While the SAT (or rather, the PSAT) is famously associated with the National Merit Scholar competition, the ACT can sometimes be overlooked as a source of college money. However, do some quick research and you’ll see: those points can be pretty valuable in the long-term, even after you’ve gotten your acceptance letters.
Can I Really Get Money for College Based on My ACT Score?
Yes! Keep in mind, though, that scholarships won’t be automatically awarded, because they’re not given by or administered through the ACT organization. Instead, you’ll have to look to individual organizations, foundations, and universities and apply through them. Does this make it a little more complicated to get scholarship money? Sure. Is it worth it, for (potentially) thousands of dollars off your college tuition? Definitely.
How Much Money Can I Get?
It really depends. Mostly, it depends on how high your score is. Scores of 30+ are in a good range for scholarships, because they place you well in the top ten percentile of test-takers.
Scholarship dollars are just one of many reasons why it’s important to start prepping for the ACT early. Taking the PreACT, for example, gives you great test-day experience without any of the pressure of the official exam (but no, you won’t qualify for any scholarships through PreACT scores). If your school doesn’t offer the opportunity to take the PreACT, or you missed testing for another reason, take an ACT practice test to get a sense of where you’d score if you took the test today.
Remember, these tests don’t tell us anything about how you’ll eventually score on the official exam: they only provide a snapshot of where you are right now. And that’s a really good thing, because once you know where you are, you can make a plan to reach your goals.
How Can I Get My Score Higher?
Maybe you’re aiming to get a perfect 36 (which will qualify you for lots of scholarships); maybe you’re trying for that stratospheric 30+; maybe you’re just trying to get your score as high as possible (one of the best goals, if you ask me). Whatever goal you’ve set, you’ll need to be methodical about reaching it.
Start with your PreACT or ACT practice test scores. Look at the questions you got right and wrong, and try to classify them. Where were your highest sectionals scores? Where were your lowest? Did you miss a lot of geometry problems? Were scientific experiment questions your hands-down favorites?
From there, you can evaluate what you’ll need to study to boost your score as high as possible. Take into consideration the time you have left before test day; get a great ACT study guide, and be realistic—even if you end up retaking the test a few months from now, that score could still put you in the running for major scholarship money.
So…How Do I Get This Money?
The first thing to do is to check with schools at which you’ve been accepted (or are applying) to make sure that you’re in the running for any scholarships they have available. Some schools will automatically consider all applicants for scholarships, while others require separate applications.
Then, you’ll have to do a little digging. Check out scholarships in your area, given by organizations like the Rotary Club. Check out scholarships given for students working towards particular career goals (like future CIA employees—true story). You’d be amazed at what scholarships are available, so get out your laptop, start Googling, and don’t forget to follow up with your guidance counselor, who may have experience with some of these organizations.
One last thing to keep in mind: not all ACT scholarships are created equal. Some scholarships use ACT scores as just one aspect of overall applications—so while a higher ACT score can help you get those scholarships (or get you more money), your GPA and other factors, from where you live to your ethnic background to your career plans, can also come into play. So do your research before sinking lots of time into each application!
Rachel Kapelke-Dale is a High School and Graduate Exams blogger at Magoosh. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Brown University, an MA from the Université de Paris VII, and a PhD from University College London. She has taught test preparation and consulted on admissions practices for over eight years. Currently, Rachel divides her time between the US and London.
All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.