Sunday, December 21, 2014
   
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GHS seniors speak out about college-entrance exam

Admission, placement test 50 years old.

It’s not a lot of fun to sit for four hours and take a test on a Saturday morning.

But that’s the name of the game for many juniors and seniors at Gothenburg High School and other schools throughout the nation who sign up for the ACT to gain admission into colleges and universities and enhance opportunities for academic scholarships.

And taking the test isn’t usually a one-time shot.

GHS senior Mark Hilderbrand has taken it six or seven times, counting his seventh-grade year when he qualified and was invited to take the ACT through Duke University’s Talent Identification Program.

Other seniors interviewed about frequency of taking the test include: Bre Messersmith, four; Tabitha Paul and Ali Abramson, three; and Scott Speck, 5.

GHS guidance counselor Jerry Wiggins recommends that students take the ACT four times to boost scores for college admission and improve chances of earning scholarships.

“I think the more a person takes it, the more comfortable they are,” Wiggins said.

On average, he estimates that about 70% of GHS seniors will have taken the ACT at some point and that about 50% of the junior class have.

Although the test is available to students grades nine through 12, Wiggins said he doesn’t formally discuss the test until the fall of a student’s junior year.

Then he talks about the importance of taking the ACT, how to register for it, how many times it should be taken and other things. Students also receive an ACT booklet with sample questions.

In addition to measuring a student’s ability to do college-level work, Wiggins said some scholarships are based primarily on ACT test scores.

For example, Wiggins points to a renewable scholarship offered at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Students who earn a 23 on the ACT and are in the top 30% of their graduating class are eligible for a dean’s scholarship which is $500 a year or $2,000 for four years.

Improving that score three points—to 26—can mean a chancellor’s scholarship which is half the cost of tuition if students are in the top 25% of their graduating class.

With an ACT score of 29 and a rank in the top 10% of their class could insure a regent’s scholarship which is full tuition, or about $5,000 annually.

Wiggins said the ACT doesn’t really measure intelligence and noted that the ACT and a sister test—the SAT—are the only instruments college officials have to look at potential enrollees.

“It can’t really be manipulated like a grade point average,” he said.

The guidance counselor said he’s seen some students have successful careers who scored below the state ACT average while some scored high and flunked out of college the first year.

“The ACT is one tool all colleges and universities can utilize in determining whether or not the student is ready to do college-level work,” he explained.

Most colleges and universities will take either ACT or SAT Reasoning Test test scores, Wiggins said, but most students in the Midwest take the ACT probably because ACT, Inc. headquarters is in Iowa City, IA, where the test was created.

SAT is headquartered out of Princeton, NJ.

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