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Get your ACT together

Did you know you can earn money taking a test?

I'm talking serious money. Thousands of dollars to go toward your college education. A lot of students dismiss the ACT as just another standardized test without realizing how much stock colleges put into the results. Colleges place such value on the results that they're willing to wipe out a significant portion of your tuition for making a high score.

If you play your cards right -scoring high enough and tacking on other scholarships -you can pay for college. And , unlike other school tests , you can take the ACT again and again until you make the score you want. Think of it like music rehearsal or sports practice -the more training you put in, the better your performance will be when it really counts. So why do colleges care so much about your ACT score?

That score demonstrates how well you've learned the skills needed to succeed in college. It's difficult to judge a school applicant by GPA alone. A 3 .5 GPA at Grenada is different from a 3 .5 at another high school. Criteria such as course variety, difficulty, and enrollment all factor into the equation.

But the ACT is the great equalizer. Your performance is measured on a level playing field with students who are taking the exact same test all across the country. Another reason colleges weigh ACT scores so heavily is because the statistics used to rank schools are based on the ACT scores of entering freshmen. The higher the scores of their pool of incoming students , the more prestigious their school is ranked. Th at's why they're willing to pay good money for a high score.

A perfect score on the ACT is 36. It's rare and extremely difficult to earn that on the first try. (All students at GHS take the ACT at least once during their junior year.) The average score is 21. Normally, it costs around $50 to take the test (except that one time during junior year). But what's $50 -or $250 if you take it 6 times -when you could earn back thousands?

Make a 20 and you' ll earn full tuition to Holmes Community College, which you can attend at the Grenada campus without leaving home. With a score of 22 you get full tuition, room and board, plus a stipend at Alcom State University and Mississippi Valley State University. A 30 will get you $4,500 a year at Ole Miss and Mississippi State or full tuition at Delta State University . The higher you score, the more options you have and the more money you earn.

This fall, GHS is offering a new ACT Prep course during first period. The class will help students develop the skills needed to raise their scores high enough to earn money .

You may be thinking, a whole class to prepare for one test? You'll thank us later, you've raised your ACT score.

The class will cover some of the subjects you may have missed or forgotten such as English grammar. Or maybe you 're an incoming junior and haven't taken Algebra II yet. The class will jump ahead and get you prepared. It will also teach good test-taking strategies, and the lessons will be personalized to individual students so that your weak subjects are covered more thoroughly. With the right training and intensive review, a motivated student can drive his or her score up dramatically. And that could mean thousands of dollars in scholarship money.

A good example of the benefits of ACT preparation is recent GHS graduate Will Baker. With his score of 33 on the ACT and a series of other scholarships, he'll be attending Mississippi State University this fall on a full scholarship.

That's $70,000!

The first time he took the ACT as a freshman, he made a 22. After five more attempts, he' d pulled his score up 11 points.

I asked him how he did it.

"I just worked on exercising my mind," he told me. "You've got to have endurance to take this test. I just thought of it like taking four regular tests in a classroom. But you have to be mentally ready to take four tests in a row."

It didn't hurt that his parents added a little incentive. They knew what it was like paying for college and struck a deal with Will early on.

"My parents said if I got a full ride to college, they'd buy me a new truck," he said.

And you can guess what he'll be driving to Starkville this fall.
photo of Dr. David Daigneault