ACT Scholarships

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Can My ACT Score Get Me a Scholarship?

What is the ACT and why does it matter to colleges and other scholarship providers? The ACT is a national college admissions examination. It measures students' skills, knowledge, and potential across four areas:

  1. Math
  2. Science
  3. English
  4. Reading

The way the ACT scoring works is on a scale of 1–36. This applies to each of the four sections. Your composite ACT score is an average of your 4 section scores.

How do you figure out if a scholarship has an ACT requirement? Each scholarship you find spells out who is eligible to apply. ACT-based scholarships may give out funds based on your academic standing.

These may spell out specific grades and test scores. But some also list test scores as optional. In this case (and if yours are above the norm) it may be useful to include them. Or, speak with someone from the scholarship committee for guidance.

So, what is a good ACT score for a scholarship? A "good" ACT score depends on the colleges and universities you want to apply to.

The highest possible score on the ACT is 36. The current national average ACT score is 21. This means some states have higher than average scores. Others by default, have lower scores. There are also different averages for each subject:

% of Graduates Tested Average Composite Score Average English Score Average Math Score Average Reading Score Average Science Score
60 21.0 20.3 20.7 21.4 21.0

To find more ACTs scholarships you can also make a list of colleges you want to apply to. Then see if they list any merit scholarships. If that doesn’t help, you can back track and check the school’s financial aid page. Here are the top upcoming scholarships which factor in ACT scores to get you started:

What ACT scores do colleges look for?

A score of 23 on the ACT is above the current national average. As such, it may make you a strong applicant at many universities. But it may fall below the average score for accepted students at some selective colleges.

For example, scoring above 30 puts you in the 90th percentile of ACT test-takers. This means you scored above 90 out of a hundred others who took the same test.

The higher your ACT score, the more options may be open to you.

A few examples of ACT score ranges for colleges and universities:

College or University ACT Composite Score 75% Percentile ACT Composite Score 25% Percentile
Duke University 33 35
Baylor University 26 31
Texas A & M University - San Antonio 17 19
Columbia University - NYC 33 35
Harvard University 33 35
University of Pennsylvania 32 35
Quinnipiac University 23 28
Santa Clara University 28 32
Loyola University Chicago 25 30
Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota 20 26
University of Colorado 25 31
Yale University 33 35
University of Knoxville - Tennessee 25 31

Can you get scholarships with a 21 ACT score?

In many states, the average composite score is below 20. So, there may be scholarships available if you score a 21 on the ACT. One example is the CIA Undergraduate Scholarship which pays $18,000 per year.

But usually, the score you need to get a scholarship depends on the college you apply to. The location (state) of the college may also play a role.

Let’s take a look at 13 states where the average ACT score is below 20:

State Average Composite Score
Alabama 19.2
Alaska 19.8
Arkansas 19.4
Florida 19.8
Hawaii 19.0
Louisiana 19.5
Mississippi 18.6
Nevada 17.8
New Mexico 19.7
North Carolina 19.1
Oklahoma 19.4M
South Carolina 18.7
Tennessee 19.8

What is the minimum ACT score for scholarships?

There may be many scholarships you qualify for with ACT scores in the low 20’s at least. It depends which colleges you are looking at. Many colleges assess you on your score range.

Some examples of scholarships by ACT score using common ranges are below. There are many more, but this shows that at each range, scholarships exist. As such, ACT scores from 26 to 30 may open up avenues that a range of 18-21 may not. Or, they may enable you to be eligible to receive more funds.

ACT Score Range Example of Scholarships by ACT Score (There are many more!)
10 to 15 AIEF Scholarship
16 to 20 Coca-Cola Scholars Program Scholarship
21 to 25 Jackie Robinson Scholarship
26 to 30 Chicago Roofing Contractors Association (CRCA) Scholarship
31 to 36 Craig and Galen Brown Foundation Scholarship. Also many universities use this range to award full-ride scholarships

Why Consider Using ACT Scores for a Merit Scholarship?

More than 1.9 million people took the ACT test in 2018. While the test has not changed much over time, the percentage of perfect scores is on the rise.

One study reports that a decade ago, one of every 2,600 students got a perfect score. In 2018, one of every 500 nailed a perfect score.

But you don’t have to get a perfect ACT score to get a merit scholarship. All 4-year colleges and universities in the United States accept ACT test scores.

