, usually as a way to move someone up on a waitlist. Sending ACT scores early will not give you an edge or constitute demonstrated interest. Generally, if you send scores to a college but haven’t applied there yet, the admissions committee will simply save them under your name in a general file until your application shows up. They don’t keep track of whose scores get there first. Also, if you send your scores early but are still planning to retake the ACT, you won't get the full benefit of Score Choice since you won't be able to choose between that early score and ones from later tests.

When Should ACT Scores Get to Colleges?

Here is the process -

Step 1: ACT, Inc., Scores Your Test

This usually takes two weeks for multiple-choice scores (but can take up to eight). It takes an extra two weeks for Writing scores (if you took the ACT with Writing).

Step 2: Score Reports Are Posted Online and Processed for Sending

Scores are posted online as soon as multiple-choice results are ready (and Writing results are added two weeks later when they are finished). However, if you tested through State and District or your School, you’ll only see your scores online after getting your printed score report in the mail. If you registered for the four free score reports, these are sent out as soon as your full score report (multiple choice plus Writing, if you took the latter as well) is ready. Any score reports ordered through the ACT website take about one week of processing before being sent to colleges.

Step 3: Colleges Receive ACT Scores

Most colleges get ACT scores electronically. The schools themselves determine how often they receive scores. The least frequent possibility is once every two weeks, though most schools choose to receive scores far more often. A small number of colleges receive paper score

reports sent by first-class mail. Remember that there will be a lag between when a college gets your scores and when it adds them to your application file.

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