For most high school juniors, spring semester is a busy season filled with events and exams. Often, students are beginning to make college plans that include scheduling the SAT and/or ACT, even in this “test-optional” era. The process of registering for one of these tests is easy enough: go to CollegeBoard.org or ACT.org, and click on the test registration link. Answer a few questions, ask for mom and dad’s credit card, and you’re all set. However, before you register for a test date, a few words of wisdom….
Our friends at Compass Education Group released an in-depth study on what information the ACT shares with colleges as part of your score report – a cautionary note to an otherwise rote task. Indeed, we have been offering similar guidance to our students for years: “less is more” when it comes to registering for a college admission exam. As part of the registration process, both testing companies ask you to answer fairly detailed questions about race, language background, family, grades, college preference, and coursework, among other categories. While these questions are labeled optional, many students answer them, thereby sharing a wealth of data with the testing agency – and with the colleges to which you send score reports! Colleges also use your responses to sell (the word they use is “license”) your contact information to colleges who spend millions of dollars mailing their marketing materials to potential students who meet the criteria they’re seeking. If you choose to answer these questions, consider their necessity and remain mindful of your responses. Colleges don’t indicate how this information is used – if at all – in the application process, but you certainly don’t want to give them any information that wouldn’t be used in your favor. Make this your mantra: “less is more.”
Likewise, you’re faced with a similar decision when asked to list the colleges to which you want to send free score reports. Sounds like a great deal, right? Save a little money, get out your score reports in a timely manner, no worries about missing deadlines. But (and you knew there’d be a “but”), as with the self-reported information we discussed above, consider this offer carefully. First, you’ll be sending score reports without knowing your actual scores! Test-optional or not, you want to put your best foot forward. Wait to get back your scores to determine if they’re good enough to send or if you want to test again. As long as you’re not taking the ACT as part of a state or district program, you can delete unwanted scores from your permanent record at ACT. This is not the case for SAT, where scores may only be canceled within four business days following the test.
Another caveat to these free score reports: when you sign up to send free ACT score reports, you will be asked to rank the order of the colleges – and colleges will see this ranking (note: they won’t see to which other schools you’re sending scores, only the ranking which you assigned to them, such as first, second, third, or fourth). Do you really want to tell a school that it’s NOT your first choice? Listing colleges to receive your scores this way gives them an idea about your priorities in terms of top-choice colleges and the environment you’re seeking.
The moral of the story: keep your scores – and your personal information – to yourself, until you’re ready to share! You want to play your cards close to your chest, so to speak.
Need help planning for junior and senior year testing, or advice on how to leverage your personal information to present yourself in the best manner possible? Give us a call! Our team of educational consultants and test prep experts are here to share our years of expertise.