How important are your SAT and ACT scores?

Generally, quite important. True, many schools – especially private colleges – look at the total individual and often scrutinize one’s application. But, grades in high school courses are no. 1 on the list of factors to be considered followed by test scores.

Test scores are utilized by colleges for two reasons: admissions and financial aid – and this includes both need-based aid and merit aid. If the college really wants you, the financial aid package you receive may be one that pleases your family. And when it comes to merit aid, a certain score may earn you money.

If the score desired by a college for full tuition is a 1400 on the SAT or 32 on the ACT, then you need to obtain those scores to be considered for most of the tuition, if not all. For example, at Yeshiva University, these high scores mean just that: most or full tuition.

The SAT cheating scandal this past year – when a college student took the test for high school students – led to major changes in how one applies for these college admissions tests for the 2012-13 school year. Seniors who took the SAT as juniors are in for a big change in the registration procedures.

First of all, when you register for the SAT or ACT, you will now need to submit a current, recognizable photograph (uploaded or mailed; optional for September ACT but required from there on out). Your photo will appear on your admission ticket, so when you come to the testing site, your photo will already appear on the roster.

What are these photo requirements? Let us be more exact: The photo must truly represent you as you are NOW, so no middle school or group photos. It should be a full-face view, properly focused and exposed, and passport-type or wallet-sized (2-by-2 up to 2-and-a-half-by-3 inches and at least 640-by-480 pixels).

When submitting the photo electronically, the file format must be .jpg, .gif or .png. When submitting your photo by mail, write your full name, date of birth and high school code on the back of your photo and then tape all four edges of the photo to the form, using transparent tape. Don’t use paper clips, staples or glue.

Testing agencies will be supplying this photo to your school when they send along your score. Thus, your high school will see your photo along with your scores, so your photo better be you, or your school will have to report that the picture they see along with the score does not appear to be the student that they know.

On test day, you still have to bring identification such a driver’s license, passport, or school identification card. For further security, you need to sign a statement attesting to the accuracy of your personal information and acknowledging that you know that impersonation is punishable by law.

For Sunday test-takers, know that the first time you register for the SAT, you must register by mail. That is because you need to send a rabbi’s letter informing the SAT that you are observing the Jewish Sabbath on Saturday and therefore need to take the Sunday test.

Also, in this case the test center code is 01000 with no second choice; all Sabbath observers across the country have the same test center code. You will be placed at a Sunday center, which for metro-area students will likely be Yeshiva Atlanta. If you are placed in some faraway place, call the SATs immediately and get your test center changed.

For the ACT exam, you may go online – even for the first time you register – and sign up for Sunday testing. Yeshiva Atlanta has an ACT test code of 163501 and gives the ACT in September, October, February and June.

For the SAT, Yeshiva always offers the test on the Sunday after the Saturday test date. There is one exception this year because of Sukkot: The Oct. 6 SAT will be given on Oct. 14 at YA. This probably holds true for most schools across the country that administer Sunday testing.

Even standby testing will have new rules; in fact, there will be no standby testing for the SAT. You can’t just walk in to the test site and say that you want to take the test, hoping that extra tests are available. Instead, there will be a wait list option, but you must go online to the SAT site and request wait list status.

This happens after the late registration ends but at least 5 days before the test date; that means the Monday before your intended test date.

Want to change your test center or test date? Give advance notice to the SATs. These changes must be made by Wednesday three weeks before your new requested test date. No, you can’t just walk in on the test date and say that you want to change your test date because, for example, you were sick the original test date; check the College Board website for the specific instructions.

For the ACT, you must register for standby PRIOR to the test. You should make that request by the Monday before the next test date. Of course, the photo requirements still hold.

Once in a while, a parent completes the registration form for a student, but that is not a great way to complete the application. The parent will not be at the student’s college to complete form. Students need to apprize their parent of the new procedures; otherwise, you may find that your registration is returned from the testing agency.

Just like 9/11 changed the way we travel, a cheating scandal changed the way registration for the SAT and ACT transformed the process. Don’t wait for the last minute to register; if all of a sudden you can’t find a digital photo and the deadline for registration is approaching that day, you may wind up paying a late fee.

Why pay extra because of procrastination when you should take action beforehand?

For any late-breaking changes one should always consult the websites of the College Board or the ACT; that’s the final word. Make the process smooth by achieving your objectives in a timely fashion.

By Dr. Mark L. Fisher
AJT Contributor

Editor’s note: Dr. Mark Fisher (drmarkfisher@bellsouth.net) is a college and career consultant at Fisher Educational Consultants.com) and is the college counselor for Yeshiva Atlanta.