The Harbinger Online

Against the ACT

It was exactly two weeks since the day I had anxiously sat in the test room of Shawnee Mission South taking the ACT and the scores were out. I knew my day would either be made or broken by the news, but I decided that 5th hour English was as good of a place as any to find out. Glued to the screen, I refreshed over and over as I waited for the scores to be posted. My hands trembled as I typed in my six digits and waited for my score to pop up.

I saw the number and an immediate wave of disappointment and defeat washed over me. The two digits stared back at me, taunting me. How did I get the same score as I did three months ago? All the nights I stayed up past 1 a.m. reading excerpts and reviewing soh-cah-toa seemed wasted. I felt tears coming but kept my composure and slid my phone back into my backpack, reminding myself that this one test doesn’t show my character nor measure of intelligence.

Instead of paying hundreds of dollars for a tutor, my parents decided to spend $15 on Amazon for the 1,000-page Princeton Review book. I read those pages religiously five weeks leading up to the test. I lugged that book wherever I thought I could squeeze in a Science practice test or go over the proper use of a semicolon versus a comma. I even get daily notifications with practice questions from No matter what I did though, I still ended up dissatisfied with my score.

The ACT is supposed to represent high schoolers’ academic achievement, but no one can base someone’s intelligence off a single number. The test has four subjects: English, math, reading and science. My score is one of the first things colleges see on my resume and can be the difference between receiving scholarship money or being denied acceptance. No wonder when I walk into the test room for the fourth time at 7:50 a.m., my palms sweat as I try my best to calm my nerves.

My GPA and extracurriculars show I’m dedicated to school but my ACT score shows I’m average, at best. A high ACT score is great, but colleges should want students that contribute to make their school better. I can only hope that when a college counselor looks at my resume they see more than that two-digit, “summary of intelligence.”  

I’m not sure I can muster up the confidence to take it again after my last attempt. When I got my score back, I tried to spare myself embarrassment by not telling my parents — my score was the lower than both of my older sisters. To my dismay though, the entire family found out a week later. Since elementary school I have been a terrible standardized test taker; the time crunch is my worst enemy. However, four out of my seven classes are AP, and I get mostly A’s. Outside of those, my electives consist of Spanish 4 and choir. The ACT fails to show any of the skills I developed in these areas.

I know my score doesn’t represent my intelligence, but sometimes it’s hard for me to look past it. A high ACT opens the doors to college. I’m inadequate compared to my friends that scored in the thirties. I contemplate what more I can do to raise it by one, maybe two points.

In November, I will take the dreaded test for the fifth time. By now I’ve become accustomed to the feeling of nerves and unrest the night before. The same waking up in the middle of the night, panicked that I missed the test. Once it is over, I’ll leave it all behind me. Even if I don’t get the score I want, I know that it doesn’t measure my worth.


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