Should I Retake the ACT for a Chance at Ivy League?

I am a current high school senior applying to a variety of Ivy League schools. I hope to attend a highly selective school, where I plan to study physics, but I fear that my ACT score may be holding me back. While my composite score is a 34 (the average of most Ivies), my STEM composite is something like a 32, as I earned a 34 on Science and a 30 on Math. I got a 36 on both Reading and English so I’m not so worried about those, but I think that my Math score may really come back to bite me, especially since I plan on majoring in physics. I have taken the ACT four times in high school, but should I take it again to improve my Math score? Do colleges like Yale and the University of Pennsylvania look at individual subject scores, and will my Math score work against me, or will it not matter in the grand scheme of things?

Are your EC’s all STEM focused? What math courses/grades have you received? AP scores? The 30 may hurt you if you are STEM focused. If you have completed high level math courses (at least taking Calc AB this year) and have gotten good grades maybe you can still be competitive. Have you taken one of the AP Physics exams/score?

Why are your math scores so low? Run out of time, silly errors or have you hit a wall?

I’d try to ACT one more time and really drill on math.

If your current math grades/rigor is not great and your EC’s are broad ranging, I am going to suggest something that I normally don’t if you cannot improve your math score. Most Ivies don’t admit by major and allow students to “find” their major after sophomore year (although certain majors have requirements that pretty much force you into certain classes frosh and soph years). You can indicate undecided or a broader range of interests in your app. You might also want to ask yourself if you currently are just getting by in math in HS whether or not Physics is even the right major for you.

I look at questions like this a bit differently. I wonder what draws you to an Ivy other than the name or prestige factor. I also wonder how students would feel, if they manage to get in, being at the bottom of the totem pole. You will be in physics classes with students who managed to get higher scores and maybe didn’t have to struggle to get them. Is that the kind of situation you would like to see yourself in and can you handle that pressure? Some students can, no problem, and use that to push themselves harder. Some students can not and it becomes too much.

Finding the right fit isn’t about how many times it takes to get the “right” score. It is about finding the right environment and peers to allow yourself to succeed. Just my two cents.

So I come from a very small rural school (graduating class of less than 70 people), where there are exactly 0 AP classes being offered. As a substitute, I’ve taken college courses most throughout high school, and this year I will am taking Calc II and Calc III through The Ohio State University. My GPA is a 4.0 unweighted (my school doesn’t weight GPAs), and I am first in my class. My ECs are fairly STEM oriented, and I’d say my essays are very STEM oriented. So based on what you said, the 30 Math score would be something that would stand out to these selective schools?

Colleges that use holistic admissions view the app in the context of your high school. Given what you’ve just stated, I don’t see a need to retake the test, especially now, when it’s impossible to say if you will actually be able to take it. I am guessing that you received a top score for your high school.

One problem with students retaking tests when they already have a high score is that there is a 40% chance you will do worse on a retake. That’s possibly going to throw your other scores out of whack. As another option though, try the SAT. You might find that you will score highly on the math section, in which case you could submit that. My son got 790 on SAT math, and a 31 on ACT math. He submitted both. This assumes that you alos do well on the verbal sections too.

^ I was going to suggest exactly what Lindagaf suggested! Great minds think alike I guess :wink:
Don’t take the ACT again. If it’s offered, take the SAT. Or take just the SAT Subject for Math2.

Make sure your guidance counselor includes your school’s average ACT as well as its breakdown - in all likelihood, your 30 is magnitudes better than the average.

What other courses have you taken at Tosu?

Make sure to apply to tOSU’s honors college if you haven’t already :).
In addition, apply to Little Ivies/NESCAC and to Lawrence U (especially strong in Physics). Kenyon, Denison, and Grinnell would probably love to have you, too. All of these would offer good chances at research and a good academic environment if tOSU isn’t where you want to spend the next 4 years (otherwise, it’s a strong program, too!)

So you think that my scores will be looked at in the context of my school favorably, regardless of my low Math score. I know a 34 composite is the average for most of these schools, but I’m just curious as to whether admissions officers pay that close attention to individual scores, or if it is the composite that is given the most weight.

That is a lot of time, money and effort that may not yield anything beyond what OP has already scored (isn’t it diminishing returns after the 2nd test, in general?). If OP has to (or feels that they have to) take the ACT 5 times to MAYBE get above a 34, perhaps they need to reevaluate who they are and where they want to go, or at least be comfortable with non-Ivy League schools that are well-respected and that can provide an excellent education. Just a thought.

A lower score than expected is still a lower score. Yes, they look at the transcript for individual grades and they look at specific subscores and any AP scores. The tippy tops are looking for kids who will be able to keep up, once there. Unfortunately, it’s a ridiculously competitive situation.

No, your essays should not be mostly STEM oriented. That’s not what they ask (except some supp question about Why This Major or a specific STEM supplement.) Nor should ECs be nearly all STEM. They want depth and breadth, a show that you try other things, as well.

Your best bet is to get the STEM LoRs to shine, get that GC to talk about how stellar you are. Make your own best decision and sumbit your strongest application- all of it, each and every part needs to click with them.

Other than that, we know very little about you.