So, you’ve just put yourself through the immeasurable pain and suffering that is the ACT test. You spent almost four hours of one of your precious Saturdays in a crowded, stuffy room—probably in the last place you want to be on a weekend in September, your school—and you are wondering what’s next. The answer is not the same for everyone and certainly depends a little bit on the circumstances in which you find yourself.
First of all, are you a junior or a senior? If you are a junior, it is almost certain that this was your first-ever official, full-length ACT that can be submitted to colleges. Congratulations on getting ahead of the game! You have a LOT of time and MANY opportunities over the course of the next 15 months to get the score you would like. There are five more opportunities between now and June for you to take the ACT so, theoretically, you COULD take the test six times this year and three more times in the fall before all of your applications are due. I am not sure why you’d do that to yourself, but you could…
For you seniors taking the ACT, this is one of your final opportunities. The next ACT will be administered on October 24th and there will be another on December 12th, the results of which can still be sent to colleges to go along with your already-completed applications. If you took the September ACT as insurance even though you already had a score with which you were happy, you don’t really have to worry about October or December. If, on the other hand, you’re taking the ACT now because you didn’t take it last year or because you’ve got a target score you haven’t yet hit, hopefully you’re already registered for the October ACT. It would probably be a good idea to register for the December ACT as well if you’re fairly far off from your target.
The bottom line is that, as a Junior, you have a lot more flexibility because you have far more opportunities to take the ACT—or the SAT—and to hit whatever your target is for whichever universities you’d like to attend. This is why I strongly advise all of my sophomores to prepare for the ACT during the summer between sophomore and junior year; you want to have the flexibility that more opportunities provides because you never know until you sit down and take a real ACT or SAT how it’s going to turn out. If you’re a junior, you don’t HAVE to plan to take another ACT right away—that said, it think it would be prudent to take another test in the near future so you make the most of your preparation and current ACT knowledge. Hopefully, you’re very happy with your score on the September test and you can just operate from the position of trying to do your absolute best to get into very competitive schools or gain access to scholarships.
As a senior, the situation can be a little more dire. You don’t have a number of opportunities left and you’re certainly hoping that at this point, you’re at least in the range of a score that you want to get into your ideal, first-choice school. If you’re not close to where you want to be yet, I would plan to take both the October and December tests and really put your nose to the grindstone and prepare heartily. You don’t have to stress out as much about your grades this year and if you get a few B’s, that really won’t affect which schools decide to accept you. I say this to point out that you can shift your focus a little from school to the ACT because the test will have a greater affect on your applications than will your senior grades. You don’t want to ignore school of course, because possibly C’s and very definitely D’s and F’s WILL negatively affect your admittance to colleges. However, given the powerful pull of ACT and SAT scores, I think that a few weeks of intense effort into preparing for the tests is a good investment of your time. You can relax NEXT semester seniors! Now is the time to make one last intense push to ensure that you get some great news in the spring!