Today I’m sharing with you a post written by Mark Skoskiewicz, who is the founder of MyGuru, a provider of in-person and online private ACT tutoring based in Chicago, IL. Mark attended Indiana University-Bloomington and holds an MBA from Northwestern University-Kellogg School of Management. – Lynn O’Shaughnessy
When I talk to parents and students I tell them that the ACT score is one of many factors, and if your child (or you) has prepared reasonably well and taken it a few times, there’s no reason to take it again – you’re probably getting the score that’s appropriate for you. Instead, just focus on writing awesome essays and submitting a generally strong application to the best schools which might consider accepting you.
But, in some cases, the above approach can be misguided – there could be tens of thousands of dollars directly at stake.
Careful assessment of comparable schools’ admissions policies can reveal surprising alternatives for your child that you didn’t realize existed as it relates to:
To illustrate what I’m talking about, I’m using as an example Indiana University, which is my alma mater. Let’s see how much merit-based financial aid is at stake for a potential Hoosier freshman based solely on the ACT score.
At Indiana University, the middle 50% range for ACT scores is 25-30, and out-of-state students are supposed to be in the top 3rd of their class to get admitted. IU offers what are effectively automatic merit-based scholarships for students that meet various criteria. They do this as a simple way to attract top students who might otherwise choose much more selective, more highly ranked schools.
For an out-of-state student with a 3.8 GPA, the difference between an automatic scholarship of $5,000 per year and $11,000 per year is just 1 point on the ACT. In other words, if you have a 3.8 GPA, and you scored a 30 on the ACT, you’d get $5,000 per year, but if you scored 31, you’d get $11,000 per year. If you meet these criteria, these rewards are automatic.
However, it gets more interesting than this.
The ACT score used in these calculations is the “Combined Highest Composite Score.” In other words, you don’t even need to score a composite of 31 on one actual ACT test, you can use your best scores across sections of multiple tests. As the IU web-site states:
“For students applying to IU for fall 2013 admission, the ACT score considered is the combined highest composite ACT score – the average of the highest scores from each subtest. Rather than considering only the best composite scores from any single ACT test date, the combined highest composite ACT score captures the highest scores from each subtest, regardless of test date. The combined highest composite score will be used for both admission and scholarship consideration. For students who take the ACT only once, IU will simply use the composite score from the single test date. IU will only consider official test scores sent directly from the testing agencies.
For example, John took the ACT three times, earning the following results:
John earned a single highest composite score of 22 (on his second test in June 2012). Since IU considers the combined highest composite ACT score, the highest score from each of John’s subtests will be combined to determine his score. The scores from John’s second English Test (22), third Mathematics Test (23), first Reading Test (23), and second Science Test (22) average to 22.5 which rounds up to a final combined highest composite ACT score of 23. The score of 23 is what will be used for admission and scholarship consideration.”
This policy has surprising implications.
In the example below, if this student took the ACT one more time and did 1 point better on any one of the sections, he or she would automatically receive $24,000 more in automatic aid. If you plug these numbers into Excel, you’ll notice that a 1 point increase in any one of the sections bumps the composite up to 31.
Unfortunately, when most students are determining where to go to college, they aren’t also still taking the ACT or SAT. So, this type of insight needs to be identified early in the process, so a student or parent could realize the implications of just a small improvement in any one section of the test.