My high school junior daughter takes the ACT for the first time in December. She hasn’t done any test prep and hasn’t taken any practice tests. This is not the way I would prefer to go about it, but given that we are two weeks out and she hasn’t wanted to prepare, I don’t think it’s going to happen!
Taking the first ACT/SAT is an important step for most college bound students. Here are some of the reasons why:
- Baseline – Use the first ACT/SAT scores as a baseline. Are the scores “good enough” for what your student wants to achieve? Given that there is usually room for improvement, this baseline will help you work with your student to set a goal of what he or she would like to achieve on the next test.
- Test Pacing – Taking the first real test will help your student determine pacing. Maybe he or she spent too long on a section and had to rush through others. Help him/her think about what to do different the next time.
- Test Prep – Are there specific areas of the test where scores need to be improved or is overall improvement needed? Think about the amount of test prep needed before the next test and plan accordingly. For those taking the ACT, I have a spreadsheet of different ACT test prep options that will help when you are considering what kind of prep you are willing to consider.
- College Search List – Having the first ACT/SAT scores will help your student narrow down schools by admissions standards. This is where you can really start refining the college search list. Look for schools that would be matches or reaches based on those first ACT/SAT scores. It is reasonable to improve your scores by 10-15%, but probably not by more than 25%. This is especially important if you are counting on significant merit aid to afford college.
- Merit-Based Aid – The best merit-based aid opportunities are usually found at schools where your student’s GPA and ACT/SAT scores would put him or her in the top 25% of applicants. Use the first ACT/SAT scores to determine where this will be possible. Also, if a school includes merit-based aid on their Net Price Calculator, you can plug in the ACT/SAT scores to estimate what the school might offer.
I am looking forward to my daughter getting this first ACT test out of the way. I am hoping it will give us the opportunity to encourage her to study and set a goal for the next time around.