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What is the ACT and why does it matter to colleges and other scholarship providers? The ACT is a national college admissions examination. In detail, it measures students’ skills, knowledge, and potential across four areas:
The way the ACT scoring works is on a scale of 1–36. The scoring 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. In addition, ACT 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:
To find more ACT 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.
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. On the other hand, 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. As a result, you scored above 90 out of a hundred others who took the same test. If your ACT score is higher, then more options may be open to you.
A few examples of ACT score ranges for colleges and universities:
In many states, the average composite score is below 20. So, there may be scholarships available if you score a 21 on the ACT. For example, the CIA Undergraduate Scholarship pays $18,000 per year.
However, 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:
There may be many scholarships you qualify for with ACT scores in the low 20’s. It depends on which colleges you are looking at. Many colleges assess you on your score range.
For instance, scholarships by ACT score with common ranges are below. There are many more, but this shows that at each range, scholarships exist. Therefore, 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.
More than 1.9 million people took the ACT test in 2018. One study reports that a decade ago, one of every 2,600 students got a perfect score. In 2018, one of every 500 students nailed a perfect score.
But you don’t have to get a perfect ACT score to get a merit scholarship. Otherwise, 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:
Both ACT and SAT scores may be a factor for college admissions decisions and for awarding merit based scholarships.
In general, the ACT and SAT tests cover the same topics. Moreover, many colleges do not prefer one test over the other. Overall, 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.
Check out our list of over 3,115 ACT scholarships worth $131M.
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The sources for school statistics and data is the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.
This is an offer for educational opportunities that may lead to employment and not an offer for nor a guarantee of employment. Students should consult with a representative from the school they select to learn more about career opportunities in that field. Program outcomes vary according to each institution’s specific program curriculum. Financial aid may be available to those who qualify. The information on this site is for informational and research purposes only and is not an assurance of financial aid.