Sometimes I think that the ability to hit submit on an application on 11:59 PM on the night of a deadline (something we absolutely do not recommend!) has given some students the idea that every component of college applications can be submitted to schools at the last minute. When it comes to test scores, you need to send your score reports well in advance of deadlines.
Our official stance is that the last recommended test dates are in October for Early Action applicants and December for Regular Decision applicants. This is because it takes the test agencies several weeks to send your scores to your schools.
That's not to say you can't take the November and January tests. You just have to understand that your scores won't get to us for several weeks and we may have looked at your file a few times before the new scores arrive.
I completely understand the confusion. The note about the speed of test score delivery in the student part of the College Board website isn't very informative.
That's about as clear as a Matthew McConaughey car commercial.
Most schools get scores electrically. Our records system receives scores from the College Board every day and sometimes more than once per day at busy times of year. If a score report matches an application that's already in our system, the file is updated pretty quickly.
Luckily, the SAT people put the estimated time that it takes to send scores on one of the pages for education professionals.
The College Board is saying it takes FIVE WEEKS to deliver scores to your colleges. If you are applying Early Action, send your scores now.
UPDATE: On 10/23/14, I was able to confirm that ETS is sending scores electronically within 1-2 weeks of a request being submitted. It isn't clear why the note about five weeks appears on their website without an explanation. This refers to scores sent by international mail.
The ACT folks seem to be a little faster, delivering scores in about two weeks.
Of course, the testing agencies will gladly send your scores to colleges in just two days if you pay them a rush score fee. Try to avoid that by sending your scores well in advance of the deadlines.