A lot of students are more likely to connect the SAT, rather than the ACT, with scholarships. After all, the official name of the PSAT is the PSAT/NMSQT, or the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. And while the PreACT on its own won't get you any scholarship money, the full-length ACT might.
Just to be clear, the ACT organization itself doesn't offer any scholarships. However, score high enough on the exam and you'll put yourself in the running for literally thousands of scholarship opportunities. Not sure how you'll score? Take an ACT practice test to get a sense of where you're starting from before you begin your test prep (or to measure where you currently are).
How High Should My ACT Score Be to Qualify for Scholarships?
You're probably going to hate this answer, but…it depends. It truly does. The higher the better. Scoring above a 30 on the ACT puts you in the 90th percentile, meaning you scored higher than 90 out of every 100 students who take the exam, so that's a good place to start. A score of 30+ will make you a very competitive candidate for most scholarships.
But even if your score is not in the stratosphere, don't rule out the possibility of getting money for college based on the ACT. Currently, the average ACT score is around 21, and even scoring above 14 on the ACT puts you in the running for the AIEF (American Indian Education Foundation) Undergraduate Scholarship Program, if you are also Native American. Similarly, scoring above a 15 could put you in the running for a King's Daughters Health Foundation Health Career Scholarship if you meet their requirements (hint: pursuing a career in healthcare is a big one).
However, not all scholarships are limited to certain candidates. Many colleges offer scholarships of their own to entering students with ACT scores above a certain level, usually if they also meet GPA standards for the scholarship.
So…How Much Money Could I Get?
Scholarship amounts are pretty closely related to how high you score on the ACT. For example, let's take a look at Oklahoma State University. If you score 24 and have a 3.0 GPA, you could get $8,000 a year at Oklahoma State—saving you $32,000 on your whole education. And that's if you're an out-of-state student! But pull your score above 30 and you're looking at $12,500 a year—that's $18,000 more, or $50,000 in all, over the course of four years. Just for a difference of six points on the ACT!
I'm Convinced! How Can I Get the Score I Need for Scholarships?
The most important ingredients to success here are:
1. Starting early
2. Studying smarter, not harder
3. Taking lots and lots of practice tests
Starting early not only gives you a lot of time to prep, but it also takes some of the pressure off. Even if you don't achieve your desired score the first time around, know that you can retake the exam—in fact, most student will get their best scores by taking the ACT twice.
However, it doesn't matter how long you study if you're working with sub-par materials! Make sure you have a top-notch ACT study guide to help you master the content of the test, as well as the format, so you know exactly how to approach each and every problem on test day.
Finally, there's no better way to prep than by taking regular practice exams—once a week, if you can. This will not only get you used to the test-taking experience, but it also provides you with invaluable information about the areas you should review before you take the actual exam. It's also the best way to track your progress.
No matter where you're starting, know that your ACT score will likely put you in the running for some scholarships. Just study hard—and if you find your motivation wavering, just think how great it's going to be when those scholarship dollars start pouring in!
Author Bio: Rachel is a High School and Graduate Exams blogger at Magoosh. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Brown University, an MA from the Université de Paris VII, and a PhD from University College London. She has taught test preparation and consulted on admissions practices for over eight years. Currently, Rachel divides her time between the US and London.