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Articles / Applying to College / Will Senior Feb. ACT Scores Help Boost Merit Money?

Will Senior Feb. ACT Scores Help Boost Merit Money?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Feb. 9, 2012

Question: My daughter has been accepted for admission to her preferred colleges for Fall 2012, but we are learning that merit scholarship $ vary greatly with ACT scores. Should she retake and try to improve? Is there still time? Currently she has a 29 and a 4.04 GPA.

There is an ACT test date this coming Saturday (Feb. 11) but the registration deadline has passed. Depending on where you live, your daughter might be able to take the test as a “standby." See http://www.actstudent.org/regist/standbytest.html Note that standby testers are not guaranteed a seat and must pay a surcharge of $42 (which is obviously small potatoes if the new scores lead to some merit dough).


If you think that your daughter will be able to take the test in two days, and if she is willing to proceed as a walk-in, you can call the admission offices at her colleges to ask if they will use February scores when allocating merit awards, should these be her highest. There is no disadvantage in inquiring at each college directly.

If any of the schools say yes, then you will have to determine if your daughter is likely to get a walk-in seat on Saturday and if she feels prepared to take the test on short notice. The next test date after this one isn't until April, and that will definitely be too late.

If your daughter only took the ACT once before, it's possible that her score will jump several points, even if she has no time to prep for the Saturday test. But if she's already taken it a couple times and gotten similar results, she's probably not going to make significant gains without a concerted study effort. However, even a jump from 29 to 30 may feel bigger than it really is.

Regardless of what happens with the merit money, congrats to your daughter on her acceptances.

(posted 2/9/2012)

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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