“I want to know if you think I should retake the ACT,” Gaiva said.

When she handed me a copy of her report, I saw immediately that she had a good ACT score.

“What are the schools you’ve identified so far that fit your goals?”

After she listed three schools, we looked them up.

Gaiva’s ACT scores fell safely in the frequently accepted range at all of the schools on her list.

“If you were to retake the ACT, you’d probably spend time studying for it. Let’s say you spent two hours a week between now and the test plus the testing hours. That’s 16 hours. How much are you hoping to bring up your test score?”

“3 points,” she said.

“Ok, you’re close to your goal already. Let me ask you this:

“Instead of raising your ACT scores, what else could you do with that time?” I asked.

“The school year is coming to an end, so I’m trying to get ready for my AP exams. There are regular assignments and tests to study for. Plus, drum major tryouts are coming, and I need to get ready for that,” Gaiva shared.

“With all that going on, 10 years from now, are you going to look back and think, ‘I’m so happy I spent those hours when I was 17 to bring up my ACT scores by 3 points’?

“Or might there be some other ways for you to use that time to make you happier, healthier, or more inspired within yourself or by the world around you?”

A beautiful smile played across her face.

“You’re 17. You will only have this precious time in your life once.

“You’ve done an excellent job to become a good student. You’re sharp, compassionate, and curious.

“These ACT scores won’t harm your application in any way.

“Where you get into to college is not nearly as important as what you do when you’re there. You know what to do and how to make it happen. You will have a great college experience.

“It’s not my decision. Do you think you should retake the ACT?” I asked.

Gaiva chose to spend her time in other ways.

This fall she’ll be down on the field, a smiling, confident girl, directing the marching band as the drum major.


Dare to Question The Formula


The formula says that the better your grades, the more APs you take, the higher your ACT scores, the more colleges want you.

There are times when ACT scores are damaging to students’ applications. They can be THE DETERMINING FACTOR of whether your application will be considered. In those cases, resources invested in studying and preparation can make a critical difference in admissions results.

What defines a good ACT score? A good score is one that falls in the median of scores for the colleges you’re seriously considering.

LOOK FOR MY POST: How to know which colleges are right for me?

But for the students who’ve generated good ACT scores,

think beyond the numbers.

Learning how to confidently make well-informed decisions about how you spend your valuable time and energy is far more important than incremental changes in your test scores.

Start something that will benefit others and teach you new skills.

Participate in activities and groups in your community.

Laugh and enjoy time with your family and friends.

Create memories that inspire you as you explore the world by being in it.

You’ll have for more to fuel your passions and to contribute to others by living in these years than scoring a few extra points on one test.


And, yes, colleges will want you! 


Those ACT scores establish that you have a certain baseline of academic skill.

But those scores say nothing about what you have done and will continue to do with your brilliance.

What colleges want far more than numbers are contributors, especially innovative contributors.

When Gaiva chose to spend her time preparing for drum major tryouts instead of preparing to retake the ACT, she made a choice that colleges (and employers ultimately) value.

She chose to develop her skills as a musician and a leader, knowing that retaking the ACT will do little to develop her as a thinker, a student, or a leader.

16 hours spent contributing significantly to a project, activity, or experience that will help others is far more developmental for you and attractive to colleges.

That is what colleges really want in their students.

Don’t you?



Want our step-by-step INSIDER STRATEGY to get colleges’ attention? Click for “The 150-Word Email To Get Colleges To Want You.”










If you are seeking a high-quality, low-cost, skill-building approach to prepare for tests, we know, like and trust Higher Scores Test Prep.

Know someone who can use this? Share it with the buttons at the top!