What an ACT Score Means
What an ACT Score Means
You’ve taken the test and received your score; now what happens? If you’re still in your junior year of high school, your ACT score can help you determine which colleges to apply to. Numerous publications each year publish reports on college profiles. Both these reports and your high school guidance counselor should help you determine your safety, 50/50, and reach schools, based on your ACT score, high school GPA, and other factors such as recommendations and extracurricular activities. While an applicant’s total package is what counts, a good ACT score will never hurt your chances of getting into the schools you want. If you scored better than you expected, your score may help your applications at schools that you previously considered reaches.
How Your ACT Score Fits into Your Application Package
You may be wondering why a standardized test score matters in your college application. Let’s compare two students, Megan and Chloe. Megan and Chloe are straight-A students at their respective high schools. These grades reflect the girls’ relative standings at their schools (unless everyone at these two schools gets As), but how can college administrator Tim use these grades to compare Megan and Chloe? It seems like we’re leading you to answer, “ACT scores!” Well, that’s not entirely true. The truth is that Tim will look at a number of things to differentiate between the two girls. He’ll carefully consider extracurricular activities, the girls’ essays, and their recommendations. He’ll also look at course descriptions to see whether Megan has long been acing Advanced Number Theory and Sanskrit while Chloe has been queen of her Shop class.
So where does the ACT fit into this? Well, it’s just another way of confirming relative standing among applicants. Tim may have access to course descriptions, but that curious college administrator is always on the lookout for other means of comparison. The ACT provides that means: it is a national standard by which colleges can evaluate applicants.
The ACT is merely one factor in your total application package, but it is an important factor that should not be overlooked or slighted. Although many schools hesitate to admit it, the fact is that your ACT score is one of the first things that stands out to someone reading your application. That person will eventually get around to reading teacher recommendations and your personal essay, but your ACT score is an easily digestible piece of information that will allow an admissions staff to form an early impression of your academic achievement. We’re telling you this not to scare you, but to give you an honest assessment of what the ACT means to your college application.
That said, you should think of the ACT not as an adversary but as a tool that will help you get into college. For example, if Chloe is really a class-A student, but her high school doesn’t give her the opportunity to extend her talents beyond Shop class, the ACT provides an opportunity for her to show Tim she isn’t a flake. If you approach the ACT pragmatically and don’t hope for a knockout score you can’t achieve, and if you study with some vigor, you can control your ACT destiny and get the score you need in order to get into the colleges of your choice.
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