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College Admission and Score Choice: What You Must Know

Original post made by Elizabeth LaScala on Dec 28, 2009

Hollie took her SAT exam in the spring of her junior year in high school and performed poorly. She prepared over the summer and tested again in the fall of her senior year. Her test scores were much higher the second time around. Hollie knew about the CollegeBoard program, Score Choice, which permits her to send colleges just the scores she wants them to see. But her first choice college's policy states that she must send all test scores from all test sittings. She really doesn't want her first choice college to ever see her low scores. But now it seems she has no choice.

One of the decisions students have to face when they apply to college is whether to use the CollegeBoard's Score Choice option. Score Choice offers students the opportunity to decide what test scores to send to schools they apply to. Score Choice is an issue of some complexity, and I will try to put things in perspective for students and their families.

Prior to the introduction of Score Choice, each time a student took an SAT exam, the results became part of the student's official testing record. When a student requested test scores be sent to a college, CollegeBoard sent all scores from every test sitting. With Score Choice, students can choose what scores to send from what test sitting. It is important to understand that students can't select different section scores from different testing dates, but they can choose to send scores from a particular testing date, and not send scores from a different test sitting.

I know many readers might be wondering what all the fuss is about. After all, CollegeBoard gives students the option of what SAT scores to send to colleges and that seems simple enough. So what's the problem?

Here's the problem and Hollie was dealing with it last fall. Colleges establish their own admission requirements. That fact has not changed because CollegeBoard introduced Score Choice. When Score Choice was implemented in June 2008, colleges across the nation felt compelled to clarify their policies with respect to it. For example, Yale, Stanford and Pomona stated that they would require applicants to send all scores from each testing date. Harvard and University of Chicago stated that students can decide to send their highest scores from any single sitting. Meanwhile, Colby College and Williams say Score Choice is irrelevant because they already cherry-pick the highest individual math, critical reading and writing scores from an applicant's different test sessions. Schools that do this type of score selection express the concern that students may inadvertently suppress scores that could be beneficial to their application.

Is this all confusing? Indeed it is, and unnecessarily so. The already complex college admission process becomes even more stressful if students get caught up in this latest admission game. What students need to understand is fairly simple. As students check the application requirements of the colleges they plan to apply to, they learn what these schools want in terms of test scores. Since you are ethically bound to comply with all of a school's admission requirements, the illusion of choice fades, as colleges assert their rights to see whatever scores they wish to use to evaluate applicants. If you use Score Choice, it will be your responsibility to pay strict attention to each college's policy in order to know precisely what to send and when. Problems could result due to misinterpretation of policy, gaps in applications and even missed deadlines if you try to wait for the latest round of test score results.

My advice is to steer clear of Score Choice and send schools all your scores. The best way to keep colleges from viewing test scores that are lower than you would like is to prepare well for standardized testing, and do your best. Check out one of the many test preparation classes available or prepare on your own. Use practice tests to gain confidence. Check out CollegeBoard's The Official Guide to the SAT. If money is an issue, take advantage of free on-line programs (for example, visit [Web Link www.number2.com]).

As soon as you have taken the necessary standardized testing, put it behind you, relax, and move on to the next step in the college admission process. Remember, the majority of the nation's schools accept the majority of applicants. Colleges and universities want to accept you, so prepare as best you can and don't lose sleep over standardized testing.

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Elizabeth LaScala, Ph.D. is an educational consultant and certified college admissions advisor. Her goal is to help students and their families understand the admissions process, research college and career options, create a customized college list and submit a strong and cohesive application. She is familiar with local high schools and has guided three daughters through the college admissions process in addition to more than 300 clients. Dr. LaScala is an active member of NACAC, WACAC, and HECA and earned a certification in College Admissions and Career Planning from University of California at Berkeley. Contact her at 891-4491 or elizabeth@doingcollege.com.

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This is the fourth in a six-week series of blogs about applying to college by admission advisor Elizabeth LaScala and Teen Wire high school senior Daniel Morizono - showing both sides of the coin, so to speak. Topics will cover everything from pressures to apply early, to parental involvement, to dealing with acceptance, rejection and the hated wait-list option.

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