All things considered

Mia Zanzucchi


Recently, the average ACT scores were released for all Jessamine County high school seniors in the class of 2014.

Even though the county composite (average) score held steady at 19.51 on a scale of 1 to 36, West’s average dropped 0.2 points from 20.51 to 20.31. WJHS and Jessamine County schools are well above the Kentucky average at 19.21 points, but if a student was to reach all benchmarks set by ACT, he or she would have a composite score of 212.

So naturally, improvement must be made in the standardized test department.

You’ve been told since the beginning of high school that the ACT is the mack daddy of tests. Grades are important but without a good ACT score, you’re out of the college game. But forget everything you’ve learned (to some degree – just so I don’t get in trouble.)

Standardized tests like the ACT and SAT measure what you’ve learned at school as well as your ability to think quickly and know how to take the test right. However, the number you happen to score out of 36 is not as important as it seems. Colleges understand the mechanics of both the ACT and SAT: you were sick that day, you had a brain fart, you missed that one day in math two years ago when that one topic was addressed.

And so they look at everything else as well: your teacher recommendations, extra curricular activities, volunteer hours, work experience, awards and essays weight as much as – and in some cases, even more than – your standardized test scores. They want to see how connected to your community you are. They’re not just looking for students to take their classes. They’re looking for students to make their campus unique.

There has even been an upward trend of colleges, specifically small yet elite liberal arts schools, not requiring standardized tests. Bowdoin College, the sixth highest-ranking liberal arts college in the country3, is “test optional.” Wake Forest University, the 27th best university in America3, doesn’t really care about your ACT scores either.

“This policy allows applicants to decide for themselves whether or not their test results accurately reflect their academic ability and potential,” the Bowdoin College admissions website says4. 15-20 percent of their class of 2016 did not submit scores during the application process4.

“Curriculum and grades, along with extracurricular activities, writing ability, and evidence of character and creative talent will remain the primary criteria for admission,” Wake Forest Magazine wrote regarding their 2009 decision to become test optional5.

“The admissions process has to be about building the best and most balanced class we can,” Wake Forest Provost Jill Tiefenthaler said in 20095. “Reliance on the SAT and other standardized tests for admission is a major barrier to access for many worthy students.”

Test scores are not everything. Grades will not make or break you. They should not and will not haunt you for the rest of your life. They are merely stepping-stones to a bright future. You can be successful without the grades and ACT scores. But can you truly be successful without passion? Can you actually make it in life without being connected to your school, community, country and earth?

That’s not something for me to tell you. It’s a case-by-case kind of thing. But should you not have that perfect ACT score, I beg of you, do not fret. Let your passions and nonacademic talents shine through and you’ll always have a silver lining.

To find out more about test optional universities, check out

Footnotes –
1: Jessamine County ACT scores hold steady in 2013 (
2: ACT College and Career Readiness Benchmarks (
3: U.S. News Best Colleges Rankings (
4: Bowdoin College Admissions: Test Optional Policy (
5: Wake Forest Magazine’s A Test of Convention (


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