Feb. 7, 2021
Sometimes it seems like everyone you know has a 34 or higher on the ACT, while you studied for hours just trying to break 20. Although it may feel as though all your classmates are scoring high on the test, that's not the reality. The mean ACT score last year was 20.7, and if you scored higher than that, then you certainly beat the average. But if you didn't break 20 on the test, that doesn't mean your college admission hopes are down the tubes.
In fact, College Confidential recently sat down with a high school senior who scored a 19 on the ACT and was accepted to all of the colleges on her list. She shares information about her journey that might help other students who are frustrated with their test scores. Below, check out the information that Kara shares with our readers.
College Confidential: How many times did you take the ACT?
Kara: I took the ACT once in the spring of 11th grade at school and got a 19. Then I took a practice SAT and got an 1120, so I decided to focus on the SAT as my admissions choice since the 1120 was higher than the 19. So I took the official SAT once during the summer before senior year and got a 960. Because that was quite a bit lower than what I'd gotten on my practice test, I signed up for a test prep course for the last few weeks of summer. I did attend all the test prep sessions but I didn't do as much practice and studying in between as I wanted to. I was a little burnt out on studying and I had a job during the day as a creative writing camp counselor, so I put in as much time as I could, but it was probably not enough. When I took the SAT again in the fall of senior year, I got a 980. I had applications due pretty soon after that so I went with the 19 ACT when I applied because it was higher than either of my SAT scores.
My unweighted GPA was 3.9 and I had some good leadership and extracurriculars, so I decided to focus on a mix of state schools where my ACT wouldn't hurt me too much and test-optional schools.
College Confidential: Which colleges did you apply to and where did you get in?
Kara: I applied to the University of Delaware, SUNY Albany, Bates and Emerson. My counselor thought that was kind of a random list but I had visited a lot of colleges (between my own college visits and those that I'd done with my sister, who is a year older than I am) and I felt good about all of those schools. I will admit there were other schools I saw that I really liked, but some would have been impossible with my ACT score, so these were the ones where I focused.
I wasn't sure if I wanted to major in English or communications, but those schools all have good programs in at least one of those areas. I got into Delaware, Albany and Emerson first, and then while I waited for my Bates decision, I started thinking that I should go into communications instead English. So I decided to attend Emerson since they have a strong communications program. Then I got accepted at Bates, which was pretty unexpected and amazing. But since they don't have a specific major in communications, I decided to commit to Emerson.
College Confidential: Do you have any advice for students going through the application process?
Kara: If you aren't happy with your test scores, keep trying, and if you still don't get the score you wanted, consider test-optional schools. After I scored lower than I wanted on the SAT and realized that I would be applying with the 19 ACT, I did spend a few days wondering what I was going to do, but I came out of it pretty quickly. I think my advice would be that even if your initial dreams don't work, there are other paths where you will find a great school. I'm really happy with my plan to go to Emerson and I think it worked out in the best way possible for me.
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