Is 17 on the ACT Good Enough?

by Josh B on October 21, 2010

Christine is a high school senior who has a 3.7 GPA, but got a 17 on her ACT. What now?

I’m afraid of how strongly colleges will judge me off my ACT score.

Yep — it’s a valid concern, I’m afraid. A lot of the initial screening of college applicants involves a mathematical formula, a big portion of which is your standardized test scores.

So if your score is very low, you may be eliminated before a human being ever has the chance to evaluate you.

I’m a senior in high school and took my ACT last year but had no idea what to expect and ended up really stressed before the test and basically blew it off and got a 17.



My family wasn’t able to pay for me to take it again this October so I’m scheduled to take it in December.

Take it again as soon as you can!

My problem is that all my applications will be out before that.

Hmm. Well, if that’s the case and you’re not willing to wait a semester to apply with a new and improved ACT score, then maybe there’s no point in taking it again.

I can’t help but feel I’m going to get all these rejections just because of my ACT score.

I’m sorry to be grim, but you’re probably right.

My GPA is around a 3.7. Colleges I’m considering applying to (that I know of) so far are: Unity in Maine, Ohio State University, Kent State (as a backup school) and some community colleges.

Kent might still admit you, and of course you have the community colleges (which, on the bright side, is actually a smart route that I constantly recommend around these parts. More on that in a second).

I know nothing about Unity College in Maine, so I can’t say much about it. Ohio State, I think there’s no way you’ll get in. Average ACT score is in the 26ish range.

I’m thinking of going to a community college for my first two years and then transfering to save money.

This is a wonderful idea, and I’d tell you this even if you weren’t having this low-ACT-score issue. The first two years of college are mostly about taking general courses. Freshman English, Psych 101, Sociology 101, Biology 101, Economics 101. That sort of thing.

Those classes don’t vary nearly as much by school as the upper-level courses do. However, the price of these courses at a community college vs. a university varies a great deal. You’ll pay a fraction of the cost at a community college for essentially the same courses.

Also, community college is a really cheap way to stick your toe in the waters of college, as it were, and see if it’s for you. I recommend it wholeheartedly.

My friend tells me if you transfer from another college they more than likely won’t reject you, so that’d work well with my plan if that’s true.

Your friends are right, it’s true. I like to call community college the “back door” into the school you really want to attend, but perhaps can’t get into right now. In your case, let’s say OSU.

They won’t admit you now with that 17, I’m pretty sure. But if you do two years at a community college in Ohio and keep up good grades, you should transfer in as a junior with no problems. In their eyes, you’ll have proven yourself as a worthy college student at that point.

Plus, you’ll have saved yourself about $20,000 in education costs, which is better than a sharp stick in the eye.

I’m planning on majoring in Wildlife Biology.

Good luck to you!

– OK, everyone. Any comments about what Christine should do? Any stories of success (or failure) with admissions boards with a 17 ACT? Let us know in the comments below.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

aaliyah August 31, 2012 at 11:59 am

so i guess a 18 isnt good enough either.


Christie September 2, 2012 at 1:55 pm

My daughter got a 17 on the ACT, and knowing that state colleges will often take local kids first, she applied for colleges as soon as allowed. She was accepted mostly because of the number of applicants each year are unknown and are most likely to accept the first few who apply, then get picky when they begin to fill. She is a sophomore, and her current college gpa is a 3.0. she really had to work hard to prove herself.


Israel McIntosh November 17, 2014 at 3:39 am

I would recommend taking the sat as well, your scores might change substantially. Some people increase by 50% or so. You probably should put a lot of time into studying too. These tests are meant to trick you and if you don’t know the tricks, you will fail. Studying the technique is KEY!


Jessica December 15, 2014 at 10:00 am

Community College is a good way to start….you save money and public colleges give tuition discounts. Some private universities in partnership with a c.c. may also give full tuition scholarships.


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