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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. In detail, 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. 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:

% of Graduates TestedAverage Composite ScoreEnglish ScoreMath ScoreReading ScoreScience Score
6021.020.320.721.421.0

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.

10 ACT Scholarships You Should Apply for in 2021

There are hundreds of merit based awards that look at your ACT test scores. Some ACT score scholarships could help lower your school debt. Check out these ten scholarships based on ACT that you can apply for now.

  1. Jackie Robinson Scholarship
  2. Paul Psongas Scholarship
  3. CIA Undergraduate Scholarship Program
  4. Tennessee HOPE Scholarship
  5. University of North Georgia Military Scholarship
  6. 5 Strong Scholarship
  7. McConnell Scholarship for Future Leaders
  8. NJCPA High School Scholarships
  9. American Indian Education Foundation Undergraduate Scholarship
  10. The Anthony Muñoz Scholarship Fund

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. 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:

College or UniversityACT Composite Score 75% PercentileACT Composite Score 25% Percentile
Duke University3335
Baylor University2631
Texas A & M University, San Antonio1719
Columbia University, NYC3335
Harvard University3335
University of Pennsylvania3235
Quinnipiac University2328
Santa Clara University2832
Loyola University Chicago2530
Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota2026
University of Colorado2531
Yale University3335
University of Tennessee, Knoxville2531

Can You Get Scholarships with a Below Average 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. 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:

StateAverage Composite Score
Alabama19.2
Alaska19.8
Arkansas19.4
Florida19.8
Hawaii19.0
Louisiana19.5
Mississippi18.6
Nevada17.8
New Mexico19.7
North Carolina19.1
Oklahoma19.4M
South Carolina18.7
Tennessee19.8

What is the Minimum ACT Score for Scholarships?

There may be many scholarships you qualify for with ACT scores in the low 20’s. 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.

ACT Score RangeScholarship Examples by ACT Score
10 to 15AIEF Scholarship
16 to 20Coca-Cola Scholars Program Scholarship
21 to 25Jackie Robinson Scholarship
26 to 30Chicago Roofing Contractors Association (CRCA) Scholarship
31 to 36Craig 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. 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:

  • Taking the ACT may help boost your chances of winning a scholarship from colleges and scholarship organizations.
  • Some colleges award scholarships based on your ACT scores. For example, Baylor University offer scholarships ranging from $40,000 to $84,000 based on a combination of test scores, class rank, and GPA.
  • Higher test scores may also lead to more scholarship dollars. For instance, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville offers $5,000 awards per year for ACT scores between 34 to 36.
  • 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. You should also strive 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?

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.

List of ACT Scholarships

Check out our list of over ACT scholarships worth .

CIA Undergraduate Scholarship Program

High school seniors and current college freshmen and sophomores with a GPA 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 and agree to continue employment with the CIA after graduation.

Total: $72000

Awards: 4

Deadline: July 31

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 after high school graduation and have a GPA of 3.75 or higher and a SAT score of at least 1200 (or the ACT equivalent).

Total: $32000

Awards: 45

Deadline: 

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