The main purpose of your ACT score isn’t to make your mom proud or even to give your grandma something to brag about at her book club. Sending your ACT scores to colleges is important for admissions and to receive financial aid and scholarships. But how (and when) should you send ACT scores to colleges? 

How to Send ACT Scores to Colleges 

When it comes to sending your ACT scores to colleges, there are a few options. Each has their pros and cons, so learn about your different options so you can make the best choice for you! 

Send your scores automatically once you take the ACT

The first option is to select up to four colleges to send your scores to when you register for the ACT. You can do this by finding and selecting their college codes on the ACT website. 

This is the easiest option because you can set your college choices at registration and don’t have to remember to send them after you take the test. You can also make changes to these college choices before you take the ACT. According to the ACT, you can make adjustments to these college reports up until the Thursday right after the Saturday test date. 

With this option, you send your scores at no additional cost, but the drawback is that you won’t be able to see your scores before submitting them to the college.

These score reports are typically sent within 2 to 8 weeks after the test date, or a little longer for ACT scores with the writing component.

Send score reports to colleges after you take the ACT

If you choose to send an ACT score report to a college after you’ve taken the test (and received your scores), it will cost you per report. Sending an ACT score report costs $13 for each test (taken after 2017). These reports are typically sent a week after you submit your request, as long as your score is already available.

Once you submit a request for score reports, it cannot be changed or canceled. So triple check before you hit submit!

The benefit of this option is that you have seen your score before you choose to send it to your college choices. The drawback is that you have to pay for each report, missing out on the four free reports that were included in your registration.

Students Enrolled in Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Programs

The process and costs of sending ACT scores looks a bit different for students who are enrolled in federal free and reduced lunch programs. When students enrolled in these programs register for the ACT, they can choose up to six colleges to submit their scores. 

After taking the test and receiving scores, these students can request unlimited regular score reports for free. If you are enrolled in these programs, take advantage of these benefits to share your scores with colleges.

How do colleges use ACT scores?

What happens when you send your ACT scores to a college? Colleges typically use these scores to accomplish a few different things. 

1. To determine which students get admitted

These scores can be used to determine if students are admitted to the college. However, test-optional schools do not require this score for admission. Even so, many students will still submit scores, even at those test-optional schools. For example, test-optional University of Chicago says that about 90% of applicants still choose to submit their test scores.

2. To determine which students get merit-based scholarships

Beyond admissions, many colleges use ACT scores to determine which students receive merit-based scholarships. Many college websites will have scholarship grids that combine test scores with high school cumulative GPA to determine how much scholarship money a student will receive. Some colleges even have scholarships awarded solely for particular ACT scores!

3. To place students in classes

Test scores are one way to waive out of remedial classes. Many engineering departments require their students to have minimum math and/or science scores.


Don’t stop taking the ACT (or submitting your test scores) after your first try. Instead, take the ACT three or four times to get your best score. With the help of ACT prep, you can improve your scores and earn more scholarships and financial aid from your best-fit colleges. Get started today!