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Articles / Applying to College / Will Lower Math ACT Score Hurt Admissions Chances?

Will Lower Math ACT Score Hurt Admissions Chances?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | June 20, 2014

Question: I’m a rising senior now and I will take my ACT test soon, and as I’ve been doing the practice tests I’m finding that I always score in the really high 30s for Reading, English, and Science but in the mid to high 20s for Math. I’m frustrated because even though math has NEVER been my strong suit I’ve always worked very hard and taken higher level classes for the best grades in math (mostly always high Bs excepting an A in calc junior year yay!). I’m pretty hopeful that I’ll get a composite score above 30, but I’m not sure if colleges just look at the composite score or at every little component. What do they look at? I’m shooting for schools like Georgetown and UVA (resident) and I am kind of worried. Will a lower math score really hurt me in admissions for these kind of schools?

Admission officials will look at ALL of your ACT sub-scores, not just the Composite, and if one score (in this case, math) is well below the others, it will be duly noted that it is an exception. Also, if your math score is on the low side but you’ve already taken calc as a junior and gotten an “A” in it, this will be more important than your ACT score on that section.

But, even so, your math ACT score could still have some impact on your college verdicts, especially at the hyper-selective colleges like Georgetown, where your “competitor applicants” may have similar transcripts and high test results across the board. However, your other stronger ACT scores and your calc grade will help to push the math result towards the back burner.

Yet remember that the most sought-after schools are looking for applicants who not only have top grades and test scores but who also submit applications that include other distinctions … atypical extracurricular activities, extraordinary achievements, an unusual background, etc.

So if you don’t get the good news you want next year, it may not be at all connected to your math ACT score.

Hope that helps. Have a great summer.


Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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