When you walk into the testing room to take the ACT for the first time, chances are that you’re probably not completely sure what to expect. You’ve heard that colleges are seeking high scores and you’ve also heard about people with perfect scores — but could that be your future as well?
It’s certainly possible that you will be among the students who gets a perfect ACT score. And it’s also possible that you’ll score somewhere around the US’ average score, which last year was a 21. If you are among the aspiring college hopefuls with a score anywhere below a 36, you may be wondering what your future holds.
Today we’re here to give you a quick glimpse of what the future has held (so far!) for one student who got the country’s average score. James Harris logged a 21 ACT in 2012, graduated high school the following year and is now out of college and in the workforce. The following FAQs can show you that life with an “average” ACT score has been decidedly above average for Harris.
College Confidential:What can you share about your test prep and test-taking situation?
James Harris: The first time I took the ACT, it was at school when everybody took it and I got an 18. I was really surprised and a little bit embarrassed because for some reason I thought everybody got a 30 (or close to it). So I signed up for a test prep class over the summer and then I took the test two more times, and I got a 21 both times, so I figured I would stick with that. I also took the SAT twice but I couldn’t break 1,000 on the Math and Reading combined (this is when there was also a required Writing test) so my counselor advised me to go with the ACT score for my college applications.
CC: How did you go about creating your college list once you knew that you wouldn’t be taking the ACT again?
JH: I actually only had one school on my list that was going to be totally out of reach due to the 21 ACT. I was considering applying to a school that had a minimum 22 ACT requirement. I could have tried again on the test, but honestly when I thought about it, I didn’t have the passion to retake the ACT, which was probably a sign that I didn’t want that school as badly as I thought I did. I did apply to the rest of the schools that had been on my list all along.
CC: Of the schools you applied to, how many accepted you?
JH: I applied to five schools, and I really was on the fence about whether I wanted to pursue film or business. Ultimately, I decided I could probably go into film with a business degree but it might be harder to go into the business industry with a film degree. So I applied to one school for film (I didn’t get in) and applied to the other four for business. My first choice was University of Arizona. I had the average GPA to get in there at the time (I think it was a 3.1 then – I applied in 2013) but my ACT was a little below their average. However, I did get in there. I also got into three other schools on my list. The only one that rejected me was the University of Delaware, and I don’t even think the problem was my ACT score. I just didn’t give any effort to the supplemental essays and I think that probably hurt me.
CC: What has your post-college life been like?
JH: I graduated last year (2017) and have been working at an insurance company since then in the marketing department. I really like my job and I think U. Arizona was the right choice for me because it helped me find the right field (through internships and a really wide variety of classes).
CC: What advice would you give students who get the “average” ACT score like you did and are disappointed that they didn’t score higher?
JH: Definitely do NOT worry about it. It seems like a big deal at the time, especially since there are some people who exaggerate when they’re talking about their scores. There is no way the average score is 21 but everyone in my high school claimed to get a 29! My counselor always told me “there’s a college for everybody” and it’s true. There are hundreds (maybe thousands?) of schools out there, not just the big famous ones that you hear people talking about all the time, and one of those is probably going to be a better fit for you than another. I will also say this: When I was interviewing for jobs after graduating from college, no one ever asked my ACT score. It does not matter! It mattered for about two months of my life. After that, find the right college for you, make the best of it and don’t worry about your score.