What is the Ideal ACT Score for Scholarship Applications?

St. Agnes Academy
Does your ACT score matter when applying for scholarships? In short, yes but there is more to it than you think. Read about the importance of your ACT score for scholarship applications.
If you have started applying for colleges, you have likely started researching scholarships, too (and if you haven’t, you should!). Scholarships are endless and everywhere. They should be taken advantage of.

One of the simplest ways to earn a scholarship is through your ACT scores. You can qualify for a scholarship just from a good ACT score. But what is a good ACT score? What scores will get you a scholarship to the school of your dreams?

First, let’s look at what the ACT is so that you know how to aim for the best ACT score for scholarship applications.

Understanding the ACT Exam for College Applications

Why does the ACT exam matter? And what is the scoring breakdown? The ACT is a national college admissions exam that measures applicants’ knowledge and potential in four areas:

  • Math
  • Science
  • English
  • Reading

Scores are on a scale from 1 to 36, and the scoring applies to each of the four sections. Your final score is an average of the four sections. The highest possible score on the ACT is 36, but the current national average is somewhere around 21. This information means that some college or university scholarships may have varying standards for merit scholarships.

What is a Good ACT Score?

Obviously, the higher the score, the better the chance of receiving a scholarship. But there is more to it than that. Scoring 30 or above puts you in the 90th percentile, which means you are already ahead of most students who take the test, which would likely increase your chances of obtaining a scholarship.

However, scholarships are also available for students who score in the 20s or even less. So instead of stressing about making perfect scores, think more about which scholarship you are aiming for and which schools you are looking at.

There is a Range

A good ACT score doesn’t just have to be a specific number; it can be a range. There is a multitude of scholarships for scores in many ranges. You could qualify even if you aren’t the best test taker.

While a higher score could mean more options and money, receiving some scholarship money for a lower score range is still possible. Knowing this helps to take some pressure off making the perfect ACT score for scholarship opportunities.

Just take a look at some of these scholarships offered for various scores:

ACT Score
Amount Per Year
For More Information...
The AIEF [American Indian Education Foundation] Undergraduate Scholarship Program
King's Daughters Health Foundation Health Career Scholarship
The Full Impact Foundation Scholarship Award
CIA Undergraduate Scholarship Program
Catch a Break! Scholarship Program
Bright Futures Scholarship
75-100% of in-state tuition for Florida students at Florida public universities
OCCACC Scholarship
ExxonMobil/LNESC Scholarship
UM Missoula Presidential Leadership Scholarship
University of Georgia Foundation Fellowship

Look at The School

You may also want to consider what colleges you are applying to, see what scholarships they have available, and what their criteria are for test scores. Eligibility may be based on ACT score minimums and GPA, state residence, or class ranking.

For example, the University of Mississippi offers an Academic Merit scholarship based on your GPA and SAT/ACT score. Their admissions website notes that "Entering freshmen, minimum 3.0 high-school GPA. A minimum 23 ACT for MS Residents (1050 SAT or 1130 SAT-R) or 25 ACT for nonresidents (1130 SAT or 1200 SAT-R)" are considered for the Academic Merit scholarship. You are automatically considered after being admitted to the University of Mississippi.

At Utah State University, there are scholarships based on a combination of GPA and SAT/ACT scores. The admissions office has infographics for residents and nonresidents that you can use to see which scholarship you'd be eligible for.

Florida Gulf Coast University, the University of Tennessee, Texas Tech, and the University of Missouri are just a few more colleges that offer scholarships based on test scores and GPA or class rank.

Many colleges and universities have dedicated pages for merit scholarships that a simple search will pull up. If you do not see one, try searching for the college/university name plus scholarships or financial aid.

Give Yourself a Second Chance

You may also consider giving yourself a second or third opportunity to take the ACT. On average, students who take the test more than once increase their scores.

So, if you score higher the second or third time you test, you can use that score for your applications. Give yourself time to prep each time you test so you can achieve better results. Several test prep options can help you prepare for the ACT at ACTStudent.org.

In actuality, while you may think that a higher score equals automatic qualification for college acceptance or scholarship awards, there is much more to it.

It would help if you also kept in mind that scholarships and average test scores can vary depending on the state. They also change frequently. What may be considered an average score now could change in a few years.

Do your research before you spend hours writing a personal statement and submitting all your information. Be sure the scholarship you are applying for is available to students at your preferred university.

Find Help Pursuing the Best ACT Score for Scholarship Opportunities

Don’t get hung up on achieving the perfect ACT score for scholarship applications. Do your best, practice, give yourself a second chance, and start your research now!

Schools like St. Agnes Academy have a robust college counseling department with counselors who guide students through these critical areas:

  • College application process
  • Scholarship application process
  • Test preparation process

We provide students and their parents with a complete handbook that includes how-to's and information specific to their college admission goals. Reach out to our college counseling department today to find help researching the best options for college scholarships.