While the number of test-optional colleges is growing, most require applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores. Here’s when you need to take the test to complete your college application on time.
The ACT is offered seven times a year in September, October, December, February, April, June, and July. The SAT is offered in August, October, November, December, March, May, and June. You can take either the SAT or the SAT subject tests on a single SAT test date. Plan ahead if you need subject tests because you can’t take both the SAT and the SAT subject tests on the same day. Note that the subject tests aren’t offered in the March sitting.
The latest date to take the ACT or SAT to complete your application and get scores to a college depends entirely on the college, and can vary tremendously. It’s essential that you check the websites of the colleges to which you’re applying.
Early decision is binding, meaning you must attend the college to which you applied if you’re accepted. You should apply Early Decision to only one college. Early Decision applications are typically due by November 1 or November 15, and students are usually notified of the decision in early to mid-December. Because the admissions decision is made in the month of November, most early decision colleges accept the October SAT or October ACT as the latest possible test date.
A list of colleges offering Early Decision can be found here.
Early action is non–binding, meaning acceptance doesn’t require your attending. Early action deadlines are typically similar to those of early decision (early to mid-November). Again, you’ll find definitive information on the colleges’ websites. Most early action colleges have the same October cut-offs for the ACT and SAT.
Regular decision is the normal process by which students apply to college. Application due dates vary: Nov 30; Dec 1 or 31; Jan 1, 3, 5, 7, 10, 15, or 31; Feb 1 or 15; and even into March-June for rolling admissions. The most common deadline is January 1, although the University of California system is an exception with its November 30 application due date for regular decision.
Most students applying regular decision aim to finish their ACT and SAT tests by December. However, some colleges will accept ACT and SAT scores after their application deadlines (into the January-March time frame), but always seek permission. Contact the college’s admission department and ask whether your scores can be accepted after the deadline. The best practice, however, is to finish taking the ACT and SAT before an application is due.
So when is the last date on which you can take the ACT or the SAT for your college applications?
Work backwards. Confirm the application due date for the colleges to which you plan to apply and find the latest date before that deadline. Also be sure to manage your time wisely leading up to the application deadlines. Check out these tips to beat the 11:59pm deadline for college apps.
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