The College Hunt – Start Early and Win

In 2008, The College Board implemented the Score Choice policy, which allows students to choose which SAT scores they wish to send to colleges.  Obviously, this gave more options to the students, which is a good thing.  But more options means more to think about, and the college application process became more complicated.

You see, colleges have the option to reject Score Choice, and require students to send all of their SAT scores.  If you look over the College Board’s informative SAT® Score-Use Practices by Participating Institution, you’ll find that colleges can choose from six different policies (counting “Contact Institution for Information” as one).

So where is this leading?  Before you decide how many times you want to take the SAT, you need to know the policies of the colleges to which you want to apply.  That means you should be thinking about colleges before your Junior year begins.

If a college rejects score choice, you won’t help yourself by taking the SAT over and over.  However, suppose you plan to apply to six different colleges, and at least three of them accept Score Choice.  You’ll want the opportunity to take the SAT many times.  That generally means taking at least one SAT in the fall of your Junior year, and beginning to study for it at least two months earlier.

On the other hand, suppose you put off taking your first SAT until May of your Junior year.  You may also forego the June exam; perhaps you plan to take Subject tests then.  If you’re going to apply to a college using Early Action or Early Decision, you’ll have only one more chance at the SAT, in October.  Better hope you don’t get sick or injured!

Now, let’s get real.  No one wants to take the SAT three or four times.  To be fair, very few people want to take it even once.  But if you’re going to play the college applications game, you should give yourself every possible advantage.  Just ask my older son, who achieved his best math score (by 50 points) on his fourth try at the SAT, and got accepted by his top choice college as a result.

There is another advantage to repeating the SAT several times.  It takes the pressure off.  You get to relax and take “an SAT,” rather than “the SAT.”  And by the time you reach your last SAT, you’ll be a seasoned pro.


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