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  • Jeff Burke

Is an ACT Prep Course Right for You?

Updated: Feb 15, 2023

Every year millions of high school students go through the process of applying for college to continue their education. Some will look at community colleges or tech schools, others will look to attend big state schools, smaller private schools or even elite Ivy league schools. Each of these types of schools comes with their own pros and cons and any one of them might be the best fit for a given student.

One of the components of this process each year is the taking of ACT tests. These tests are used by colleges to help them with both their admissions process and doling out academic scholarships.

I recently had the chance to sit down and talk with Steve O’Toole of O’Toole Educational Services about his ACT prep service. Here are some highlights from the first portion of our conversation. You can see the video here.

Does the ACT even matter anymore with schools going test optional?

Prior to Covid there was a small movement with some schools deciding to go test optional. This meant that applicants didn’t need to submit a test score as a requirement for the schools to consider in the admissions process. This movement accelerated in 2020 as Covid wreaked havoc with test scheduling and the ability for many students to take the test. As a result, many schools in the last year have dropped the ACT requirement for the 2021 admissions cycle.

It remains to be seen how schools will adjust in 2021 and moving forward assuming that groups will be able to gather again for testing. Will the schools that made this change for the past year continue with that policy or go back to wanting to see an ACT score. One other thing to consider is that many schools may have been test optional only for the purposes of admissions but still wanted to see an ACT score for academic based scholarships.

An ACT score should be considered one of the items in your toolkit when it comes to college. If you have a good score that will make you look more favorable in terms of admissions and scholarships, then by all means use it to your advantage and include it. If you don’t have a good test score, then don’t include it and rely on your grades and other items on your resume.

Is an ACT prep course worth it?

Studies have shown that an ACT prep course can help improve an overall score by 3-4 points. A lower score can be improved by even more. A 3-4 point improvement might be the difference between getting admitted into the school you want or not. It might also make the difference in qualifying for an academic scholarship that can save you thousands of dollars a year in tuition.

As an example, at Iowa State University, a combination of a 3.30 gpa and a 24 ACT score will score you a $36,000 academic scholarship worth $9,000 per year. If you have a student with the required gpa and an initial ACT score of 22 an increase of just two points can be worth $36,000. Depending upon the review class you sign up for you will likely pay $1,000 or less. That is a pretty good return on investment.

There is more coming from my conversation with Steve. Stay tuned for the next segment which will be released next week. If you want to see the entire video you can do so here.

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