Xiggi posted an interesting reply
in a thread he opened on a related subject decrying "undying myth of students being penalized for taking the SAT multiple times." I thought I should bring that issue to the fore in a new thread, to which I hope Xiggi will contribute his information, because I agree that there is much worry connected to the issue of retaking admission tests that seems to have no basis in the statements of current admission officers on the issue.
About three years ago I attended the NACAC Minnesota National College Fair, at which I first learned about regional college information sessions, when my son and I were invited to attend Harvard's autumn 2004 information session in my town. Since then, I have attended college-specific information sessions in my town for MIT; Princeton; Caltech; Stanford; a consortium of Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, and U of Virginia; the Colleges That Change Lives consortium; Carnegie Mellon; the Exploring College Options Consortium of Duke, Georgetown, Penn, and Harvard; a consortium of Brown, Cornell, Columbia, Rice, and the U of Chicago; and the new Exploring College Options consortium of Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, Penn, and Stanford. My son attended a Yale information session one evening two years ago when I had another appointment. At most of those sessions the issue of standardized testing requirements was one of the first issues asked about in questions from the audience. I have also read carefully recently published books about college admission, especially preferring books of the "kiss and tell" genre by authors with RECENT experience in college admission offices. I have gradually noticed that there is far more worry among students, and among some of their parents, about retaking a college admission test once or twice than is warranted by any college's policies. Threads about this issue on CC abound (I have found dozens with different formulations of forum searching, on at least seven different forums), and many people pass along undocumented speculation rather than public statements of admission offices when responding to those threads.
I attended the the Exploring College Options consortium (Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, Penn, and Stanford) meeting on 10 May 2007 in Bloomington, Minnesota specifically to ask about this issue. Before the meeting, I emailed ahead to the admission offices of Duke, Harvard, Penn, and Stanford with quotations from earlier CC threads, all publicly viewable threads indexed by Google, in which students asked about the issue of retaking the SAT I. I also included short "fair-use" quotations from some replies (of varying points of view) that those student questions elicited.
After slide shows about each college, the audience of more than 200 students (and many parents) was allowed to ask general questions. I looked around to make sure I wouldn't cut off a student, and then stood up to ask my question. I said that I have seen many online discussions in which a student has taken the SAT I once, and is concerned about taking it again. I asked if that could have a bad effect on how the college would view the student's first score, to report more than one score. The Georgetown admission representative (the only one I didn't write to ahead of time) replied that when there are SAT I retakes after the second time, score increases are not usually seen. But Georgetown counts an applicant's highest score, section by section, and does so even if some of the scores come from the old two-section SAT I rather than the current three-section SAT I.
The Harvard representative, admission officer Julia Topalian, looked me right in the eye as she said, "Take it ten times if you want to; it's not going to hurt you." She continued by saying that test scores are but one element in evaluating applicants for admission, and "how you use your time is important." Harvard will look at what an applicant's extracurricular activities (ECs) are, and taking admission tests is not considered an EC. But specific to the issue of retaking the test, "You can take it as many times as you like."
I thought that was a good response to the groundless worries so many students have about one or two retakes before the final deadline for submitting SAT I scores for an admission application. (By the way, the Harvard representative said in a later discussion specific to questions about Harvard that the first admission test [SAT I or ACT with writing] in the year 2008 will still be timely for class of 2008 applicants in Harvard's new one-deadline application cycle. She also said it is NEVER necessary to rush scores--rushed scores and regular service scores arrive at Harvard at exactly the same time.) Don't worry--don't worry at all--if you think there is a good reason for you to retake the SAT I (or ACT). Do remember that Harvard (and other fine colleges) every year pass over applicants with peak test scores to admit students with lower scores who have other desirable characteristics. There is no special admission wallop to taking the SAT I only once, and no guarantee of admission even with a perfect score. The 2006-2007 Official Register of Harvard University, a publication of the admission office, says, "You may take tests more than once; we consider only your highest scores."
All comparable colleges have similar policies, so this isn't an issue to worry about. I hope this helps the applicants in high school classes of 2008, 2009, and subsequent classes worry less and enjoy their activities more.
Good luck in your family's applications next year and in future years. Have a great Memorial Day weekend.