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College Applicants' SAT Scores Delayed Due to Electronic Snafu

College hopefuls who took the standardized tests were informed schools with a November 1 deadline for early decision may not get their scores on time.
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As if taking the SAT and ACT wasn’t stressful enough.

College hopefuls who recently took the standardized tests were informed some schools with a November 1 deadline for early decision may not get their scores on time, thanks to a new electronic system that's experiencing delays.

While for the most part, students can access their own scores online, an electronic error delayed sending the information to schools.

On Tuesday, the College Board, the non-profit that administers the SAT, posted an update to their website that said all students are able to view their scores online, and “the majority of scores” had been delivered to colleges.

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“We are reaching out to affected colleges to ensure they understand the circumstances and are working with them to resolve the issue in the best interest of students. In the meantime, we are updating students and colleges by email as soon as information becomes available. We understand this is stressful for affected students. We apologize for the inconvenience this has caused families and colleges.”

The College Board promised to refund the $31 many students pay to rush their scores.

The delay affected the ACT’s reporting of students’ written exam scores from September tests. In a statement on Facebook on October 30, the organization reported that all essays had been scored: “All scores that are available to be released were posted to students’ accounts this morning. We extend our sincere apologies to anyone impacted for the inconvenience and stress this situation may have created.”

On their website, ACT reported that “in most cases, scores submitted by 2 p.m. CT on Sunday, November 1 will be received by colleges who receive score reports electronically from ACT by November 1.”

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Dr. Kat Cohen, founder of IvyWise, a college admissions consulting service, told NBC News it's "unacceptable that the College Board and ACT couldn’t meet these important deadlines.”

“It is certainly frustrating and scary for students that put in a lot of hard work and preparation leading up to these exams, and in compiling their early applications,” she said.

Cohen encouraged students to stay calm. “It is not ideal timing, but colleges know there is a problem and in many cases we are seeing colleges responding and allowing for scores to be turned in past early application deadlines.”

ACT reached out to schools, said Cohen, letting them know that September and October scores are delayed, and asked that they accept screen shots of students’ multiple choice test scores and a copy of ACT’s email to them as proof they are impacted.

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“Students should do their due diligence,” and check individual schools’ policies on their websites, she said.

Boston College, which had been notified by ACT, said it is “unlikely” that October scores of the written portion of the test would make it on time to be evaluated for Early Action, but that students should designate BC to receive the results on or before the day they take the exam.

Brown University said they expect to receive the delayed scores in time for Early Decision, and Columbia University said they’d accept a screenshot of results. “Please do not worry!” read a post on Harvard’s site, adding that they are also aware of exam delays in Texas from the recent floods, and that if scores weren’t received by Early Action deadlines they would reach out to applicants with more information.

While the SAT and ACT tests were once powerful arbiters of college admissions success, there is a budding trend of schools de-valuing those scores.

“More than 800 four-year colleges and universities are now test-optional or test-flexible,” Cohen said. “I do think that we will see many more schools go test-optional or test-flexible over the next coming years.”

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Cohen cites other mix-ups — including one in June where two sections of the SAT were not scored — as signs that the process is stumbling.

Because of fewer resources, students from lower socio-economic backgrounds are at a disadvantage with these tests, Cohen added.

In the here and now, however, students should trust in the power of communication.

“At the end of the day, colleges want students to have ample opportunities to craft the best application possible, and want to build out the strongest class possible,” Cohen said. “So in most cases this should not be a make-it or break-it situation.”