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To ACT or not to ACT?



In our pre-COVID world, taking the standardized college admissions tests (in our part of the world, that being predominantly the ACT) was somewhat of a rite-of-passage for high schoolers. There was always a bit of hype and possibly a bit of fear preceding the taking of the test for the first time. Then, once scores arrived, students and parents would strategize on what might be needed to improve that score in order to gain acceptance into the college or university of one's choice.


A few years ago there began to be some talk around the actual validity of these tests as it relates to predicting a student's ability to be successful within the realms of higher education. Some schools even began NOT requiring standardized tests, looking more at a wholistic picture including a student's high school grades, the rigor of the high school courses taken, extra-curricular involvement, community service, and interviews. Then came COVID. In a world where we all suddenly had to be 6 feet apart from each other, exam space became limited. The once packed testing centers now had to carefully monitor the number of students they could accommodate at one sitting. Colleges and universities had no choice but to make ACT and / or SAT scores optional as many students could not secure a spot to actually take the test. As we have moved on from the initial days of COVID and aren't as strict when it comes to social distancing, most schools that made this decision have continued with "test optional" admissions applications have continued with it, at least for now. As it has for so much of our society, the long-term effects of the pandemic may completely reshape the college admissions process as we have known it.


So what does that mean for this year's high school seniors applying to colleges? If a college's admissions process is "test optional", should I include my ACT scores or not? This is a question I am probably asked most often by seniors and parents this year. My answer is this: If your ACT score helps you to present the best picture of yourself to a college's admissions committee, then, by all means, include it. However, if your ACT score does not represent you at your best academic level, then opt out of including it. Do you still even need to take the ACT? YES!!! While schools may not require it for admission, most are requiring it to be considered for scholarships. Many independently administered scholarships require a standardized test score, as well. One of my mantras as a school counselor is, "The better the grades / test scores, the more options you have." While a strong ACT score may not impact a college's admissions decision, it very likely may impact you being considered for scholarships. The more scholarship dollars you are able to accrue, the more options you may have for where you attend college as money becomes less of a factor. So, take the ACT and strive to do your very best so that you have as many options as possible when it comes to your future with higher education.


And with that...

ACT PREP at TA

For several years Tuscaloosa Academy has offered a one semester ACT Prep course. Students in this class work through an online ACT Prep program that is monitored by one of our teachers to ensure that they are progressing through the work in a timely manner. We have now decided to add to what we are offering in the area of standardized test preparation.


TA is partnering with local ACT prep instructor Jim Shaver, owner and instructor of Insight Test Prep, to offer a 5 week prep course for the December 11 ACT. Classes will be on Tuesday afternoons from 3:30 - 5:30 beginning November 2 (class will not meet during Thanksgiving week). The cost of the course is $450* and is open to the first 12 students to register. If you would like to register your student, please email Mrs. Meadows at cmeadows@tuscaloosaacademy.org. Mr. Shaver has worked with several TA students in successfully improving their ACT scores. If you would like to speak with some families that have benefitted from his prep course before committing, contact Mrs. Meadows.

*The course fee will be paid directly to Mr. Shaver at the first class session.

We plan on offering this again, possibly in two different time slots on two different days, beginning in February, 5 weeks prior to the spring ACT we will give at TA on March 6.


If you are interested in finding out more about which schools do not require test scores for students applying for admission in fall of 2022, check out this article: https://www.fairtest.org/1700-colleges-and-universities-do-not-require-SAT-for-2022

(Hint: It's over 73% of undergraduate institutions!)


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