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ACT score of 20, stellar everything else. How much will this matter to "average" LAC's?

dec51995dec51995 258 replies6 threads Junior Member
My nephew is a rising senior. His gpa is 3.8 and he has a long list of EC's: varsity sports, lead in the musical, choir and band participation, employment, church participation (he's thinking about the ministry). He attends a very small (class size of 60), rural public high school. He's been to state twice (in 3rd tier athletic conference) for golf, but his scores don't seem to be drawing golf coaches in division 3 schools. He's found some schools he's interested in, but the 25-75% of each of these is higher than his ACT composite. I'm wondering how much the ACT score range matters for LAC's that aren't in the top 50 USNWR. With a strong gpa, does he need to worry too much about scores that are significantly lower? He's planning to do ACT prep this summer.
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Replies to: ACT score of 20, stellar everything else. How much will this matter to "average" LAC's?

  • dec51995dec51995 258 replies6 threads Junior Member
    Some other things I should add: he will qualify for need-based aid. Right now, the schools he's interested in have an ACT range of 23-30 or so. I'm wondering whether he should be adding schools with a lower ACT range. Thanks!
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 82836 replies738 threads Senior Member
    Has he tried an old released SAT to see if he can do better on the SAT than the ACT?
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  • dec51995dec51995 258 replies6 threads Junior Member
    No. I imagine his score will be similar on the SAT. He has issues with reading speed.
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  • dec51995dec51995 258 replies6 threads Junior Member
    But no LD diagnosis to fall back on for test accommodations. :(
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  • StressingMomStressingMom 84 replies4 threads Junior Member
    edited June 2015
    I think the issue is that it's very difficult for colleges to gauge a student's "college readiness" by looking at their GPA. There are so many different ways to calculate highschool GPA and a 4.0 at one school isn't necessarily equal to a 4.0 at another school. That's why the colleges look at standardized scores like the ACT and SAT.
    Hopefully his ACT prep this summer will pay off . Or, as the previous poster mentioned, have him do a practice test on the SAT and see if that works better for him. Some kids do better on one or the other. Then again, there are some kids that don't test well at all. I've read about some "test optional" colleges on here, that may be something to look into.
    This is the list I found: http://fairtest.org/university/optional
    edited June 2015
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  • DarkEclipseDarkEclipse 689 replies23 threads Member
    I think he should look at a few test optional schools as well, since a 20 is really low.
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  • dec51995dec51995 258 replies6 threads Junior Member
    Thanks for you help. I should refine my question a bit. I know a lot about the ACT and SAT tests--I prep students fro them. And I know a lot about the college admissions process for highly selective colleges--have two kids who have successfully pursued top 25 LAC's. What I don't know is how students with nephew's ACT score fair at the "average" admissions level. I know that selective colleges use test scores to boost their rankings, and I know that at competitive schools, test optional isn't necessarily a good choice for students with low test scores because colleges use this to boost their overall test scores while rejecting students who didn't submit scores. What I don't know is how the less selective schools handle things. Has the push for rankings affected even schools with, say, an average ACT score in the 22-26 range? Anyone with personal experience of an "average" ACT composite looking at schools with above average ranges but not "highly selective" ranges?
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  • BatesParents2019BatesParents2019 796 replies5 threads Member
    edited June 2015
    @dec51995 I would look at test optional schools. They will however place more emphasis on the quality of his high school and course rigor.

    Where do you live?

    @StressingMom Even colleges that require standardized tests acknowledge they have very little predictive value. It is just a weeding tool. You will see even Ivy League schools going test optional in the near future.
    edited June 2015
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  • StressingMomStressingMom 84 replies4 threads Junior Member
    edited June 2015
    I'm sorry, I don't really have personal experience with that.I found this link, maybe it will help a little?
    http://colleges.****.com/colleges/browse/act_composite/results/19-24/19.aspx It breaks it down by Low, Medium and High selectivity. I think your nephew's EC's are great and may help in the admission process. If the link won't work, replace the **** with **** .
    edited June 2015
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  • dec51995dec51995 258 replies6 threads Junior Member
    Thanks, again. I found the site you referenced, StressingMom, but it didn't really make sense to me. (High average ACT scores for the school were marked "low" and low ACT scores were marked "high"--I think it's just telling me what I already know--the score range and how nephew's score compares to the school's range. Yes, his EC's are super. I think high school rigor is low--it's a small, rural school in MN. I don't think this is a case where he's a brilliant student--I think A's are pretty easy to get at his school (and he's a teacher's kid--just sayin'). However, I do think he could handle the academics at a "normal" LAC. Still looking out there for someone out with a similar profile to nephew who applied to a range of average LAC's. Anybody? Anybody?
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  • momofzagmomofzag 657 replies7 threads Member
    I wonder if @Hanna has worked with any students like this.....she might be a good resource for you.
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  • dec51995dec51995 258 replies6 threads Junior Member
    Great idea--thanks--I messaged her.
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  • HannaHanna 14866 replies42 threads Senior Member
    "test optional isn't necessarily a good choice for students with low test scores because colleges use this to boost their overall test scores while rejecting students who didn't submit scores."

    ?? This doesn't make any sense. Students you reject don't affect your test score numbers. The only way test optional boosts scores is if some of the students you admit are admitted with no scores instead of low scores. Which is exactly what schools are up to. Test-optional schools are the answer here if you want him to get into the kind of strong LACs that are more likely to meet need.

