High School is an exciting time for so many people. They no longer are considered a kid, but an adult. Students get to drive, go to the high school dances, participate in all of the high school activates, are considered the upperclassmen, and eventually graduate. Despite all of the excitement that comes with high school there is so much stress that comes with it too. There is a huge amount of homework that has to be done that you never had to do before. There are games and practices that have to be taken into account. There are jobs that have to be found and applied for, so there is money for fun and college. Despite all of this, the most stressful thing about high school is taking the ACT. People might ask, why is it so stressful? It is just a test, why is it so important? To some people the test might not mean anything, it is just another test to them. However, to almost every high school student, it is the biggest test they will ever take in their life because the ACT plays a huge part in what college one can get into and how much financial aid one can obtain.
Everyone has that one college he or she are set on attending one day. Ever since they were a kid, they watched all of the sporting events, wore the team’s attire everywhere, and dreamed of attending that college one day. Their senior year is finally here and they start filling out their college application. As they turn in the application, they find out that they do not have a high enough ACT score. This happens to many students all over the country because colleges expect students to have a high ACT score. In a table that an Alfred University English professor and college admissions expert made, it showed that the average ACT scores students should ideally have to get into the top private universities is a thirty or higher. For top liberal arts colleges, the ACT score should be twenty-nine or higher and for the top public universities, the score should also be a twenty-nine or higher (Grove). In order to score a twenty-nine on the ACT, students must be extremely smart. Ellen McCammon a Harvard graduate and Columbia University graduate student stated, “The average ACT score is a 21. The 25th percentile score is 16, and the 75th percentile score is a 24.” When scoring a twenty-four on an ACT test, students are already scoring higher than seventy-five percent of test takers. This means that students who score a twenty-nine or better to get into those top schools are scoring even high then seventy-five percent of test takers. Smaller state schools do accept lower ACT scores. On average, they accept scores anywhere from eighteen to twenty-two (McCammon). This means that the people in the seventy-fifth percentile should get accepted into small state colleges, but what if they have bigger aspiration then a state college and what happens to those students who score in the twenty-fifth percentile?
Not only does the ACT score determine what college one can get accepted into, but it also determines how much money one can obtain in scholarships and financial aid. When scholarships are given out, the higher the ACT score is, the more appealing it is to the scholarship committee. It can also increase how much of a scholarship a student will receive and who will receive it. There are also some scholarships students are guaranteed to get if they reach a minimum score (Princeton Review). The Princeton Review goes on to say, “Nothing can change a student’s fortune faster than a big increase on the SAT or ACT.” This is a true statement for all high school students. For example, at Kansas State University, by adding one point to an ACT score, a student can go from getting $13,000 to $14,500. Receiving an extra $1,500 to many students means that half of their semesters room and board or at least three classes are paid for. Not only that but in order to get a guaranteed scholarship at Kansas State University, a student has to have at least a twenty-three on the ACT. This is not the only university that holds students to a high standard in order to get a guaranteed scholarship. It is not horrible to have colleges hold students to a high standard, but there are so many people who have trouble taking tests. When they get into the test room, they get nervous and scared making it hard for them to concentrate, which leads to a low-test score. No matter how much those students study, they get a low-test score, leading to a very slim chance of receiving scholarships.
These problems with how the ACT affects what colleges students get accepted into and how much scholarships and financial aid they can receive, have many solutions. Despite this, not all of them are plausible. The first solution is to not have an ACT anymore. By getting rid of the ACT completely, students would not have to worry about taking it and getting a high score. This would mean that they wouldn’t have to have a high score to get accepted into college and to get scholarships and financial aid. Even though this solution is what every high school student would want, it is not possible. By getting rid of the ACT it will make it hard for scholarship committees and financial aid officers to determine who should receive what and how much. It will also make it difficult for colleges to know whom to accept, especially when it comes to Ivy League schools. It makes students all at the same level, which would make everything fair, but the students who work extremely hard are now equal to those who do not work hard at all. By giving students one test, it makes it easy to determine who is more advanced against their peers around them.
Another solution, that is plausible, is to have colleges, financial officers, and scholarship committees take other elements of a student’s life into account. They can look into a student’s leadership roles, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, course schedule, jobs, and GPA, as well as ones ACT score. This gives students who struggle on the ACT, but still, have strong grades and are involved in their community, a chance to receive the scholarships they need as well as get into top schools. William Hiss, the Former Dean of Admission for Bates College, studied the difference in graduations rates for students who took the ACT and those who did not. He found out that there was a small difference in the students’ high school GPA of those who submitted their test score and who did not. Their graduation rates had just as small of a difference as well. Seeing this shows that the ACT is not as important as colleges and scholarships make it. William Hiss addresses this by saying, “The evidence of the study clearly shows that high school GPA matters. Four-year, long-term evidence of self-discipline, intellectual curiosity, and hard work; that’s what matters the most. After that, I would say evidence that someone has interests that [he or she] have brought to a higher level, from a soccer goalie to a debater to a servant in a community to a linguist. We need to see evidence that the student can bring something to a high level of skill.”
A student’s high school GPA and extracurricular activities should be weighed just as much as an ACT is today. As William Hiss addressed, what they do outside of school and how hard they work, shows more than how well they can do on a test. By looking at these different aspects of a student’s life, it will also help out their communities and help them interact with their peers. In today’s world, people are not involved in their communities and do not interact with their peers as much as they have in the past. People are on their phones all of the time. At restaurants, games, and activities, people are staring at their phones and not interacting with their peers. Having colleges and scholarships take extracurricular activities, leadership roles, and volunteer work into consideration, it will make students go out and work hard, so they can get accepted. This will also benefit them in the future because starting to working hard and doing volunteer work early in life, will help them carry it into their future lives.
In the end, looking at different parts of a student’s life and GPA as well as an ACT score, it is going to benefit so many high school students. It will not benefit everyone because no matter how colleges and scholarships decide, it will never be fair or completely accurate of who the student is. However, by changing it to not just look at the ACT, it gives students an opportunity to better show who they are; that they are not just a test score.