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If you have a student who has dreams of attending college, preparing for the ACT is a must. Getting a student ready for college and what it requires can be overwhelming due to the scope of what you as a parent needs to do to help your student achieve their goals.  Understanding the ACT and what it actually requires, knowing when to take the ACT and researching colleges is your first step.

A chalkboard with the word " test " written in it.

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What Is The ACT?

The ACT is only one of two exams colleges and universities look at when deciding to accept your child into college. The other is the SAT. The ACT is broken up into four sections: math (Pre-Algebra, Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, Trigonometry), reading (multiple choice questions after passage-based reading, science (multiple choice over data representation, research summaries, conflicting viewpoints) and English (multiple choice over usage/mechanics, rhetorical skills). There is also a writing section but not all colleges/universities require the writing section so make sure you know if the college/university your child is applying to requires this before you add this extra component to the ACT when you sign up. If your student doesn’t need to complete the writing portion, it will cut their test taking time down about 30-45 minutes. The entire exam can take up to 4-5 hours so make sure your student is prepared for this and eats a good breakfast before the exam.

After the exam the students are given a composite score of 1-36 (not including the writing score). The higher the score – the better chances your student has to get a scholarship to the school of their choice. Please be aware of the specific score the college/university you choose requires including the score they require to automatically receive a scholarship because it will be higher than the acceptance score.

The ACT is offered six times a year in the US (September, October, December, February, April and June). If your student is aiming for a scholarship most colleges look at scores taken in December or before in regards to deadlines to be eligible for scholarships. This means if your student waits until February of their senior year – they will not be eligible to apply for scholarships even if they get a high enough score.

A chalkboard with the word " test " written in it.

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Simple, right? Well, there’s still plenty of hard work, but you can boost your prospective college student by giving them the optimal environment to research and revise. Think about dependable Xfinity internet plans so they don’t become frustrated with slow-loading screens. Consider outside tutoring if there are any subjects they struggle with. You can even help them out by giving them some practice tests and going through them together to see where they could improve, or just prove that they’ve got this.

When To Take The ACT

If your student wants to get a sense of what the ACT is like, start as soon as possible. Try to take the ACT at least once in the 9th and 10th grades. If your student achieves a high score (25+) – awesome! If they don’t – then you want to take the ACT at least two times in the 11th grade and if they need a higher score even after that, take the test again in September, October and December of their senior year. The higher the score – the higher the scholarship.

A chalkboard with the word " test " written in it.

Photo: Pexels.com

Know What Is Happening At Your Students School

Where ever your student attends school – this is your first line of communication. Your student’s school counselor is available to assist with letters of recommendation, reading over essay’s, and should have lists of available scholarships at local and state colleges/universities. PLEASE do not leave this task up to your student. Be an active participant in making sure your student has completed ALL high school academic requirements needed to not only graduate from high school but the requirements needed to be accepted into college. Just because your child has all of the requirements needed to graduate from high school DOES NOT mean they have all of the required credits/classes to be accepted into college. For example – most high schools do not require a foreign language to graduate BUT most colleges/universities do. DO NOT WAIT until your child’s senior year to be made aware of this. Your student’s school may even offer an ACT prep class (semester or full year) to help them prepare to take the ACT.

I have listed a few helpful websites where you can read more information and a couple of ACT prep sites.

Helpful Websites

Parents Guide to the ACT

8 Steps To Help Your Child Get Ready for the ACT or SAT

Understanding the ACT and How You Can Help Your Child Succeed

ACT Prep

OpenEd Powered by ACT

More ACT Prep

Do Your Research

Has your student already decided what they want to get a degree in? Does a college/university in your state offer this degree? You may be surprised to know that all colleges/universities do not offer the same degree programs. This is something I learned while helping my daughter research colleges. She wanted to major in Forensic Science. What I found out – there was no college or university in my state with a forensic science program. Not one. So I had to go on the hunt. Not only for a university that offered a forensic science program but one close enough to home so we wouldn’t have to pay for airfare when she wanted to come back to visit and for holidays. Also – because she would have to pursue her degree out of state, this would add thousands of dollars to her tuition in out-of-state fees. But we got lucky. Not only did we find an exceptional and accredited forensic science program one state over (5 hour drive from home) because our two states were in this university conglomerate with about 4-5 other states – they waived out-of-state tuition. Instead of paying $10K plus a semester for college, her tuition is on par with what we would have had to pay had she chosen to go to school in-state. So please – do your research! Know what colleges and universities offer the degree program your student wants to pursue so you won’t waste time paying application fees to a college or university that doesn’t even offer what your student wants to study.



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Dr. Raquell Barton has been an educator and library media specialist for almost 19 years. She has three children, Torie, Stephanie and Henry, and takes great pride in the fact that she has instilled her love of reading in each of them. She holds degrees in Organizational Management, Library Media & Information Technology and Instructional Design & Technology. In addition, she is the owner of Skyrocket Virtual Solutions where she specializes in Social Media Management, Virtual Assistance and Blog Management for small business owners and entrepreneurs. You can find her latest book review on her blog Confessions of a Book Junkie at http://raquellthelibrarian.blogspot.com/

Blog: Confessions of a Book Junkie


Virtual Assistant & Social Media Management






Give this article a share to help others be in the know with preparing their child(ren) for college.  And be sure to check out Dr. Barton’s social media sites and blog to read more of her great work! 

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