    As for average LACs, yes, a score below the 25th percentile will almost always hurt a white male applicant, but that doesn't mean he has no shot a school where he's within spitting distance, especially if they aren't that selective overall and if they need men (as almost all of them do). But with a 20, I'd be focusing strongly on test-optional schools. There are lots of them.
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  • dec51995dec51995 258 replies6 threads Junior Member
    Thanks, Hanna. There are a number of stories on the net about how "test optional" is to the institution's and not the student's advantage. The line of reasoning is that, if colleges offer test optional admission, only strong students will submit their standardized test scores (which raises the school's average ACT). It will also likely increase the number of applicants--students like my nephew, who are worried about their low ACT's, are more likely to apply to test optional schools. More applications for a limited number of spaces means higher selectivity for the institution. I'd post links, but it's against the rules on this forum, I hear. Presumably, the schools reject students who apply test optional.

    I'd love to hear that this practice--which seems really shady and deceptive to me--is only happening at schools in the most competitive bracket, but I'm a little worried that even the less competitive schools might be playing the ranking game.
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  • BatesParents2019BatesParents2019 796 replies5 threads Member
    edited June 2015
    @dec51995 I think a test optional school is really the only answer for this student. I also think these stories you read are illogical.

    However, without test scores they will focus on other things such as the student's high school quality and whether his GPA is real or not. Test optional is not a free lunch.

    In what state does this student live?
    edited June 2015
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  • HannaHanna 14866 replies42 threads Senior Member
    ""test optional" is to the institution's and not the student's advantage."

    Essentially all admissions policies are in place to serve the institution's goals. This is no different from every other policy in that sense.

    "only strong students will submit their standardized test scores (which raises the school's average ACT)"

    Right. But unless the policy provokes more high-scoring students to apply (which it does not), they have to fill the rest of the class with non-submitters to make this work.

    "More applications for a limited number of spaces means higher selectivity for the institution."

    Sure it does, but it won't make the school's score range go up, and that's what matters. Test scores are six and a half times more heavily weighted in USNews's formula than admit rate. Admit rate only determines about 1% of a school's ranking -- it's worthless. To make the school's score range go up, they have to admit the same low-scoring students they were admitting before, but with scores concealed (from them and from USNews).

    Look at it from their point of view. If they could fill the class with high scorers, they wouldn't go test-optional in the first place (don't hold your breath waiting for Ivies to drop the SAT). Once you've admitted all the high scorers, your remaining choices are low scorers and non-submitters. What incentive do they have to reject non-submitters who are otherwise the next best qualified kids in the pool? A non-submitter is way more desirable than an equally qualified student with a reportable low score.
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  • dec51995dec51995 258 replies6 threads Junior Member
    You're convincing me he should go test optional if he doesn't manage to raise his score much this summer--and if the school he's interested in happens to be among the test optional schools. The problem is that he's already identified several schools he would fit in well at and which have the kind of golf program he's looking for. Half of them are not test optional.

    And not really to further the debate, but maybe to show that the question might not be as simple as you're suggesting, @Hanna, I'll add that the way that test optional raises score average is that schools don't have to report the scores of students who chose not to submit--unless they make taking the test and reporting the score after admission a requirement (which isn't in their interest). Here's what a New York Times article says about the potential effect of going test optional:

    "How much of a lift can colleges get if they ignore some scores? Mr. Epstein says that applicants who don’t divulge their SAT results generally score 100 to 150 points lower than a typical submitter. He bases this estimate on the experiences of Bates College, which went optional in the ’80s, and several institutions that shared data with him. If 25 percent to 50 percent of a freshman class didn’t send in results, he concludes, reported scores could increase 25 to 75 points."

    The same article also indicated that schools that make the switch to test optional see a 10-20 percent bump in the number of applications.

    So Bates is a highly selective college. I wonder what the less selective colleges are doing. So...still no real answers to my question about how big a deal this low ACT score is to a kid who is great in every other way and would like to apply to some schools that require the ACT.
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  • BatesParents2019BatesParents2019 796 replies5 threads Member
    edited June 2015
    @dec51995 This all doesn't matter because you cannot submit a 20 score when the kid has a 3.8 GPA. Immediately, the GPA will be discounted and considered suspect.

    I wouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth with this student.
    edited June 2015
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  • HannaHanna 14866 replies42 threads Senior Member
    "still no real answers to my question about how big a deal this low ACT score is to a kid who is great in every other way and would like to apply to some schools that require the ACT."

    Yes, I did answer the question. The answer is, "a score below the 25th percentile will almost always hurt a white male applicant, but that doesn't mean he has no shot a school where he's within spitting distance." To put it more directly, that is a big deal that lowers his odds of admission, but it's not necessarily hopeless. It might help if you told us what the schools are.

    Kids get attached to schools that are out of reach all the time. It's the job of the adults to help the kids adjust to reality and ensure that there are admissions and financial safeties on the list.

    "If 25 percent to 50 percent of a freshman class didn’t send in results, he concludes, reported scores could increase 25 to 75 points."

    Right, because they are ADMITTING a bunch of the non-submitters. Otherwise, the scores of the enrolled class wouldn't go up. It really is that simple.
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  • dec51995dec51995 258 replies6 threads Junior Member
    Yeah--but are they admitting kids like my nephew--would be the operative question. The article suggests they are using this vehicle to admit wealthy kids who can pay, athletic recruits who wouldn't make the test cut, and, possibly, URM's. My nephew doesn't belong to any of these categories.

    I'm sorry--I still don't understand your point about score average. The score average will go up if those who score low don't submit scores. And, though I appreciate your help, Hanna, I feel like you're yelling at me.

    He will certainly apply to these schools, even if he has to submit his ACT score for the ones that aren't test optional. But I think he should probably also apply to schools with lower ACT average so he doesn't risk getting completely shut out. And, from what I read in your 3rd paragraph, I think you're agreeing with me that he needs to widen his list.
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