Despite some colleges going test optional, many students will still want to submit their ACT scores to bolster their applications and stand out from their peers. Keep reading to learn how to send ACT scores and how long it will take.
Should I Send My ACT Scores?
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, more colleges are becoming increasingly flexible with their testing policies. Before, it was considered essential for a student to take either the ACT or SAT test (which is administered by College Board, rather than ACT Inc.) in order to be admitted to a good school. Now, more colleges are becoming test optional, given how hard it has been for students to prepare for and take standardized tests since the start of the pandemic. Schools that are test optional allow students to submit their ACT or SAT scores if they wish, but the schools do not require a score for admittance and will not look negatively upon a student who chooses not to submit their scores. While it is increasingly common for schools to be test optional, ultimately it is the choice of the college as to whether they want to see test scores. If you’ve taken the ACT test and are debating whether or not you want to send your ACT score, you should first review the policies at the particular school you’re interested in.
However, just because a school is test optional does not mean you get a free pass on test scores. Having a high ACT test score can be a way to earn scholarships and separate yourself from the rest of applicants. For this reason, all students should seriously consider how their ACT score compares to the rest of admitted students at their dream school and whether their ACT score could help them receive a merit scholarship.
Historically and today, the ACT has been an important part of college admissions. College admission officers value standardized tests like the ACT because the test allows them to compare applicants from all different backgrounds. For example, it may be difficult to compare two students from different schools who have a 4.0 GPA, because one student may have attended a more difficult school than the other. However, because the ACT is a standardized exam that college admission officers are very familiar with, it is very easy for them to compare students based on their performance on the exam.
As one might expect, a good ACT score can help your chances of being admitted to your dream school, whereas a bad score may hurt you if you choose to send it. If your dream school is test optional, before deciding whether or not to send your scores, you should first review the average test scores for admitted students. On their admissions pages, colleges frequently post the 25th, 50th, and 75th percentile scores for admitted students (for a more detailed explanation as to what these percentiles mean, check out this blog post). If your score is above the 50th percentile, you should definitely submit it, because it means your score is higher than most admitted students. If your score is between the 25th and 50th percentiles, you likely should submit your score as well. Even though the score may be below average, 25% of students at the school have received the score, and no college will refuse to consider you for the score (instead, you should hope other aspects of your application help make your application more competitive). If your score is under the 25th percentile, you should consider not submitting your score if you feel it will take away from other more positive aspects of your application, as a score under this percentile means over three quarters of admitted students had a score higher than yours.
Besides being a part of your application to schools, your ACT score can also help you get a merit scholarship. While it depends on the school, typically your ACT score will need to be quite high in order to boost your scholarship application. If you have a high ACT score, you should definitely submit it as it can help you be considered for scholarships at the school you will attend.
For example, Tulane University offers different types of full tuition scholarships. On their website, they note that recipients of the scholarship typically have an ACT above a 31.
Some schools will use your high school grades and standardized test results like your ACT score in order to determine what level of classes you should take. Community colleges, junior colleges, and state schools are the most likely types of schools to use your ACT score to determine class placement.
If you believe your ACT score is an accurate assessment of your abilities, you should send it to such schools, even if it may be lower than average. When you get to college, you want to take classes that match your level of readiness. If you do not submit an ACT score, some colleges may require you to take an additional test that has been designed for incoming students in its place.
What Scores Can Be Sent
Each time you take the ACT, you will receive a score from that test day. However, if you take the ACT multiple times, you may also receive a superscore that is higher than any of your individual test scores. Depending on a college’s policies, you should consider whether it would be in your best interest to send scores from a test date, or a superscore if you have one.
Scores From a Test Event
Each time you take the ACT, you receive a score from that test event. Your score corresponds with the specific sections administered that day. If you took the test only one time you will receive one score, whereas if you took the test multiple times you will have many scores from different test events. If you are someone who has taken the ACT multiple times, it is likely your score may have gone up over time, and you will not want colleges to see all your attempts. Some colleges allow you to participate in a policy known as score choice, which is when you select which scores you want to submit to colleges (meaning the colleges don’t automatically see all your scores).
If the school you’re applying to requires you to submit all your ACT scores, you will need to send in a report from each test event (meaning a score report from each time you’ve taken the test). Unfortunately, this can be quite costly if an official report is required for each test event, depending on how many times you’ve taken the test. However, if your school requires you to send in your scores from each time you’ve taken the test, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to worry. Some schools require all the scores because they prefer to superscore the test themselves. Some schools may look at all scores equally, but many schools will also create an average score between your best and worst performances. Remember, schools like to see improvement! Having one bad score isn’t necessarily a detriment to your application if your next score is much higher.
Many students find that after taking the ACT multiple times, certain individual section scores may have gone up, while other section scores went down. For these students, a policy known as superscoring will be a big advantage. Superscoring is when colleges look at your highest individual scores from each time you took the ACT and combine these highest section scores into one composite score.
The ACT automatically superscores exam scores for all students who have taken the ACT more than once since September 2016. For many students, it is possible that this superscored composite score will be higher than a test score from any one sitting, so make sure to pay attention to this score.
Who Can I Send ACT Scores To
If you are taking the ACT, it’s likely your goal is to score as highly as possible to If you are taking the ACT, it’s likely your goal is to score as highly as possible to impress colleges. However, your score also may be valuable to scholarship agencies and your high school.
Colleges and Scholarship Agencies
For most students, the primary concern will be sending their ACT scores to colleges as a part of their application and to scholarship agencies in the hopes of receiving help with their tuition.
