Tell Me You're Kidding: ACT Tells Colleges WHAT? (Part II)

By: Jason Robinovitz | Last Updated: February 16, 2017

In Part I of this series, we laid out the problem with ACT’s four free score reports included in the “base” price of the testing. ACT’s reporting method might have an unfavorable impact on your college applications. And we promised we’d tell you what to do about that problem in Part II.

While you’d incur additional expense by requesting that a score report be sent to a school at some point after the test, you could decline the four free score reports included in your initial registration fee. That would allow you to avoid any apparent ranking of schools. Further, if you wait until after you get your score reports to have them sent to colleges, that would also give you more control over what exactly gets sent. Similarly, when you register for the ACT, select “no preference” from a series of preferences about the kind of college you want to attend in order to lessen the chances of rejection if you’re applying to more than one kind of school.

The “College and Career Planning” section of your score report, mentioned earlier, is based on information you provide during registration, and it looks like this:

College & Career Planning - Score At The Top

This portion of your report places the strengths and activities you provide along two axes of interest—Data vs. Ideas and People vs. Things—and then compares those results to your stated major.

You probably shouldn’t take this career planning report too seriously, because your interests are likely to change as you’re exposed to more information and opportunities. In fact, most students ignore this section of the ACT because it simply confirms what they already knew or doesn’t really capture the full scope of their interests.

The College and Career Planning report appears only on the Student Score Report [you can read more about interpreting your Student Score Report here].

To understand more fully what else college admission officers see, let’s look at the sample report that the ACT says it would provide to a college for one fictitious “Ann Taylor” (Ann Taylor’s sample College Report).

The first third of the College Report displays the same scaled and detailed scores that students see on their own reports. The one difference is that U.S. Rank is immediately followed by Institutional Rank, meaning ACT highlights your score in relation to scores of the college’s most recent freshman class.

ACT College Report - Score At The Top

To the right of these scores, under “Information Reported by the Student,” the first thing ACT lists is “College Choice,” as discussed above. In the sample, the University of Omega is listed as Ann’s first choice, so an admission officer there who sees this ranking might well conclude that if Ann gets offered a spot in the freshman class, she’s likely to accept the offer and enroll.

The back of the report (see below) lists even more information that you’ve given ACT during registration, including high schools attended, subjects studied, extracurricular activities, background, financial aid, enrollment and housing plans, interests, and even any personal weaknesses you decide to report. And any or all of it could be used by an admissions committee that’s trying to create a well-balanced freshman class.

ACT College Report by Student - Score At The Top

The ACT College Report concludes with a section called “Chances of Success at [University].” If the university participates in ACT Research Services, the score report will display your chances of receiving a C or better and a B or better in a variety of classes. Those chances are based on how others with your ACT score have performed in those classes in the past. In Ann’s sample case, above, 49% of First-Time Students with her ACT score range received a B or better, so the assumption is that Ann has a 49% chance of getting that same grade. While colleges might use this information to get an idea about what supportive programs could be needed for an incoming class, they might use that information as a way to make admission decisions.

The foregoing makes it clear that when you register for the ACT you’re asked to provide information that’s going to be shared with colleges in ways that you probably didn’t imagine. We’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that the information provided might not be used at all in admissions decisions, because it’s possible that every college to which you apply will simply note your score and ignore everything else — but there’s also the chance that one or more of them will use that information in deciding whether or not to offer you admission, and now you at least know how that might occur, what the results might be, and how to keep it from happening.

Moral of the story: Don’t take advantage of the free score reports! And don’t identify your college preferences when you register.

Happy ACTing!

Topics: ACT


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