Here are a few other reasons to use your ACT scores for merit scholarships:

  • Taking the ACT may help colleges and scholarship organizations look at your application
  • Some colleges award scholarships based on your ACT scores. One example is Baylor University. They offer scholarships ranging from $40,000 to $84,000 based on a combination of test scores and class rank (or GPA if school is non-ranking)
  • Higher test scores may also lead to more scholarship dollars. This might mean more scholarships to apply to. Or more money in your pocket as a result of your grades. One example is the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For ACT scores of 34 to 36 one may get $5,000 more per year than for scores in the 29 to 30 range
  • Being rewarded for good grades is one way to make college more affordable. At last check, the average amount of scholarship and grant aid received by undergrads is $11,810
  • Unlike a loan, you do not have to pay back ACT scholarship funds. Though you do have to abide by their terms. This may mean striving to maintain a specific GPA
  • Certain ACT/SAT scores may place you in the running for a full-ride scholarship
  • Recipients and finalists of the National Merit Scholarship may also be eligible for other awards and aid. The National Merit Scholarship looks at PSAT scores

Which Test is Better for Scholarships? The ACT or SAT?

Both ACT and SAT scores may be a factor for college admissions decisions. Also, for awarding merit-based scholarships.

This is because in general, the ACT and SAT tests cover the same topics. As such, many colleges do not prefer one test over the other.

For some students the decision boils down to one of comfort. You may want to take a full-length practice test to help you decide. Or, take both tests as many students do.

Top ACT Scholarships

To find more ACTs scholarships you can also make a list of colleges you want to apply to. Then see if they list any merit scholarships. If that doesn’t help, you can back track and check the school’s financial aid page. Here are the top scholarships which factor in ACT scores to get you started.

CIA Undergraduate Scholarship Program

High school seniors and current college freshmen and sophomores with a grade point average of 3.0 or higher and an SAT score of 1000 or higher or an ACT score of 21 or higher are eligible to apply for this award. Students must be available to work in the Washington, D.C. area during summer breaks, and must agree to continue employment with the CIA after graduation.

Total: $18000 Awards:  4
Deadline:  July 31

Women Techmakers Scholars Program

This award is for female undergraduate and graduate students who are pursuing a career in computer science, computer engineering or a related field. Students must demonstrate a record of academic excellence.

Total: $10000 Awards:  20
Deadline:  December 5

Paul Tsongas Scholarship Program

This award is available to Massachusetts high school students who are planning to attend one of the nine state colleges in Massachusetts. The student must be enrolled within three years afterh high school graduation and have a grade point average of 3.75 or higher and a SAT score of at least 1200 (or the ACT equivalent).

Total: $8000 Awards:  45

American Indian Education Foundation Undergraduate Scholarship

This award is for U.S. students who are attending or planning to attend an accredited college/university or technical/vocational school as a full-time undergraduate student. The student must be of Native American or Alaska Native descent.

Total: $2000 Awards:  150
Deadline:  April 04

Coca-Cola Scholarship Program

High school seniors are eligible to apply for this scholarship. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or eligible non-citizens and must attend a high school in the United States.

Total: $20000 Awards:  150
Deadline:  October 31

Daniels Scholarship Program

This scholarship is open to U.S. high school seniors who reside and attend high school in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, or Wyoming. Students must have an ACT score of 17 or higher in each section or an SAT score of 840 or higher, and must demonstrate financial need.

Total: $10000 Awards:  239
Deadline:  November 15

The Craig and Galen Brown Foundation Awards Scholarship

The Craig and Galen Brown Foundation Awards Scholarship is for incoming freshman at Texas A&M who have strong academic records and a history of leadership.

Total: $28792 Awards:  46
Deadline:  December 02

Burger King Scholars Award

This scholarship is available for high school seniors who are residents of the United States, Canada, or Puerto Rico. Students must have a grade point average of 2.5 or higher, and must work part-time an average of 15 hours per week, 40 weeks per year.

Total: $50000 Awards:  2500
Deadline:  December 15

Jackie Robinson Scholarship

U.S. minority high school seniors with an SAT score of 1000 or higher or an ACT score of 21 or higher are eligible for this award. Students must demonstrate leadership potential, commitment to community service, and financial need.

Total: $7500 Awards:  51
Deadline:  February 01

Beinecke Scholarship Program

This award is available for U.S. college juniors who are planning to pursue a master's or doctoral degree in the arts, humanities or the social sciences and must have a grade point average of 3.5 or higher. Students must currently attend and be nominated by one of the participating colleges or universities.

Total: $34000 Awards:  20
Deadline:  February 12

Actuarial Diversity Scholarship

This scholarship is available for U.S. and international high school seniors, undergraduates, and graduate students who have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher (emphasis on math and actuarial courses); high school seniors must also have a minimum ACT math score of 28 or SAT math score of 600. Students must intend on pursuing a career in the actuarial profession, and must have at least one birth parent who is a member of an eligible minority group (black/African American, Hispanic, Native Nor...

Total: $4000 Awards:  29
Deadline:  March 01

CRCA Scholarship Awards Program

This scholarship is available for U.S. high school seniors from the following Illinois counties: Boone, Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, Stephenson, Will or Winnebago. Students must pursue a major in one of the following fields of study: liberal arts and sciences, engineering, architecture, or business.

Total: $3000 Awards:  2
Deadline:  March 06