Junior year of high school seems to be the year where the only words you hear are "Have you started your college search yet?" or "Are you studying for the ACT? Are you getting a tutor? The higher you score the more scholarships you get!" And while there is some truth within these words, such as you are more likely to earn more scholarship money with a higher score, let me tell you that one, your test scores do not define you--you are much more than just a number--and two, you can get into college with things other than a high GPA, ACT, or SAT score. I know this because I have been in your shoes and understand the pain you are going through as you spend hours studying just to earn a number to place on a college application with high hopes of getting into your dream school.
Personally, my junior year was one of the best years of high school. I joined the yearbook staff, had an opportunity to travel a whole lot during the month of April, and did well in my classes. With all of that, however, it was also my toughest year of high school because of all the stress studying for standardized tests had caused me. I was going to a tutor, taking practice tests, and preparing all I could so I could earn a high enough score to get into my top choice schools. However, after taking the ACT twice, as most students do, I still wasn't at the score I wanted to be at. Needless to say, I was heartbroken. Sound familiar?
Let me tell you from my own experience that it is not the end of the world, you will still get into a college, and you do have all the power in the world to change the world, high test score or not. It won't be easy, but here are a few of my own suggestions to help boost that college application without boosting your test scores. For more suggestions other than my own, this website is a good resource.
Your essays are where you can express yourself and show college admission advisors who you really are as you share the unique assets you can bring to their university. Highlight what makes you different than the other applicants. Sure, you can write about how you were a member of the soccer team, but other applicants were as well. Discuss what makes you different on the team and how you stood out as a leader, or what lessons you learned during your time on and off the field with your teammates.
Additionally, colleges also love seeing volunteer experience. It shows that you are a dedicated, well-rounded community member and that you can apply the skills that you have gained from volunteering in college. You can learn a lot from volunteering such as leadership skills, people skills, teamwork skills, and self-management--all key points that colleges want to see within your essays and other sections of the application.
Many schools are beginning to realize that standardized test scores do not accurately represent their applicants and are beginning to make it optional for prospective students to send in their scores. When I applied to colleges last year, five out of my six schools required my ACT or SAT score, only one school not requiring scores and instead, making it an option to send them. However, according to prepscholar.com, there are many other schools that are changing their requirements. You can see the full list here.
Essay questions allow students to showcase their true potential and what they are capable of. A score can't fully represent how well-rounded students are as they are busy playing their instrument, staying active with their favorite sport, volunteering in the community, or working their local job, but an essay can. These activities are what set you up for a successful college career and lifestyle ahead, so embrace them and show the colleges what you are made of--no stress over a test score involved.