Colleges use several criteria to decide who will be admitted to their campuses, but ACT scores (and SAT scores, too) are one of the more important criterion they use. Why? Because SAT and ACT test scores are standard. It is easier to compare standard criteria than to judge the variety of experiences or even grades across the country. Experiences and grades can differ by quality and depending on who an assessor is.
So ACT scores are important. The question is, will your ACT scores get you into the college of your choice? To begin with, colleges want the highest scores for their students as possible because the scores of students they admit are public information, and the higher their students’ scores are, the better the college looks. A college is more elite and more competitive with higher ACT score composites.
The ACT is made up of four tests: English Language, Reading, Mathematics, and Science. Each section is scored 1 (the lowest) to 36 (the highest). These four scores are averaged for a composite score of 1 to 36. Some students also take the writing section of the ACT, which is a twelve point test. The average for the ACT, or the composite score, is 21. The average score for the writing section is 7 to 8.
Those scoring between 34 and 36 are in the top 1% of all ACT test takers. Wow! So what do you need for scores? Well, you need to check the websites of all the schools you are considering applying to so you know how you compare to those students they have admitted. The ACT scores colleges are looking for vary greatly. For example, Arkansas State University admits students with composite ACT scores between 20 and 26. Boston College students’ ACT scores are between 29 and 32. Harvard’s composite scores are between 31 and 35.
This should give you some idea where you stand and how to find out if you have the scores you will need to be admitted to the college you want to attend. you may also find information in College Basics’ article Taking the Stress Out of College Admission Standardized Testing.