Scholarships and College Admissions: Where Does the ACT fit In?

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Guest post by David Recine of Magoosh

Needless to say, ACT scores are a big part of getting into school, and getting school paid for. But how big are ACT scores, within the bigger picture? Let’s take a look at how ACT scores work when it comes to getting into school and staying there, and why ACT scores matter.

You Don’t Need an ACT Score (there, I said it!)

Before we get started, I want to say something that may sound a little provocative on the surface: you don’t actually need an ACT score for admissions or scholarships. But ACT scores are still very important. How can both of these things be true? Well for one thing, if you are a domestic freshman applicant, you have the choice between sending in an SAT score or an ACT score. So ACT and SAT are equally important, but once you decide to take one, the other ceases to be necessary.

The same thing is true, indirectly, if you’re applying to a school as a transfer student. In that case, you won’t need an ACT or SAT score to transfer from one school to another. However, you would have needed one of those to get into your initial school to begin with.

If you’re an international applicant, you may not need an SAT score or ACT score at all for admissions. Many schools only ask their international applicants for TOEFL or IELTS scores. Still, don’t assume this will happen. Quite a few American universities, especially top ones, ask international applicants for SAT/ACT and TOEFL/IELTS. So always check with your target school.

In any case, scholarships also tend to ask for either an ACT score or an SAT equivalent. So even if you didn’t use an SAT or ACT score to get into your current school, one of these exams could be an important key to getting funding.


ACT vs. SAT.

If you’ve clicked this article, you’re probably planning to take the ACT. But to make sure that really is the right choice for you, consider taking this free sample SAT exam. That mock test can help you compare your SAT experience to your ACT one. That way, you can be truly sure that you’re taking the test you have the most confidence in.

act vs sat
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The Role of ACT Scores in Scholarships

So how will your ACT score really work for you, in scholarships and admissions? Let’s start with scholarships. The ACT definitely is a key factor in a number of scholarships for school.

When a scholarship foundation considers the ACT, your score will likely be weighed alongside other factors. If a scholarship has a minimum ACT score, it will almost always have a minimum GPA as well. Other eligibility requirements may apply too, of course.

Most importantly, many ACT-linked scholarships are tiered. What does this mean? It means that the higher the ACT score, the more the scholarship foundation will pay out. For example, a scholarship foundation might set a minimum ACT score of 23 for eligibility. But they then might give out more money to applicants with a score of at least 27, while giving out the most money to students who have an ACT of 31 or higher.

ACT Scores and Admissions

The ACT’s role in admissions is much more straightforward than its role in scholarships. There are two types of ACT criteria a university might post: a minimum score or a “preferred” score. When a school sets a minimum score, you’ll need to meet that minimum to be eligible. Simple enough, right? But, what if a school has a preferred ACT score–or a preferred ACT score range? In that case, you might be able to get in with a score that is less than the minimum preference. But the farther you are below that preference, the lower your chances are.

So it’s pretty easy to see if you have a “good” ACT score by a school’s standards. The trickier part of ACT scores and admissions is timing. You should carefully choose a test date that gives you enough time to study for the ACT, but also allows you to turn in your ACT scores by the school application deadline. For advice on how to do this, see this guide to scheduling the ACT.

Liked this post? Read StudentSharp’s Ultimate ACT Guide for an in-depth look at how to get a high ACT score. Also, check out our best ACT Books guide for help on finding the right ACT prep book for you. 

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1 Comment
  1. Cayden says

    Super inaotmfrive writing; keep it up.

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