What To Do With Your College List When Your Test Scores Go Up (Or Down)

You’ve been carefully crafting your college list for a few months – or, for a lot of students, a few years – and you’ve just gotten a new set of test scores back. There was a pretty big change from the scores you had when you created your college list… so does that mean your list should change? Here’s a quick cheat sheet for adjusting your college list if your test scores have changed, courtesy of our brilliant College Admissions Specialist, Kyle.


If your scores went down…

  • Check the individualized score report and compare it to a prior test.
    See which sections suffered the most, and try to find out how they got that way. For example, a common reason people see a drop in Science on the ACT is because it is the last section and they found themselves burned out at the end.
  • Check to see if any scores went up. I know that sounds counterproductive, but some scores can actually go down while individual sections go up. This step applies to superscoring if your school offers it. Superscoring is when a school allows you to submit the best individual section scores from each test. You will have to check to see if your school offers superscoring.
  • Lastly, come up with an active study plan for a retake. Remember, schools ideally want to see active growth in your scores. Pay close attention to whether your school takes all scores or lets you submit only your best scores.



If your scores went up…

  • Double check to make sure all sections of the test increased. It is possible for you to do better overall, but do worse on an individual section.
  • Look up the score range of the school(s) you want to apply to. See where you now fall into them.
  • If your score increased by a sizable amount, you may want to reformat your school list. Some of your schools may move from the reach category to the target category. You may even be able to consider schools that were once not even on your radar!
  • Consider if this was your best performance. If not, think about taking the test one final time. This is only recommended if this is your second attempt. Any more than three attempts usually does not result in any noticeable changes.
  • Know how to submit score changes to colleges and agencies. When taking the test, you can designate where to send scores to. However, you may come up with new potential schools and scholarships along the way. You can still get and submit scores by logging into your SAT or ACT portal, and requesting scores to be sent somewhere else! The process is quick and easy, and most schools receive them the same day. Remember, scholarship organizations may want scores too! Make sure they get sent!
  • Lastly, celebrate! Make sure to take time to recognize the hard work you put into making this possible.