Setting a target score

The ACT is an important measuring tool that colleges use to determine which applicants will be a good fit. Scores on the ACT range from 1 to 36. So... a 1 is not a good score. You get that. And, a 36 is a perfect score.  Those are extremes - and not many people get EITHER of those scores! So you, like most high school students, are somewhere in between those scores.

How can you know if your score is "good"? More importantly, how can you tell if it's "good enough" for the schools on your list?

Here's what to do!

1. Start a spreadsheet. I recommend using google docs, because then you can share it with your parents or other relevant people as you go. (Note: any time is a good time to get yourself a college coach! This is one of the important things I do with my students!)

2. Make a list of the colleges that are of most interest to you.  List them down the left side of your spreadsheet. 

3. Find ACT information on each of those schools online. Dozens of websites (probably hundreds, actually) can help you with this. Two of my favorites are Princeton Review and Niche. Each has a search function and an easy-to-read format that can provide the information you're looking for. One stat in particular is the most helpful thing you can find:

The "middle 50%" range of ACT scores

4. Don't be intimidated. This isn't as hard as it sounds, I promise. Here's a screen shot of the Mizzou page on Princeton Review.

mizzou middle act.jpg

See the numbers across the bottom? Those are the facts you need to know. Focus on that ACT score: 23-29. That means that 50% of the students who are accepted to Mizzou scored between 23 and 29 on the ACT.  Those are "typical" students, so if you are scoring in that range, then there's a good chance that this is a "good fit" school for you.

Think of it another way. Only 25% of the students who get into Mizzou score lower than 23. 

What's your score? If you're an average junior, your score is 21. (That's the national average for 11th graders!) That's a little low, if you want admission to Mizzou. It's not TOO low, but it would be a good idea to try and improve that score. 

Additionally, if your score is a 31, which is enough to qualify you for Bright Flight money in the state of Missouri, you are also well above the Mizzou average. In this instance, you would automatically qualify for the Honors College, where you'd take classes with other high-achieving students.

What if Mizzou isn't your school? What if you're looking at WashU in St. Louis? Let's see.

washU ACT.jpg

Look at that ACT score. The middle 50% of scores at WashU are 32-34. (Wow!)

If you are an average junior with an ACT of 21, you are very far below their average, and your chances of admission to that school with that score are very slim.

Don't freak out. Seriously. Plan the work. Work the plan. That's it.

Don't freak out. Seriously. Plan the work. Work the plan. That's it.

If, however, you are scoring a 31, earning Bright Flight, and rocking your above-average are *STILL* below the middle 50% at this school. This is practically Ivy-level, and that's the kind of environment you'll find at WashU: highly-selective and academically rigorous. If you're a a 31, you might consider some test prep and practice to gain another point or two, in order to maximize your chances for admission and success.

5. Complete your list and take a look at the scores on your spreadsheet. What's the highest score on the page? (Maybe that should be your goal.) What's the lowest score on the page? (You don't want to be below that number!)

If your scores are far below or far above the scores you see on your spreadsheet, then maybe you will want to spend some time building a college list that is better suited to the kind of student that you are. If your scores are close, but low, it's worth the investment in some test prep (classes or tutoring) to get that score up a bit. Don't forget that we have 10 Super Savvy Strategies that can help! Many scholarships are awarded on the basis of ACT (or SAT) scores. Just one point can mean thousands of dollars!! Let me say that again. It's important.

Just one point can mean thousands of dollars!

6. Time for reflection. Are your scores "good enough" for the schools on your list? Only you can know that. Are the schools on your list appropriate for the kind of student you are? Again, only you can know that.

These are important decisions! Take your time. Talk to the important people in your life.

And make it happen!