when do you take the sat

When Do You Take the SAT or ACT?

It’s your senior year of high school. Everyone is talking about where they want to go to college, and asking you what you want to major in… but you haven’t applied anywhere yet. You still need to take your standardized test. At Student-Tutor, we get this question all the time. When do you take the SAT?

When can you take the ACT or SAT?

According to ACT.ORG, here are the ACT test dates and registration period:

ACT Test DateRegular Registration DeadlineLate Registration Deadline
September 12August 31None
September 13August 31None
September 19August 31None
October 10September 25None
October 17September 25None
October 24September 25None
October 25September 25None
December 12November 6November 20
February 26January 8January 15

Meanwhile, for the SAT, here are the test dates and registration:

SAT Test DateRegular Registration DeadlineLate Registration Deadline
September 26August 26September 15
October 3September 4September 22
November 7October 7October 27
December 5November 5November 24

These are the registration and test dates for the SAT and ACT in 2020-2021, but getting in to take the test on time doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in the clear for college. In fact, it doesn’t at all.

The whole reason you’re taking the ACT and/or SAT is so that you can submit your scores to your college of choice for admission.

So the idea is that you have to take these tests IN ADVANCE. Your checklist goes like this:

  1. GPA
  2. Test Scores
  3. College and scholarship applications

Colleges will start evaluating applications before March. In March, most colleges will have decided who they are accepting, and you will most likely hear of their decisions around April 1st.

If I’m a senior, is it too late to take the SAT or ACT?

More than anything, you need to know what your college(s) of choice’s application deadlines are. Let’s say you’re a high school senior, and it’s January. In this case, you would have missed over 40 application deadlines to colleges including Cal Poly, UCLA, Berkeley, and UC Davis!

College Simply lists the deadline for every college admissions so you better check their page.

Now, if you haven’t taken the ACT or SAT, you’re going to need to take it before applying to any college and keep in mind that you’ll also have to wait to see your scores. 

So, can you take the SAT senior year? Yeah, you probably can. Here’s a more specific timeline:

  • October SAT: This is too late for early admissions.
  • November SAT: This is too late for early admissions, but okay for the regular admissions.
  • December SAT: You have to check with your college regarding their application deadline. This is too late for early admissions and very much cutting it close for regular admissions.

What about the ACT, you ask? Can you take the ACT senior year? Absolutely! Many seniors take the SAT during the fall and there is no problem with that.

It's never too late to get scholarships. There are plenty of scholarships that are monthly, weekly, and even daily. However, if you're looking to score big, the deadlines for larger scholarships are usually in January.

The trick is to have your test scores and GPA in order. You need to have taken your ACT/SAT before applying to scholarships that are concerned with these scores. There is a lot of money to be earned through Merit-Based Scholarships, for example. 

When is the best time to take the SAT or ACT?

  • Your college counselor
  • College admissions officers
  • An academic/test prep tutor or consultant

I’ve missed all my deadlines, and my GPA is lower than average. What are my options?

If this is the case, it’s time to look at community college.

You may have heard the phrase “community college route”. Many students will go to community college in order to increase their GPA and credits, and then transfer to a traditional university. 

If you ARE going the community college route, this doesn’t mean it’s time to relax. You’ll still need to do some strategic planning in order to make that transfer to another school.


So there you have it. The ideal time to take your standardized test is in your junior year of high school. But you also have to choice to take them senior year if you don't have any choice.

Just to review, here is the optimal timeline we discussed:

  • Freshman & Sophomores = Build your GPA
  • Juniors = Take the ACT/SAT and begin applying to scholarships
  • Seniors = Re-take the ACT/SAT for higher scores, apply to more scholarships, and start college applications

If you haven't followed this timeline, you'll need to consider other options!

Do you have any more questions about deadlines for the ACT, SAT, scholarships, or college admissions? Let us know in the comments below!

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Todd VanDuzer

Co-Founder & CEO at Student-Tutor
Hello! My name is Todd. I help students design the life of their dreams by ensuring college, scholarship, and career success! I am a former tutor for seven years, $85,000 scholarship recipient, Huffington Post contributor, lead SAT & ACT course developer, host of a career exploration podcast for teens, and have worked with thousands of students and parents to ensure a brighter future for the next generation. I invite you to join my next webinar to learn how to save thousands + set your teenager up for college, scholarship, and career success!
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