How Your ACT Score Impacts Your College Admissions

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Do colleges look at your ACT® scores? Yes, they do! In addition to your high school GPA, extracurricular activities, and personal essays, ACT scores may be taken into account by many elite colleges and Ivy League institutions during the evaluation of your application.

Even with a growing number of colleges adopting a test-optional approach, students still have the choice to include their ACT scores as a factor in college admission or merit-based scholarships. In institutions that adhere to a test-blind policy, like the University of California and the California State University, ACT scores may prove advantageous for students in fulfilling subject requirements or aiding in advising processes.1

Below, we’ll provide tips to help you choose the perfect college and a list of ACT admission scores for the top 25 US colleges.

Why Do Top Colleges and Ivy Leagues Look at ACT Scores?

Here’s 4 reasons top colleges and Ivy League schools look for your ACT scores:

As A Standardized Metric

Because the ACT is standardized, colleges can use it to compare applicants and help students from different academic backgrounds stand out.

As A Predictor Of Academic Success

High ACT scores are a strong indicator of your ability to handle challenging college coursework and potential to succeed academically, especially at premier higher education institutions.

To Attract High-Achievers

Top-tier colleges, including the Ivy League, consider a range of factors, including standardized test scores like the ACT, as part of a holistic admissions process to attract high-achieving students and maintain academic excellence.

To Assess Your Eligibility For Merit-Based Scholarships

ACT scores are used to determine merit-based scholarships at some colleges.

As A Standardized Metric

Because the ACT is standardized, colleges can use it to compare applicants and help students from different academic backgrounds stand out.

As A Predictor Of Academic Success

High ACT scores are a strong indicator of your ability to handle challenging college coursework and potential to succeed academically, especially at premier higher education institutions.

To Attract High-Achievers

Top-tier colleges, including the Ivy League, consider a range of factors, including standardized test scores like the ACT, as part of a holistic admissions process to attract high-achieving students and maintain academic excellence.

To Assess Your Eligibility For Merit-Based Scholarships

ACT scores are used to determine merit-based scholarships at some colleges.

How Important Is a Good ACT Score for College Admissions?

The significance of a good ACT score for college admissions varies depending on the college or university and their admissions policies. Some institutions place a greater emphasis on standardized test scores, such as the ACT, while others take a more holistic approach, considering a range of factors beyond just test scores.

For highly selective test-mandatory or test-optional colleges, a high ACT score could positively contribute to a student’s chances of acceptance. However, it is essential to understand that while ACT scores can be a factor in admissions decisions, they are just one of many considerations. Admissions officers also evaluate a student’s GPA, extracurricular activities, essays, letters of recommendation, their majors, and other factors when making admissions decisions.

Students with lower ACT scores can boost their chances of acceptance by highlighting their strengths in other areas, such as community service or work experience. Ultimately, the weight given to ACT scores depends on the institution’s admissions policies and the student’s career interests. Prospective students should research the admissions policies of colleges they are interested in to determine the importance of ACT scores in the admissions process.

So, what can a good ACT score do for you?

  1. It can help you get admitted to top colleges across the U.S, which are otherwise highly selective in their admission rates.
  2. Colleges may sometimes consider ACT scores, along with other factors, when making decisions about course placement. If you have a lower ACT score, you could be placed in a lower level course. A high ACT score can be a positive factor in accessing more advanced courses.
  3. If you require financial assistance for college expenses, achieving a high ACT score can enhance your competitiveness for specific merit-based scholarships.

Colleges That Consider ACT Scores

What is a good ACT score for Ivy League schools? The list below will help you know all about them!

Typical Ivy League ACT Scores
School ACT Score Range
Columbia University 34 – 35
Cornell University 33 – 35
Dartmouth College 32 – 35
Harvard University 35 – 36
University of Pennsylvania 34 – 36
Princeton University 33 – 36
Yale University 33 – 36
List of Top 25 Schools and
Typical Student ACT Scores 
School ACT Score Range
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 3 35 – 36
Stanford University 34 – 36
University of Chicago 34 – 36
Johns Hopkins University 34 – 36
California Institute of Technology 35 – 36
Duke University 34 – 36
Northwestern University 33 – 36
Vanderbilt University 34 – 36
Rice University 34 – 36
Washington University in St. Louis 33 – 36
University of Notre Dame 32 – 36
University of California, Berkeley* 30 – 36
University of California, Los Angeles* 30 – 36
Carnegie Mellon University 33 – 36
Emory University 32 – 36
Georgetown University 32 – 36
New York University 33 – 36
University of Michigan–Ann Arbor 31 – 36
University of Southern California 32 – 36
University of Virginia 32 – 36
University of Florida 3 28 – 33
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 19 – 36
Wake Forest University 31 – 36
Tufts University 33 – 36
University of California, Santa Barbara* 26 – 36

Source: 2022-2023 Best National Universities | US News Rankings

*The UC System is test blind and utilizes ACT scores solely for meeting the English subject-matter requirement, course placement, or advising purposes following students’ admission, provided that applicants opt to submit them.

