Act scoreThe majority of parents and students are totally overwhelmed when trying to decipher their teen’s ACT scores. To keep it simple:

  • Generally speaking, a 20 composite – the average of all four sections – is considered average as half of the students will score higher and half lower.
  • If a score is above 24, the score is in the top 25%
  • A score below 16, that score is in the bottom 25% (NOTE: The scoring range on the ACT is 1-36.)

Here’s the ACT link to check out 2013-2015 percentiles. This is based on 3 years so it provides a good gauge.

Once you have determined your teen’s target scores  – my students should know what they are – then you have defined an important criteria to be able to realistically look at schools.

As I mentioned, a ‘good’ score is relevant to the school(s) your teen is applying to. How does your teen’s score compare to the average scores of students at that particular school?  It is recommended to look at the average and aim for a score above it.

Let’s look at the University of Maryland profile of students accepted for fall 2016. Here are the ACT scores for the 25th and 75th percentiles, respectively. The middle 50% of SAT scores ranged 29-33:

  • 25% of the admitted students scored below a 29
  • 25% scored above a 33.
  • Admitted freshmen also earned an average weighted GPA of 4.11.

NOTE: University of Maryland is considered a ‘Strongly Competitive’ school.

Here are the stats for Towson:

  • The average ACT score is 23
  • 25% scored below 21
  • 25% score above 25
  • The average GPA of admitted freshmen was 3.61

Remember, there are over 5300 colleges and universities in the U.S., so your teen has numerous choices.  I always tell my students there are schools for you regardless of your test scores; it’s a matter of doing your homework to find them.

Here are two free tools to help you begin your search – Cappex or When you enter your scores and GPA, you can see how you compare to those who were accepted, based on percentiles.

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