6 Things to Do After Taking the SAT or ACT

6 Things to Do After Taking the SAT or ACT

Thinking about and preparing for the SAT or ACT, most of you probably went on your own version of a mental rollercoaster. You may have felt the pressure, then some boredom, maybe frustration, and any number of forms of anxiety. So you’ve finally taken the test (and hopefully recuperated from any dizziness from the ride). Now what? Here are six ideas for where to put your focus next:

1. Celebrate!

Now that you’ve put in so much hard work and took the SAT/ACT, it’s time to give yourself permission to put any thoughts about the test out of your mind for a bit. You’ve accomplished a significant milestone in your academic career and you deserve to celebrate yourself. Many of us are so used to being told we what we do wrong or what we need to do better—by parents, teachers and ourselves--that it’s easy to forget to honor our positive qualities and accomplishments. You are paving the way to a successful, fulfilling future, so right now, take a moment to tell yourself how amazing you are.

2. Send your test scores to colleges

At the time you register for the SAT or ACT, you have the option to send your scores to a few colleges for free. While this is a good way to save money, keep in mind you will not be able to see your scores before they are sent, so it might be best to use these free score reports for colleges that want to see all your scores. Your other option is to wait until you get your scores back (usually within 2-4 weeks after your test date), when you can then choose to send or not send them wherever you want (albeit for a fee).

3. Determine if you want to take the SAT or ACT again

Unless you are completely satisfied with your score the first time, it is a good idea to take the test at least two or three times, if for no other reason than scores will naturally vary depending on the test day. Regardless of how unhappy you might be with the score, don’t rip up your score report and throw it away. Examine it to determine which areas you could benefit from practicing more. You can also look at your target colleges’ test score averages as a way of setting your score goal for the next time you take the test. Lastly, if you are applying to any schools that offer superscoring, consider retaking the test to boost your score in a particular section.

4. Gather college application deadlines

As you think about which SAT/ACT date to register for, don’t forget to consider whether you might want to apply early to any college or university. Then check school websites to determine which date you will need to send your scores by and plan accordingly, especially if you also want to take SAT Subject Tests as these tests are offered on the same dates as the regular SAT and will thus limit the test dates available to you.

5. Make a list of college admissions requirements

With all of the attention we have given the SAT/ACT we must not neglect the other time-sensitive college admissions requirements. For example, if any of the colleges you are applying to require letters of recommendation, you will want to give your teachers plenty of time to write them. You will also want to give yourself enough time to craft quality college essays about yourself, take SAT Subject Tests, and, if you’re applying for any specialized programs such as art programs, put together any additional requirements.

6. Make a plan

To keep track of all these moving parts, try starting a Google spreadsheet or get out a piece of paper and draw up a plan. Write down all important official deadlines—test registration deadlines, application deadlines, scholarship deadlines, summer program deadlines etc. You can also write down personal deadlines such as when you will ask your teachers for letters, when you will start drafting essays, and when you will prepare for any remaining tests. You can also add college visits and any other pertinent to-dos to your plan.

Writing everything down and taking each task step by step, well ahead of time, will minimize any feelings of overwhelm you might feel and will prevent any stress from forgotten or missed deadlines. This is your one shot to apply to colleges, so go all in; it’s worth it, and so are you.


Kiley A. teaches SAT/ACT Writing and leads College Application Workshops at Elite Prep Rowland Heights. As the Elite Community Scholars Coordinator, he also works to spread this college preparation guidance to low-income, first-generation students who may not otherwise have access to such support. Above all, he wants his students to know the far-reaching power of their own self-assurance. 

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