Do SAT Scores Have to Be Received by Application Deadline? | Full Guide With FAQs

If you're scheduled to take the SATs or just finished the test recently, I bet you're wondering about your college applications and mulling the question: "do SAT scores have to be received by application deadline?"

Here's the bottom line: your SAT scores should be sent at least 2 weeks in advance of the college application deadline. So when this is exactly? It depends on your preferred colleges.

To make sure your SAT test scores do not get lost in the mail, or your college applications completely affected by it, read on and learn how to prevent these issues.And, in addition, check out these quality SAT prep books reviews and top SAT prep courses recommendations.

Everything You Need to Know About Sending SAT Scores to Colleges

If you register for the SAT, you will have your own account with the College Board. On your account, you'll be able to:

  • See SAT schedules
  • View your SAT scores
  • List down your preferred colleges
  • Choose which SAT scores or test subjects to send to schools (via the SAT Score Choice)

Students applying to their college of choice should take advantage of this portal to organize college admissions, especially if they plan to apply to multiple schools.

Two Methods of Sending SAT Scores to Colleges

After taking the tests, college applicants must choose between two methods of sending their SAT scores. The first method involves taking advantage of the 4 free SAT reports and the other one is paying for your records. Both have pros and cons, so it is best to decide based on your needs.

1. Use Your Free Score Report (There's 4!)

College Board  online score report

Any student who has taken the SAT is given four (4) score reports that he/she could send to colleges and scholarship programs FOR FREE. As long as you send the reports within 9 days after taking the SATs.

The catch is you'd be sending your records without actually seeing your scores first. The problem with this is that you won't be able to choose which scores to include for a particular college. This technique (known in the SAT world as "SAT Score Choice") allows a student to pick which scores to send to his/her preferred colleges.

In the past, the admissions department of colleges preferred to receive the SAT score of students this way. However, more and more schools are allowing students to self-report SAT scores and only require official printed records once the student is already accepted into the school.

2. Pay for Additional Score Reports

This option is for a student who wants to:

  • Submit to more than 9 schools
  • Submit his/her score anytime (even beyond the 10th day after taking the SATs)
  • Submit rush report score at $24 a pop

The downside to this method is that you'd be paying per score report, instead of getting the scores free of charge.

However, since you can easily see which scores are your best ones, you have the option to choose to send only your best section results or your single-highest scores.

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SAT Score Report Submission FAQs

Should students be worried about submission deadlines? How can one be sure that the College Board which manages the SATs will be able to send your score to your chosen university? Take note of these frequently asked questions:

Will I have an Edge if I submit Test Scores Early?

It is common to think so, but it actually wouldn't matter.

If you send your SAT scores to a school you haven't applied to, the admissions office would just save your file under your name until an application arrives.

On top of this, if you send SAT scores early and you decided to retake the SATs at a later date, you no longer have the option of taking advantage of Score Choice.

Can SAT Score Reports Be Delayed?

Generally, schools could still accept and consider if your SAT scores arrived before or during your evaluation period. Your chances would be higher if you are NOT sending a second set of SAT scores, or if the scores got lost in the mail (which is obviously not your fault).

However, it will still depend on the college's policies. Some are strict and disqualify a student applying to their university if his/her SAT scores are not included in the application.

Some schools are flexible and would wait for an applicant's SAT records, especially if the applicant has an exceptional grade in high school, many awards in a particular field, or if the student is a potential scholar or athlete. 

Generally, though, it isn't a good idea to gamble your future with a delayed SAT official score. This is a perfect example of an important document that could change the path of your life, so review your SAT dashboard and double-check the status of your applications.

When Is it too late to send SAT scores?

There is no single date for school admissions and deadlines. You would have to call or visit the website of your preferred schools to find out the application deadline date.

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The general rule is to make sure you send scores in time. Here's an estimate of the process involved for more accurate estimates:

  • Scoring takes 2 to 3 weeks. After taking the SAT, the scoring process begins. Note that June test dates are usually longer (about 5 weeks), so take this advice into consideration.
  • Student scores arrive on the dashboard. You can access your College Board account multiple times a day. If not, contact College Board immediately. You'll need to log in to this account in the coming weeks.
  • Additional Records would take more time. Aside from a complete SAT result, you can also request the College Board to send related test subject scores, but these would have specific processing times as well.
  • Send out FREE scores within 1 to 2 weeks. Students who signed up for the 4 free reports should expect the College Board to send the complete report to your top 4 schools within 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Your preferred schools receive your SAT scores electronically. However, this doesn't mean they will arrive within hours or a few days. Each institution will have a system in place (such as software that files your score with your college application documents, or a person manually sorting the files). As such,  the actual "receiving" could take a couple of days to a week or two.

Many university websites recommend giving at least a 3-week or 1-month leeway to complete the process from test date to the schools receiving your test scores.

Is it Worth it to Pay for Rush SAT Scores?

The College Board offers a rush service for students who need their SAT scores early, or if they're running out of time to beat college application deadlines.

With this add-on service, College Board guarantees that they will mail your scores online within 2 to 4 business days. You can even send them to multiple schools at once.

The only problem with this is that schools have their own schedules (some once a day, others once a week) in downloading online scores and pairing them with applications. As such, even if the scores arrive on the official school email early, it would still depend on school policy.

The rush service costs an extra $31.  My advice is to only pay for this service if your deadline is fast approaching. Any effort to make the deadline, even if there is no guarantee, should be taken.

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Wrap Up

So when is the last date on which you can take the SAT for your college applications?

A good rule of thumb is to work backward.

  • Confirm the university application deadline. You can check this online on their website or call them via phone.
  • From the school deadline, count six weeks backward and find the nearest SAT test date available.

Once you've done with the tests, check your College Board account regularly for updates. Wait at least 3 weeks after sending scores to check whether your preferred colleges have received your documents. Sometimes, the universities automatically send an e-mail to let you know they've received your scores electronically.

However, in the event that the college tells you your scores are missing, there's a good chance that the school has yet to file them. Simply call the admissions office to double-check.

The good news is even prospective colleges can give you access to their portals, where you could check the status of your applications.

Do note that since the covid19 pandemic in 2020, colleges have become flexible with deadlines. In fact, some have even adapted to becoming test-optional colleges.

About 800 colleges and universities are now test-optional, which means you can apply to their school even without an SAT or ACT. Instead, admissions of test-optional schools would focus on your high school transcript (GPA, curriculum, class rank), extracurricular activities, and soft aspects of your application, such as the recommended letter, essays, and personal statement.

Leonard Haggin

I created this site to help students like you learn from the experiences my team had learned during our extensive academic careers. I am now studying Law at Stanford, but I also make time to write articles here in order to help all you fellow students advance in your academic careers and beyond. I hope our efforts on Study Prep Lounge will arm you with the knowledge you need to overcome whatever trial or test you find in front of you.

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