Summary: Register early for your test (specifically the SAT and ACT). If you wait too long, you may not find any spots available near you.
Planning for the SAT is difficult, but plan you must
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t think that planning for college in the US is difficult. Not only do you need to excel in school, you also need to stay “qualitatively” busy after school, raise your test scores, as well as market yourself to the colleges you’ll be applying to.
So it can be pretty difficult at times to plan things out ahead of time, though we do know people who have the next 1.5 years planned out, down to test dates and hotel reservations!
There are many activities that we definitely recommend you start early on, but one of the most important is simply being sure to register for your test early.
Why? Well, there’s a very real chance that if you wait too long, you won’t be able to get a seat at your preferred location or even in your city. This may not seem like a big deal, but it can be in some cases.
For example, some testing sites can be noisy or disorganized. Here in San Francisco, our students seem to have the best luck taking the tests at private schools, though many public schools have gotten good reviews as well. (One in particular, though, has gotten very bad reviews, unfortunately. But I’m not going to name and shame here.)
When to register for the SAT
When to register? The short answer is to register as early as you can. The system allows registrations up to a year in advance.
To give an example of how hard it can be to get a spot (this was for the SAT), in July I searched for a seat for the test in August (so about a month in advance). There were 0 spots available. I extended my search to a radius of 75 miles. Still 0. Nothing available at all. The closest testing centers I was able to locate were in Sacramento and Fresno. On a positive note, there seemed to be many seats available in Bakersfield.
A couple of anecdotes:
- For registration for the August SAT 2020 test, towards the end of May, our students reported that they were unable to find any spots available in San Francisco and had to choose a testing site in Oakland or elsewhere.
- Someone REALLY needed to take the ACT in July, and had to fly out of state to do so.
(I will update this periodically.)
When will I be able to register for the August SAT?
(Updated 2021-05-28) Last year, in 2020 (the pandemic year!), registration for the August SAT opened at the end of May. As of today, registration for the August SAT is still not open. College Board is currently saying that registration will open up in ‘early July’.
If you log into your account to register, after a few screens of entering information, you’ll be met with this screen. There are no dates available yet.
I believe you can also just check the College Board SAT calendar to see whether registration is open. When your desired test date moves from the ‘Anticipated Dates’ section to the ‘SAT Dates’ section, registration should be available.
Can I reschedule my SAT?
If I register early, and change my mind, can I reschedule? You can change your test date for a fee, which is currently (in 2019) $30. There’s actually no deadline for this (and you can even reschedule a previous test date that you missed), but if the test date you want to reschedule for is soon (less than about a month), you may have to pay a late fee as well (currently also $30). And remember, many of the best sites may be full already. Note that more information may be available when you register, on your admission ticket, or in emails sent to you, so always defer to that information.
Can I get a refund of my SAT registration?
What if I cancel my SAT registration entirely? Can I get a refund? As long as you still have at least five days before your test date, good news! You can request (and receive) a refund. The bad news is that you’ll get only $10 (six weeks after the test date at that). See the College Board for all the fine print about refunds.