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Do I have any hope with a 29 on the ACT?

QUESTION: I thought everything was going fine up through my junior year. I have a 4.2 GPA, and I am a well-rounded student. I play varsity athletics, have held many leadership positions and do community service. The bad news is that I only got a 29 on my ACT. Although I am going to retake the test, most colleges require early applications and I won't have my new scores in time. What should I do? I really had my hopes set on going to a good college, but with a score like 29 that's obviously out of the question. What do you recommend? Signed, Stuck with a Twenty-Nine

Dear Stuck: First of all you are far from stuck. You are actually suffering from a case of ACT Tunnel Vision. Don't worry it's very common among students and the cure requires only a small dose of reality.

Most colleges use the ACT as just one of many data points to determine admission. Along with your ACT score your grades, classes, activities, achievements, essay, teacher recommendation and interview are used to decide whether or not you get accepted. In fact, most college admission officers would say that grades and coursework are better predictors of your potential for academic achievement in college than test scores.

Put the ACT in perspective. Re-take the test since you know you can do better. When you apply, mark the date when you will be taking the ACT on your application. Most colleges will wait to receive your new score. Also, there is a lag between when applications are due and when decisions are made. But be careful not to spend all your time prepping for the ACT. Don't ignore the rest of your application or spend less time on the essay, for example, because you are studying eight hours a day for the ACT.

This is the biggest danger of ACT Tunnel Vision. You can get so focused on a single test that you neglect the other areas of the application that are just as important. We've seen this happen and trust us it is no consolation to get a 36 on the ACT and a rejection letter from your first choice college because you didn't have time to learn how to craft a powerful application.

In "Get Into Any College" Chapter 10, "The Alphabet Soup Of Tests: How to Ace Them" we discuss the real importance of test scores in the admission process. Of course, the rest of the book is dedicated to showing you what makes a winning college application so that you do maximize your chances of getting accepted at your top college.

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Gen & Kelly Tanabe

Gen and Kelly Tanabe are the founders of SuperCollege and the award-winning authors of 11 books on college admission, financial aid and scholarships. Together they were accepted to all of the Ivy League colleges and won more than $100,000 in merit-based scholarships to graduate from Harvard debt-free.