Keep the Deadlines in Mind
Yes unfortunately there is a fixed deadline for these test scores to be submitted. Usually, nominating sources will require your final scores by the end of either September or early October of your senior year since nominations happen between November and January of your senior year. For the academies, they also have deadlines around November to January.
Also keep in mind that test results take over 3 weeks at least to be reported so I would not take the ACT in December of your senior year since it will already be past the deadline for most academies and nominating sources by the time your scores come out. Bottom line, it’s better to start the entire journey early!
Personal Journey From a Class of 2025 USAFA Cadet
I personally never took the real SAT. After I got a 1050 on my PSAT score from the 1st semester of my sophomore year, I was absolutely devastated. I knew I wanted to become a cadet at one of the SAs but I thought my test score would hold me back forever. I simply thought I wasn’t smart enough.
Furthermore, SAT didn’t seem like the test I would excel due to its huge emphasis on advanced reading while ACT was more focused on speed and the texts were easier to comprehend and the questions were more straightforward.
So I started preparing for the ACT once sophomore year winter break started. I simply bought a Kaplan ACT prep book (by the way not the best resource out there in my opinion) and started working on the questions.
I took my first ACT in February of my sophomore year; just 2 months into prepping. I got a 26 on it (subscores: 20 English, 35 Math, 27 Reading, 23 Science). Though 26 would never get me into schools like Service Academies, I started to get more hopeful as most test takers increase their score in their second or third attempt.
After summer, I started studying for the ACT again, this time more organized. I hired a tutor and she recommended the ACT “Red Book” to me.
The “Red Book” questions were better than any other option since this used authentic ACT questions that were actually on the test. I took the questions to school and worked on it whenever I had free time. Also I spent the last 30 minutes right before bed going over the questions I got wrong. I had to balance school work and ACT prep very well since my junior year course load was by no means easy: that is why I would advise all of you to use the summer to study for standardized tests.
After about 2 months of studying, I took my second ACT in October of my junior year. I got a 29 on that (subscores: 28 English, 31 Math, 25 Reading, 31 Science). Focusing heavily on the weak sections helped a lot as my English went up from 20 to 28 and Science from 23 to 31.
At this point, I had exactly 30 superscore ACTs. It was good enough to get me in the game but not ideal to be “competitive”. So I decided to retake it.
My third and fourth attempts were in February 2020. The Feb 8 test was what I personally signed up for and the Feb 25 test was provided by the school as every Junior was required to take it.
From the Feb 8 test, I got 31 with subscores being 26 English, 35 Math, 33 Reading, and 29 Science. Now I have a superscore of 32.
The Feb 25 test didn’t go as well as the score dropped down to 29 again. I decided it was time for me to stop taking the ACT.
And a year later I had a USAFA appointment in hand. Hard work had paid off.
Ways to Improve Your SAT and ACT Scores
There are a variety of ways to improve your SAT and ACT scores for your Service Academy application. We recommend finding a method that works best for you. This could be self-study with a text book (the ACT “Red Book“) or it could be with a tutor online or in-person. There are many programs that help students immensely.
Magoosh or Princeton Review are both excellent options, depending on how much you are willing to spend.
Wishing you luck in your quest for Service Academy admissions!