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Top 4 Myths About Money and the ACT That Parents Should Know

Worried about some things you've heard about the ACT and scholarships? Don't fret. Much of what you've heard is skewed. Let's debunk four money myths!

While the college admission process is a well-known student stressor, a lot of people don't realize how much pressure it puts on parents as well. Not only are there financial factors to take into consideration, but there's also the fact that you can only guide your teen so far in the process. One thing you can help with is learning about the connection between the ACT, scholarships, and college prep costs. Spending just a few minutes debunking common misconceptions can end up saving you money—perhaps thousands in student loan debt. With that in mind, let's take a look at the myths and realities surrounding the ACT and scholarship possibilities.

Myth #1: You can't get any scholarships based on the ACT

This is absolutely untrue. This myth arose because the PSAT/NMSQT serves as the test for the National Merit Scholarship, while the PreACT doesn't. Nevertheless, those are the "pre-" tests. There are thousands of scholarships available for students based on ACT scores. Sometimes the scholarships, particularly those offered by colleges themselves, will be based entirely on ACT scores. In other cases, factors such as GPA, essays, and recommendations will come into play. Bottom line? If you're encouraging your student to take the SAT instead of the ACT because you're afraid taking the ACT will narrow their chances at scholarships, don't! Instead, suggest that your child take both an SAT and ACT practice test and see how well they do on each "diagnostic." Then they can start prepping for their choice of test.

Related: How Do I Choose Between Taking the SAT or ACT?

Myth #2: Only students with stratospheric ACT scores get scholarships

The ACT scoring scale runs from 1–36 in each subject area (ACT English, ACT Math, ACT Reading, and ACT Science), with the overall ACT score averaging the sectional scores. Scores above 30 make students extremely competitive, not only for scholarships but for admission to top universities; after all, scoring above 30 means your student is scoring better than 90% of all test-takers. But does your child need a 30+ score to get a scholarship? Absolutely not! Even though the average ACT score hovers around 21, students scoring in almost all ranges from 14+ can get scholarships based on other application factors.

Myth #3: ACT prep costs too much

First of all, there's a lot of great ACT prep resources out there that cost absolutely nothing. One of the first ways you can help your student prepare for the ACT is by encouraging your school district to invest in the Pre-ACT, which is only given by schools. Given during students' sophomore year, this test only costs schools $12 a student (and costs you nothing) while introducing your child to the form and content of the test—as well as lighting a fire under him or her to start prepping for junior year college admission testing!

Also remember that you don't have to shell out hundreds of dollars for a course or thousands for a tutor. Some students learn well in those environments—but not all students will, and why spend money that you could be saving for tuition on something that may or may not work? Instead, encourage your student to take an ACT practice test to get a sense of where he or she is now, and then dive into an ACT study guide to work on polishing skills in content areas where your child is struggling. If your child is self-motivated, taking and thoroughly reviewing practice tests then brushing up on content with a solid study guide is a great way to boost ACT scores. And if your student is taking the ACT with Writing, they should practice writing the ACT Essay too—a lot of students are tempted to skip out before they're really done with the test!

Related: The Best ACT Test Prep Sites, Books, and More

Myth #4: ACT prep isn't worth it

Even if it doesn't cost money, ACT prep still takes time, yes. And time is one thing there's never enough of. Without taking time away from your student's schoolwork, though, making ACT prep a priority will pay big dividends in the future, in terms of both college admission and scholarships. And every hour of study counts! Your teen scoring a 24 on the ACT and meets GPA requirements for a college of interest could land them $32,000 in scholarships over four years. But if your teen brings that score up to a 25, they could  instead get $39,000 over four years. That's a $7,000 difference for one point on the ACT!

Related: 3 Things to Consider About Standardized Test Prep Services

At the end of the day, prepping for the ACT will come down to your student and the amount of work they're willing to put into it. But there are a lot of tools out there that will equip them with the materials they need to get the scores they want. Don't dismiss the ACT when it comes to test-taking options—it just may be the key to landing the scholarship that changes your teen's life! (And helps you get that beach house, of course.)

Kick-start the search for awards with ACT requirements on CollegeXpress using our Scholarship Search tool.

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About Rachel Kapelke-Dale

Rachel Kapelke-Dale blogs about graduate school admission for Magoosh. She has a BA from Brown University, and did her own graduate work at the Université de Paris VII (Master Recherche) and University College London (PhD). She has taught and written about test preparation and admission practices for eight years.


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