How do ACT Scores Affect College Acceptance?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

ACT scores may affect college admission a) a lot b) somewhat c) not at all or d) all of the above. The correct answer is d. These scores are sometimes given a lot of weight by schools or are only part of the consideration involved. Some schools, conversely, don’t even measure SAT or ACT scores and don’t require them as part of the application process.

ACT scores are required for most college applications.
ACT scores are required for most college applications.

What can also be variable is the degree to which ACT scores are considered acceptable for a particular college. Some colleges have noted cut-offs, and won’t consider students whose scores fall below a particular point. Such schools may be notably reluctant to identify cut-off points, while others do issue recommendations on what scores are looked on with favor. For the student, it makes good sense to listen when a school is recommending a higher score than has been earned, because applying may only be time-consuming, pointless and pricey.

Students who do well on the ACT may earn better grades at the college level.
Students who do well on the ACT may earn better grades at the college level.

There have been studies on the values of ACT scoring in predicting academic performance, and students who do very well on this test may trend toward better grades at the college level. Some insist the test is not just for evaluating the student but also to evaluate the academic institution the student attended. Students at inferior schools may have excellent grade point averages, which could initially make a college leap at the opportunity to take that student. A low ACT, though, could reveal the student hasn’t learned all the material he or she needs to be successful in college. For this reason some schools do look at ACT scores over grade point average, since the score may say more about college readiness. This doesn’t mean that grade point average is completely ignored.

In contrast, some schools are of the opinion that GPA is more important than ACT scores since it suggests the student competently rises to the academic level needed in order to achieve. Even if a GPA can’t indicate quality of the school, successful student habits may mean a student can pick up any missed knowledge along the way to remain successful. Therefore, GPA could be given greater weight than one test that took place on one day.

There are some schools that out of moral purpose refuse to evaluate SAT or ACT scores. They believe such scores may result from a fundamentally flawed system that preferences the wealthy and those in good school districts, which often comes down to racial discrimination. Poorer students due to the dramatic rise in the test prep industry may feel even greater disadvantage, which offers classes and workshops for those students who can afford to participate, and usually increases score. This advantage may not be available for the less wealthy student, and thus some colleges reject the testing system as unfair.

All of the opinions can make it challenging to determine how much ACT scores will count. The best way to truly find out is to talk to each school about individual requirements. Most schools will make it pretty clear what they’re looking for in a student and this can help students decide the colleges that will be most likely to accept them.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


allienoelle- The ACT is considered to be an achievement test and the SAT is considered to be an aptitude test. The ACT uses questions to test general knowledge and measure what a student has learned while they were in school. The SAT measures not only general knowledge, but focuses more on testing reasoning skills and verbal abilities. The ACT has an English, mathematics, reading, and science section. It also has an optional writing section. The SAT has only a critical reasoning, mathematics and writing section.


What is the difference between the SAT and the ACT?

Post your comments
Forgot password?