I decided to tackle this topic after I received a call from the worried parent of one of my students. Her son (named Zach for our purposes) had just taken the SAT for the first time and was in a near panic. After I experienced that sinking feeling any tutor of the ” I am in this biz to make a difference” mindset is familiar with, mom told me the real problem. When Zach registered for the SAT, he did what thousands of students do: he arranged for colleges to automatically receive his scores once his exam was graded. While he felt reasonably sure he performed “pretty well” on the test in general, he wasn’t completely sure, and thus, his mental gymnastics began. What IF he didn’t do so well after all, and what IF one or more of these colleges was not impressed and even IF he did do well, maybe he still shouldn’t have sent the scores because he might want to take the test one more time and not have the other test as part of his official record and then again, what IF…..
Ah, Zach. I feel for you, I truly do. For the rest of you test takers out there, this kind of angst can be avoided.
The SAT allows a student to list four schools to receive score reports directly from the folks at the College Board. (The ACT people have a similar provision). There are two general schools of thought on whether it is a good idea to do this. The advisors who recommend that the scores be sent make a few good points. These four schools receive these scores at no cost to the student, saving him or her approximately $45. Also, some schools may take automatic score reporting as a sign of the student’s seriousness about applying. Additionally, there are a number of colleges that require a complete history of the applicant’s exam scores.
While these advisors make a good case, the other camp believes that maintaining control over your scores is essential. Like our student Zach can attest, one never truly knows how he or she performed on the exam until the scores arrive. As confident as one can be the day of the test, things DO happen-ranging from brain fog to getting sick during the test. Do you really want a school to see scores that do not represent your true ability? And while saving money is always a good thing, the savings that comes from utilizing the free score reports is minimal in the scheme of college expenses. Finally, many schools do not save scores unless the student has an application on file with that college.
While perspectives vary, I stand firmly in the second camp. There are many schools for which SAT/ACT scores weigh quite heavily into the admissions decision, and unless your prospective school requires your full history, the benefits to controlling your score reports seem to outweigh the risks of sending unseen scores. Moreover, if paying for scores to be reported is a true obstacle, the college board offers qualifying families low or no cost score reports.
Yes, there certainly are situations in which automatic score reporting is the right choice. However, in the case of Zach-and many, many others like him-it is easy to avoid the “What Ifs” that come from sending SAT (and ACT) scores sight unseen.