SAT/ACT To Send or Not to Send?

To Report or Not to Report? That is the question.

As you prepare to send in your college applications, a major consideration is whether to report your test scores – SAT, ACT, AP and IB. While schools are transparent about their testing policies, it is more difficult to determine how scores factor into their admissions decisions, and exactly what types of scores tip the favor of one applicant over another. Read on to learn when it is beneficial to report test scores, as well as how to report them.

Our Approach

College Calm curates data to help assess whether you should report your test scores. Together in our sessions, we will gather information from College KickStart – college planning software that helps you analyze and refine your college list – and look at scattergrams from Naviance/SCOIR/Maia. If you’re still unsure about whether to submit your score, College Calm will help you identify whom to reach out to with questions at your chosen universities. Our counselors will then provide a preliminary decision on submitting test scores in a shared spreadsheet. Upon review, parents can reach out to College Calm with any additional questions or concerns. Lastly, the student will share the strategy with their high school counselor before making a final determination on reporting scores.


University testing policies are on a spectrum from “test blind” to “test required.” In the middle are many variations of test-optional. There are some schools that were test-optional prior to the pandemic and will remain test-optional for the foreseeable future. These schools are committed to test-optional, and we believe not sending a test will not penalize a student. However, there are schools that are test-optional, where a test may be very useful, but the school will not explicitly say it. There are also other reasons besides admissions that a school may want a test score⸺to be competitive for merit aid, placement in certain majors, to help in the recruiting process or in applying to an honors college. 

Available Data 

Making a decision about testing is hard because the data is not very good. Oftentimes average testing data lags 1-2 years behind. In addition, in a test-optional landscape, typically only those students who have high test scores report them. This makes the averages artificially high. Schools will now start to report the percentage of applicants who submitted test scores. However, this is not a super helpful number. What we really want is the percentage of students admitted with test scores and their average test scores. These are not numbers we are likely to see, so we will make testing decisions with the best data we can find. In addition, we will be gathering our own internal data and connecting with local colleagues to determine any patterns. However, reporting or not reporting scores feels like a leap of faith. 

How to decide whether to report them

  • Major – STEM majors, including engineering and computer science, need to have a strong math score. These programs also like to see test scores because they are often data driven majors. 
  • Average scores at the schools you are applying to – By looking at the average scores submitted in Counselmore/Common Data Set (which lags behind 1.5 years), you can see if you are in the range of the middle 50th percentile.
  • Freshmen Profile – For the most recent class scores, google the school and the class of 2027 profile – that is the profile of the most recent freshmen. Many schools will not report this data, but some do (e.g., Wash U has a pretty good one).

Using Naviance, SCOIR and Maia

  • Naviance and SCOIR have scattergrams that provide data points for each student from your high school who has applied to a particular college in the past few years. The data points represent a student’s standardized test scores and GPA based on your school’s scale. The points also indicate whether the student was admitted, waitlisted, or denied at a particular school. The issue with this data is it is possible the student did not report their scores when they applied– these programs do not keep track of that information. 
  • Via a box drawn on the graph, the scattergram also indicates the average GPA and average SAT/ACT that was accepted at that college. The further outside the box your particular data point is, the higher your chance of being a strong applicant for that school. 
  • In general, larger public universities tend to base most of their admissions decisions on the numbers, e.g., the applicant’s GPA and standardized test scores. If you are considering mostly larger schools that are very popular in your area, Naviance/SCOIR could be helpful in predicting whether you are in range for admission at that school.
  • SCOIR also allows you to view a table of Test Optional results and application outcomes.
  • Researching acceptance trends from your school can also help shape your list.
  • **The potential issue with this data is that it is possible the student did not report their scores when they applied (but it is in their HS profile in the program)  and this is not indicated in the program. 

Source: Get Into College


Using Common Data Sets

Most colleges publish a report known as a Common Data Set (CDS). The CDS outlines the stats of applicants in each application cycle, and includes information like the number of applications and matriculation, incoming freshmen profile and financial aid disbursement. It also provides demographic information as well as how an application is evaluated based on certain criteria (e.g., Extracurriculars). Reading the common data set for a specific school can help demystify what they’re looking for in potential enrollees. You can find a school’s CDS by googling the name of the school and “common data set.”  

How to Report SAT/ACT Scores

Many of you are still waiting for upcoming tests and scores. If you are done with testing, we can begin to decide if and where you want to send scores. You will need to check the testing requirements for every school on your list to determine if you need to send test scores. In addition, check to see if you need to send official scores (requested through the ACT or the College Board), or self-report the scores. You can add this information to your deadline spreadsheet.

What happens if I don’t report my test scores?

In the absence of a test score, admissions officers may bring an even greater focus to your academic achievements, e.g. GPA, course rigor.

Source: Compass Education

Reporting AP and IB Scores

The SAT and Act are not the only options for reporting test scores. Students have the option to report AP/IB scores as well. Below are things to think about when choosing if and how to report your AP/IB scores. 

How colleges use AP/IB scores

  • As a way to gauge rigor.
  • Mainly used for placement or credit rather than as an admissions component.
  • More schools are moving towards reviewing AP/IB scores as part of the holistic review for the admissions process than we have seen in the past.
  • We reviewed the policies surrounding AP scores from the 21–22 admission year at 150 popular schools in the US and found that about 30% now make some mention of viewing the scores specifically in a holistic admissions process. 
  • About 60% mention using APs for class credit and/or placement. 

How to decide whether to report them

  • Students can choose what to send, but we tend to have students report all or nothing (some research here is always good)
  • A score of 3 on an AP is average, as is an IB score of a 5. Higher scores show increased mastery of the material. Anything lower than a 3 (AP) or 5(IB) should be discussed with your counselor. 
  • Students can report future scores, which is a nice way to remind colleges of a rigorous senior year.
  • IB scores are almost all future tests.
  • Students need to evaluate AP scores to decide what to show in the context of other test scores as well. For example, if you have a 5 on Calc AB, and a 680 on the math SAT, you might want to report the AP score and not the SAT. 

Source: College Board