THE BLOG
11/07/2014 11:56 am ET Updated Jan 11, 2015

'Stuff' That's Difficult to Find -- Let Alone Understand -- But Important to Know for College Applications

In September, I offered a HuffPost blog entitled, "Help for the 6 Most Confusing Parts of the New 2014-15 Common App." Since that time, a lot of other questions have come up from students and parents. Here are some of the more frequently asked:

ACT OR SAT: WHICH TEST SCORES SHOULD I SUBMIT?

1. When test scores are requested in on-line applications for the Common App and schools that have their own applications, which tests should I identify?

Self-Reporting of SAT and ACT Test Scores

First of all, you don't have to take both tests and neither the SAT nor the ACT is preferred by colleges. Each student can choose which test/s he or she wants to report to colleges: SAT and/or ACT. If you have taken both, I suggest that you report the test on which you received the highest scores. Of course, if your SAT and ACT scores are virtually the same, there is nothing wrong in reporting both sets.

SAT and the Common Application

For the SAT I, the Common Application asks applicants if they want to self-report scores in the Testing section. Then it offers them the opportunity to indicate their respective "highest individual" Critical Reading, Math and Writing scores, along with test dates. By all means do this; this is a chance to show off your highest test scores, regardless of when you took the test.

ACT and the Common Application

For the ACT, the Common App asks for a highest composite score, and then the "highest individual" English, Math, Reading, and Science scores, along with test dates. Again, Common App is giving you permission to showcase your best test scores. If you want to highlight your ACT scores, take them up on their offer.

Other Applications

There are assorted directions for providing SAT and ACT test scores on the Universal College Application and other applications. For example, the Universal College Application offers space to list up to two SAT I, and three ACT Composite and individual test scores.

The University of California (UC) application asks applicants to identify when they took an SAT and then provides a space to identify Critical, Reading, Mathematics and Writing scores from that one test date, after which a total composite score is generated by the application. For the ACT, the UC app asks for the month and year a test was taken, followed by spaces to type in the Composite ACT score and individual English, Mathematics, Reading, Science, Combined English/Writing and Writing scores.

Other tests

Most applications offer students spaces in which to self-report Subject Tests, AP, IB and TOEFL scores. Decide whether you want to report other scores based on whether they are recommended or required and if they are not required, how competitive you think your scores are.

PROVIDING OFFICIAL TEST SCORE REPORTS

2. If I self-report test scores on an application, do I need to have an official test score report sent by the testing agency?

Yes! It's important that you have College Board and/or ACT send a test report to the schools to which you are applying.

Here is a link to the College Board site through which you can send SAT scores:

http://sat.collegeboard.org/scores/send-sat-scores

Here is a link to ACT through which you can send your ACT scores:

http://www.actstudent.org/scores/send/

WHAT ABOUT SUBJECT TEST SCORES?

3. Do I need to identify my Subject Test scores in an application? How do I get Subject Test scores sent to colleges?

In an August HuffPost blog, I discuss how some colleges recommend or require Subject Tests and that many colleges don't recommend or require any. Even when colleges don't require or recommend Subject Tests, certain individual majors or programs at colleges might require them, independent of the general school policy. It's important that you check that out with admissions offices, particularly if you identify a science or engineering as your major.

If a college or school recommends or requires Subject Tests, then you need to identify the requisite number of tests they want and provide your scores. Many students take more than two Subject Tests over the course of high school. If that's the case for you, there is every reason to submit more than the required tests, particularly if your test scores are very good.

One way of determining which Subject Test scores to send to colleges is to check a college's website to see what the average test scores are for the previous year's accepted students. You can usually find that information in a section called something like "Last Year's Student Academic Profile." Figure out which of your test scores match the average test scores of accepted students and note them in your applications.

You should know that the College Board test report automatically contains both SAT I and Subject Test scores.

WHAT IS SUPERSCORING AND SCORE CHOICE?

4. I keep hearing about Superscoring and Score Choice. Are they the same thing? When should I use them?

They are not the same. More importantly, college policies vary a lot regarding super scoring and score choice.

Superscoring is a process offered by the Common Application and other applications in which students choose the best individual scores from each SAT or ACT section, regardless of the test date. For example, if you received SAT test scores in June of 600 in Math, 570 in Reading and 700 in Writing and then in October received test scores of 650 in Math, 560 in Reading and 650 in Writing, you would take the three highest scores from the two sittings, i.e., Math 650 (from October), Reading 570 (from June) and 700 writing (from June) for a combined score of 1920. That is your Superscore.

Some applications allow you to Superscore and some don't. Check with individual college websites to determine what their respective policies are.

Score Choice is a program that ACT has offered for many years and SAT began offering in 2009 in which students choose any single test score from a certain test date to appear in a test score report, but withhold lower scores that come from other dates. There are no additional fees for using Score Choice.

Some colleges allow students to use score choice with ACT test scores, but not with SAT scores.

On the other hand, some colleges do allow score choice for the SAT. From the SAT test scores mentioned above, to use Score Choice a student would probably ask College Board to send an official test report with 700 Writing, 650 for Math and 570 for Reading. Students can also use Score Choice for Subject Tests. For example, if you took Chemistry, Math 2 and Spanish Subject Tests all in one day, you could ask College Board to make available your Math 2 and Spanish tests, but not the Chemistry. Once again, you need to clarify with colleges whether they will accept your using Score Choice for Subject Tests. Here are the links on the College Board and ACT websites that provide information about colleges' score choice policies:

SAT Score Use Practices

https://professionals.collegeboard.com/profdownload/sat-score-use-practices-list.pdf

http://professionals.collegeboard.com/testing/sat-reasoning/scores/policy

Sending ACT Scores

http://www.actstudent.org/scores/send/asrtips.html

Once again, individual college admissions sites are also good resources for score use practices.

WHAT ABOUT AP COURSES?

5. In the Education section of the Common Application, I am asked to identify the classes I am taking during 12th grade, including AP classes. There is also a Testing section where I am asked if I want to show any AP test scores, 9th-12th grades. Should I do that?

First of all, be sure to list all of your AP classes in the Education section. After that, self-report whatever AP tests you want colleges to see in the Testing section, whether that's one, three, five or more. My suggestion is that you only show AP tests for which you have received a 3, 4 or 5 score. If you are applying to very competitive colleges, I suggest you leave out the 3 scores.

Many colleges don't want to see AP test reports during the regular application phase; therefore, it doesn't make sense to send a report (at a fee of $15) unless it is required. Colleges often request AP transcripts only if students want to receive credit at their new college for AP courses taken in high school. What that means is that you will have an AP score report sent to a college after you are accepted, say yes to the school and have received the last AP grades for your senior year.

As always, the best way of finding out what AP information a college wants is to check out their website or call them. It is better to get the information from "the horse's mouth," especially when it comes to college admissions.

You can request an AP transcript through this link:

https://apscore.collegeboard.org/scores

I hope you find this information both interesting and useful.