Just getting through high school in one piece is hard enough, but to get into the college of your choice, you really have to keep many plates spinning at once. One plate to spin is the cost of college. And one way to help cut the cost of college is to earn scholarships based on ACT scores.
College is one of the biggest-ticket items you’ll pay for throughout your whole life, so you will probably get the funding through a combination of sources: savings, loans, and grants. Scholarships, particularly those earned by achieving a certain score on standardized tests, is just one way to lower the total cost.
Much of the financial aid (loans and grants) you receive will be need-based. This means the aid is granted based on your financial circumstances (your particular academic qualifications are not taken into account). You can read more about the FAFSA here.
However, there are also many scholarships out there for students based on academic and extracurricular strengths and interests. You can see some examples of those scholarships here.
One group of merit-based financial aid you should consider are scholarships based on your performance on standardized tests. You are probably already working hard to keep your GPA up in school, and you’ll have to take the SAT or the ACT to get into college, anyway. If you take the ACT, there may be scholarships available to you based on your score. Some ACT scholarships do not even require additional information other than your transcripts and scores; that is, they are based purely on the numbers. If you need help boosting your ACT score, this complete guide to the ACT will be useful.
These ACT scholarships should provide some extra motivation for preparing for your test and scoring well beyond simply getting into the college of your choice!
How to Find ACT Scholarships
Many of the scholarships based on ACT (or SAT) scores are provided by colleges. For that reason, most of the legwork is going to be left to you to find scholarships that are right for you, because there are so many out there and they are always changing.
1. Make a list of schools you plan to apply to
Keep this list relatively manageable. If you put 40 colleges on your list, you’ll become overwhelmed and you’ll have to narrow it down anyway. For the purpose of this process, cap the list at 15 schools. You may have a few you are primarily interested in, but in order to look for scholarships, you should also include some colleges that may not be your dream schools, but which still interest you!
2. Search for “[College Name] Merit Scholarships”
You’ll probably find most of the institutional merit scholarships available simply by entering the name of the college + “merit scholarships” into your preferred search engine.
For example, I decided to look for merit scholarships available at Grinnell College, and the search returned this list of links, including a page specially dedicated to merit scholarships.
3. Search for “[College Name] financial aid”
Let’s say that for whatever reason, your search doesn’t turn up a page that looks promising. In that case, navigate your way to the college’s financial aid page. There will almost certainly be a link on that page to scholarship information. If the college has ACT scholarships available, you’ll be able to find your way to them from there.
4. Make a list of requirements
Organization is key to keeping your sanity during the college application process. As you look for ACT scholarships following the steps above, make a bullet-point list of what each scholarship requires.
For example, you may find that at one college, such as the example above (Grinnell), you will be automatically considered for for merit-based scholarships along with your application. In that case, make a note such as the following:
- Grinnell College
- Multiple merit-based scholarships available
- $10k – 50k per year
- Various levels of GPA and ACT
- Automatic entry
- Hanover College
- Parker Scholarship
- $23k per year
- 3.9 GPA and 26 ACT
- Automatic entry
There are actually also multiple ACT scholarships available at Hanover college, but I included the above note simply to show you an example of how to keep track of the information for yourself.
In other cases, you may find that you need to provide additional information. For example, the Hanover College Crowe Scholars program. Make a note of what you’ll need to do:
- Hanover College
- Crowe Scholars
- Resumé highlighting accomplishments in area of academic interest
- Additional letters of recommendation
5. Group the scholarships by requirement
This step is simple and feels good to accomplish! You’ve done the work of finding the scholarships at colleges to which you are applying. Now you can lump all the scholarships with “automatic consideration” into one group and forget about them for the time being! I recommend printing out your notes and circling the scholarships that require additional steps. Then prioritize them based either on how much you need to do or how excited you are about the college. This way you’ll focus your energy in the right place to start with.
6. Complete the requirements
Need additional letters of recommendation? Figure out who you’re going to ask, and ask them earlier rather than later. Need to write an essay? Start planning it. Now you can see why I didn’t just list hundreds of scholarships and tell you to fend for yourself!
7. Make sure your test scores are up to par
As you can see from the examples below, the ACT scholarships you qualify for will be dependent on your score. Your standardized test scores are the most important piece of your college application that you can improve in the short term, and now that you know an additional few points on the ACT can save you thousands of dollars on college, you probably have all the motivation you need to adequately prepare.
Merit-based Scholarships Based on ACT Scores are One Piece to the Puzzle
Paying for college involves lots of different ways to cut costs based on both financial need and academic merit. Make sure to consider need-based grants, loans, work-study, and scholarships, as well as merit-based scholarships, in the budgeting process.