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As fall approaches and students begin to move into their freshmen dorms, the rising high school seniors take the place at the top of their high school hierarchy. As such, the new high school seniors have a mountain load of responsibilities piled on them from day 1. Whether it be starting and completing the common app (get on it people!), preparing for graduation, taking in the senior rituals, and/or standardized testing, the calendar is always packed. However, one thing that shouldn’t take a majority of your time (save the occasional Saturday morning) is standardized testing.

Yes, standardized testing, the bane of every college applicant’s existence is an obstacle that can’t be skipped (yet). After taking the long test, you are given the option of where to send your scores. More often then not, some students choose to send them to every school they are applying to just to save time. However, this can be a very strategic process. Some schools have the super score option when looking at your SATs. What is that, you ask? Super scoring means that if you send in three different tests, the admissions officer will take your highest scores in each section from all three tests and combine them to get your composite score. This process if definitely very beneficial to students who don’t always test well or have a specialty. For those colleges that follow this program it is definitely in your best interest to send all of your scores. Some colleges have a similar program for the ACTs. Essentially, they will just take your highest composite ACT score and factor that in to your admissions decision.   That is definitely beneficial for if you tank one section but do well enough in the others to have a nice composite score because they will not look at the other sections, just your overall composite.

Now, if your scores are a tad lower (low enough where the super scoring and composite taking won’t make a difference), then this is where you have to become strategic. On each tests’ respective website they allow you to input the institution name for where you want to send the scores individually. In order to pull this off, you must make sure you are certain of what each school looks for in terms of standardized testing (sending your higher scores to your schools higher on your list, sending the appropriate amount of subject test, etc.) and play to those strengths. If there are schools that you are applying to just for the sake of having choices send them your 2nd highest score (under the assumption that your second highest still falls within their range of scores). Picking whom to send your scores to is like picking which a cappella group to join. You use your best audition song for the group that you want to be in the most and work your way down the list.

Sending too many scores is often where applicants make a fatal mistake. You don’t want your top colleges to see your first ACT composite was a 34 and after three more attempts, it has dropped to a 25. Now, fortunately it works the opposite way. If the college can see marked progress, then you are in luck and that translates to your grades as well. So either you are extremely nervous about your scores, or you really want to maximize that super score option.

Sending too little scores or just one score is often also a fatal mistake. How can the admissions staff track growth? Even more of an issue is that you lose that super score option by only sending one score. So either you are extremely confident or you just don’t care.

All in all, sending your scores is a very strategic process that shouldn’t be decided by just the click of the button. Instead, take time and think carefully about which schools receive your scores and how many of them they receive.

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the author

Carlton Smith is a junior at the College of William and Mary currently majoring in Government. He loves to sing and dance and is involved with one of his school's A Cappella groups known as DoubleTake. He has served as the Class of 2015's Vice President for the past three years.

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