Colleges and scholarship agencies choose their own policies for ACT scores. At some point during the college and scholarship application process, you will almost certainly need at least one official score report. The ACT generates official score reports that include your scores from an individual test date and your superscore if you have one. This is different from a printed or PDF copy of your scores that you can access online. The official score report is different from what you see when you access your scores. Think of a score report as an authenticated copy of your scores—it cannot be created by a student or edited to show a different score than your own. Colleges and scholarship agencies like to see official score reports from the ACT because they know it is truthful and nothing is being hidden. You can view the official report colleges will see by logging into your MyACT account.
Some high schools may request that their students share their ACT scores. If your high school wants to see an official copy of your score, you can send a score report. Scores from both an individual test date and superscores can be sent.
How Long Does It Take For ACT Scores to Be Sent
While you won’t receive a penalty for submitting a college application minutes before the deadline, with ACT scores you generally want to send in a score report well in advance of the deadline. Generally, it will take the ACT one week to process your request. From there, it will typically take a college 2-4 weeks to receive your score from the ACT.
While some colleges may accept score reports after the application deadline as long as the application is submitted on time, others will want to receive the scores by the admissions deadline at the latest. What this means for you as a student is you should aim to submit your scores at least 5 weeks before your school’s admissions deadline to ensure that the scores are sent and received in time. Once you send your score, there’s not much else you can do but wait. Some colleges have application portals where you can see if all your application materials have been received. If you are concerned that a school has not received your scores, you may be able to find out more information from the admissions office.
How to Send ACT Scores To Colleges
Through the Website
For most students, the easiest way to send your scores will be through your ACT account on the ACT website. On the website, you can send your scores to colleges by listing their college codes and pay for the reports.
By Requesting Over The Phone
If you prefer to request your scores be sent through the phone, you can call the ACT at 319-337-1270 between 8AM-8PM central time, Mondays to Fridays. If you plan to request over the phone, you should prepare all the information you needed to register for the ACT (including name, address, date of birth), your ACT ID, your test date/location, and the college name and code where you would like to send your scores in advance.
By Requesting By Mail
If you want to request by mail, send all the information above and a letter of request to the ACT at this address:
ACT Customer Care – Score Reports
PO Box 451
Iowa City, IS 52243-0451
Be aware that this method will likely take longer because it will take additional time for the ACT to receive your request, meaning you should request your scores even earlier in advance than you would if you requested online or over the phone.
How Much Is It to Send ACT Scores
If you’re applying to multiple colleges, additional score reports can be costly. It’s important for students to be aware of the free reports that exist in addition to their options for regular and priority reports.
You get four free score reports with every ACT registration. During the registration process, the ACT allows you to choose up to six colleges to automatically receive your score when it comes out, with the first four colleges being free.
Before you decide on this free report, consider both the positives and negatives. The largest positive, of course, is that you get four free reports. The costs of the college admissions process can add up quickly, and receiving four free reports can cut down on some of those costs.
However, while there may be a benefit to your wallet in choosing these four reports, there are also quite a few negatives. For one, you must choose the schools for the reports prior to taking and receiving your ACT score. While you may be scoring highly on your practice tests at home, if something goes wrong during test day or you score lower than expected, the colleges you chose for the score reports will see a score that you may believe is not an accurate assessment of your abilities. There is also no way to get these free reports retroactively. You can choose to send the free reports during sign up, but there is no way to get these free reports that come with registration later on.
It makes sense to send your scores prior to taking the test if you definitely know you will apply to a college that requires you to submit the scores for each ACT you have ever taken, as you will have to submit your score from test day regardless of your performance. If you are unsure where you are applying, or you know you are applying to a college that does not require sending ACT scores, it is better to hold off on sending a report until after you’ve seen your score.
Besides the free reports that automatically come with registration, some people may qualify for the ACT Fee Waiver Program because of their economic background. If you believe you may qualify for the program, it is well worth your time to apply. Besides covering the cost of four separate ACT tests, the program also covers the score report to your high school and up to six colleges (there is no limit on the number of reports you can send to the schools you select).
When you apply to college, some schools will be fine with self-reporting (meaning you list your scores yourself on your application). However, other schools may require you to submit an official report with your scores that comes directly from the ACT. An official ACT score report costs $16 per report. If you need to send your ACT score for a private scholarship, you will likely need to send an official score report to the scholarship agency as well.
Before committing to sending an official report to each college you apply to, check the policies of the school. Many schools will ask that you only self-report your score on the application when applying, and won’t require an official report until you are admitted/committed to attending. Waiting to send score reports can be a good way to save money as long as the schools you apply to are fine with self-reported scores. However, be aware that if the school accepts self-reported scores, you must be honest with your reporting or the school may rescind your acceptance. Additionally, many schools will require you to submit an official report upon being accepted.
With so many colleges choosing to go test optional, you may begin to question whether you should submit your ACT score. Before deciding to submit your score, you first should check how your score compares to the average scores for admitted students at the colleges you’re interested in applying to. You also should consider whether submitting your score can help you qualify for merit scholarships. If you ultimately decide to submit your ACT scores, consider whether the schools you are applying to will accept self-reported scores, or you need to submit an official report.
Ensure the Best ACT Results With Soflo Tutors
Are you looking to improve your ACT score? Check out SoFlo’s tutoring services. Here at SoFlo, our team is made up of top test scorers who know the ins and outs of standardized exams. Our tutors will provide tailored test prep to help you perform your best on the ACT and feel confident in submitting your scores.
About the Author
Ava Levine is a junior from New York majoring in International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. When she’s not in class studying various international issues, she enjoys learning about government policy and working with local nonprofits. She scored a 1570 on her SATs, is an avid Crocs-wearer, and loves to craft in her free time!