Q: Do you recommend that we send colleges our child's first round of ACT scores? Of course, we don't know how he did, but he seemed to feel confident about it. In addition, his practice test scores had him scoring at the 98th percentile.

A: You do not say if your child is a high school junior—I will assume that. I do not think it is healthy to start studying for, or taking, the standardized tests before that (although I know the PSAT is usually given to 10th graders).

My first reaction to your sending the scores to colleges is: Why? And the second question would be: Where? Do you already have a list of possible colleges? It's a little early to have a final list.

But my first question—why?—is based on the fact that standardized tests are just ONE factor among many that colleges consider when looking at applicants. Students with a tremendous range of test scores are accepted at a huge number of colleges. It would be premature to send a score without any kind of context.

What will happen is that a college or university will just hold this score somewhere and wait for an application to catch up with it. They may also mine it for your student's name and address and start sending brochures and e-mails and promotions. The testing organizations sell names and addresses to colleges, who then use this information to advertise.

The major reason for waiting to send the score is this: it's just one score. No college is going to say whether your child will be admitted or not. And I don't want you OR your child to think that a high score BY ITSELF is going to guarantee anything. That would diminish the importance of everything else. The #1 factor admissions readers consider is the strength of curriculum. Then they look at grades, teacher and counselor recommendation letters, the quality and commitment of extra-curricular activities, and the thoughtfulness and quality of the essay. And the scores, of course.

I hope your child did well on the ACT and will give it another try to see if the score changes. But really, wait to send the score until after you have the second result and you actually submit an application.