Know if your dream college is test-optional or ACT-mandatory

The 2023-24 admission policies of most top 25 schools and all Ivy Leagues have shifted to either test-optional or test-flexible. This gives applicants the choice of whether or not to submit their ACT scores with their application. You can check the requirements of your desired school from the lists below.

College ACT Policy
Brown University Test-Optional for 2023
Columbia University Test-Optional for 2023 and 2024
Cornell University Test-Optional for 2023 and 2024
Dartmouth College Test-Optional for 2023
Harvard University Test-Optional for 2023, 2024, 2025, and 2026
University of Pennsylvania Test-Optional for 2023
Princeton University Test-Optional for 2023
Yale University Test-Optional for 2023
College ACT Policy
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 3 Mandatory SAT or ACT
Stanford University 4 Test-Optional for 2023
University of Chicago Test-Optional
Johns Hopkins University Test-Optional for 2023 – 2026
California Institute of Technology Test-Optional for 2023
Duke University Test-Optional for 2023
Northwestern University Test-Optional for 2023
Vanderbilt University Test-Optional for 2023 – 2024
Rice University 5 Test-Optional for 2023
Washington University in St. Louis Test-Optional for 2023 – 2024
University of Notre Dame Test-Optional for 2023
University of California, Berkeley 1 Test-Blind
University of California, Los Angeles 1 Test-Blind
Carnegie Mellon University Test-Optional for 2023
Emory University Test-Optional for 2023
Georgetown University 3 Mandatory SAT or ACT
New York University Test-Optional for 2023 – 2024
University of Michigan–Ann Arbor Test-Optional for 2023 – 2024
University of Southern California Test-Optional for 2023
University of Virginia 6 Test-Optional for 2023
University of Florida 3 Mandatory SAT or ACT
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Test-Optional for 2023 – 2024
Wake Forest University Test-Optional
Tufts University Test-Optional for 2023 – 2027
University of California, Santa Barbara 1 Test-Blind

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Even if a college does not make it mandatory to send your ACT scores when you apply, many schools provide the option for students to submit their ACT scores to enhance their admissions applications. Schools may also review your ACT scores when awarding merit-based scholarships. So, if you’re confident about your ACT scores, be sure to submit them when filling out your college admission form.

A test-mandatory college will evaluate your ACT test scores; however, at test-optional schools, students typically have the option to indicate whether or not they wish for their standardized test scores to be considered as part of their admissions application. Most colleges superscore your ACT, evaluating only your best scores for admission. At test-blind universities, your ACT scores do not factor into your admissions, but may influence your academic advising.

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References

  1. McDonnell Nieto del Rio, G. (2021, May 15). University of California Will No Longer Consider SAT and ACT Scores. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/15/us/SAT-scores-uc-university-of-california.html
  2. (2023). Test Optional College List. FairTest. Retrieved November 16, 2023, from https://fairtest.org/school/
  3. Wood, S. (2023, October 9). Top Colleges That Still Require Test Scores. U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved November 16, 2023, from https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/the-short-list-college/articles/top-colleges-that-still-require-test-scores
  4. (2023). Stanford University Undergraduate Admission. Stanford University. Retrieved November 16, 2023, from https://admission.stanford.edu/
  5. (2023). Frequently Asked Questions. Rice University Office of Admission. Retrieved November 16, 2023, from https://admission.rice.edu/frequently-asked-questions#:~:text=We%20are%20test%20optional!,test%20scores%2C%20if%20they%20choose.
  6. (2023). What is the Test Optional Policy? University of Virginia Office of Undergraduate Admission. Retrieved November 16, 2023, from https://admission.virginia.edu/node/446
  7. (2023). Application Requirements. Harvard College Admissions & Financial Aid. Retrieved November 16, 2023, from https://college.harvard.edu/admissions/apply/application-requirements
  8. (2023). Testing Policy. Columbia Undergraduate Admissions. Retrieved November 16, 2023, from https://undergrad.admissions.columbia.edu/apply/process/testing
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