There is a lot of tension in the Braaten house these days. Their first child, Sydney , is a junior in high school, and she is taking the ACT test again next month. Her mom and dad are stressed too. They don’t quite get all this hype about the ACT, since they took it once in high school. No big deal then. No classes or prep books for it. They just took it and went onto college. Heck, they can’t even remember their ACT score! Things aren’t quite so easy for Sydney.
Is the ACT test really more important for Sydney? YES. It is no longer just an aptitude test (like back in her parents day), but it has evolved into an intense competition for scholarship dollars and college admissions.
Sydney and her parents have been inquiring about what she needs to get into the college of her choice this entire year. They’ve been told that admission departments are looking at 3 main criteria.
# 1: GPA in core and college prep classes. The colleges typically aren’t too concerned about Sydneys’s PE grade (It was an “A-“), but they certainly want to know how she did in math, science, language arts and such. Sydney has done well in the GPA area with a 3.75 GPA.
# 2: Class Choices. Sydney had several friends choose an easy schedule. Luckily, she did not. Her counselor told her that admissions personnel want to see that students are taking harder classes and challenging themselves. Sydney took a strong course load that included classes like Chemistry, American Literature, AP History and Pre-Calculus. Her friends may end up with a better GPA, but it won’t be in college prep classes. Poor choice, buddies.
#3: Standardized Test Score. Sydney has done well in high school, which is the best ACT prep of all. She got an above average score ACT score of a 25. Most of her friends would be happy with that score. Yet, she knows that a higher score may be needed because it could be a significant factor for admissions and scholarships.
Another way the road to college has changed in the last few decades is that there are lots more people applying to college than there were when her parents applied. Syd recently read this information is on the University of Minnesota website: To date, applications have increased 4% over last year. We have received more than 44,000 applications for a freshman class of approximately 5,400 students. It shocks both her and her parents to realize that there are so many young people applying for so few spots at the U. Since Sydney is considering going to the U of M amongst other schools, she decides she must do some sort of ACT prep to increase her chances of getting in.
Since Syd’s parents went to college in the early 80’s the cost of tuition has tripled, outpacing both inflation and family income. How can they afford to send Syd to college without having her take out tens of thousands in student loans? They don’t want Sydney to be saddled with a lot of student debt when she graduates, especially in a tough economy. Her mom was sharing this with a friend and was told some encouraging news. Her daughter received $12,000 more a year in scholarship money from St. Ben’s when her ACT score went from a 26 to a 28. A two point increase meant nearly $50,000 to her friend’s family!
Colleges often look to a standardized test score when giving out scholarship money. They do so because students all across the country are taking the same test. They realize that a “B” from Sydney’s teacher in Pre-Calculus may be very different than an “A” in another student’s Pre-Calculus class in a small town in North Dakota.
The Braaten family is hopeful that Syd will get into the college her choice, and not be saddled with student debt. Sydney needs to keep working hard in her tough classes and improve her ACT score. If so, they’ll soon be unpacking Syd as she moves into her dorm room in just over a year!