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If you take the ACT in September, you should have enough time to get your scores back before the earliest deadlines (usually November 1). Are you applying to a school with Rolling Admissions? Even if that's the case, you should still be able to apply with plenty of time.
It's always better to have a test score, especially for selective schools. If you're applying to a less-selective school and your transcript is very strong, you might consider just applying anyways, but it's not the most ideal situation (some scholarships are based on scores, for instance, and it's unclear how that will change with test-optional policies).
Keep in mind that you also should weigh whether or not you have the time to study properly for the ACT. The last thing you want is to take it and get a score you're unhappy with, only to go test-optional anyways. Be realistic with yourself about what you can handle (though a strong test score should be a big priority in the admissions process). Maybe take a timed practice test to see if your initial score is somewhat close to your goal score (at least in the top range of the middle 50% of the schools you're aiming for). If you're close, then you may not have to study "as much," though you should still take it seriously.
Does this make sense? Let me know if you have more questions, and good luck!
Test-optional really depends on what schools you’re going for and how likely you are to get in without a test score. The way test-optional policies work is that it benefits the students who submit test scores but also gives a chance to people who either didn’t make the cutoff or couldn’t sit for the exam since now it’s not a requirement for admissions. My recommendation is if you are scoring below in the 25% percentile (below “below average”) then don’t submit your score.You really want have a score that is in the top of the ‘middle 50%’ values that colleges publish every year; unless you can get your score up to at least a slightly below average test score, then submitting a test score will only hurt you. I.E. for an ivy league like Brown which went test optional this year, I wouldn’t submit any SAT score below like a 1500-1520 because then you will just look under qualified. If you have a competitive profile already (strong grades and ECs for your school) then you should be fine not submitting a test score. However, if your EC profile or GPA is lacking then you might be able to make up for it with a big test score. It’s your call. Normally I would say take the test and then see where to go after based on your score, but if this is time intensive you might have to make that call now by yourself.
So crsgo definitely hit the nail on the head with how test op works. In regards to sending it down the line that is definitely feasible if it is one deadline you can appeal in the spring and essentially say I got x score I’m qualified. The process depends on the school however and you’d need to contact the schools admission office for the how to.
Hope this helps and comment if you need clarification.