Guest Post: Balancing ACT Prep & Scholarship Applications (7 Tips to Time it Right)

ACT scheduling is all about university admissions deadlines, right? Wrong, actually. Scholarship application timelines are important too. If you want a shot at free college funding, that is. And who doesn’t?

The balance between ACT prep and scholarship deadlines can be a delicate one. Every scholarship has different rules and timelines. How can you keep all of this straight and time your ACT prep well? Here are 7 tips for ACT/scholarship balance.

Tip 1: Research Your Scholarships Carefully

Like I said, every scholarship has different deadlines. Not only that, but some scholarships have separate deadlines for your test scores and your other material. Research available scholarships. Make a list of the scholarships you could be eligible for, with qualifying ACT scores. Then make a list of the ACT score submission deadlines for the scholarships you selected.

Tip 2: Prioritize The Scholarship Deadlines You have Time For

Once you make that list I recommended in tip 1, you’ll find that some scholarship deadlines are simply approaching too quickly. Maybe there’s an amazing scholarship you qualify for in most respects… but they want your ACT scores next week, or in two weeks. That simply won’t be possible, between the time it takes to prep for the ACT, and the time it takes to get official ACT scores. Abandon scholarships with unrealistic deadlines, no matter how good they seem. Don’t worry. There are plenty of of other good scholarships that have more workable deadlines.

Tip 3: Make Sure You Have Time for ACT Prep and Other Scholarship Requirements

ACT prep takes time. Do you know what else takes time? Getting reference letters, writing college admissions essays, volunteer work, and participating in extracurriculars. These activities are also required by a number of scholarship foundations. Look at scholarships in terms of everything you need to do by deadline. If there are any scholarships that seem like they might not leave you enough time for ACT prep each week, put them on the back burner.

Tip 4: Figure Out the Exact Date That You Will Take the ACT

Once you have a list of scholarships with realistic deadlines and requirements, set a date for your ACT. Don’t put off setting the date. The ACT is only available on certain days each year, and isn’t even available every month. (See Magoosh ACT’s page on ACT test dates for details.) Decide on a date early on so that you don’t miss your window for scholarship applications.

Tip 5: Figure Out Exactly What You Need to Study

You have to practice and master specific knowledge and skills to pass the ACT. Know what you need to study. This is key to setting aside the right amount of prep time before you apply for scholarships. For example, do you know what math principles you’ll need to use on the test? If not, get started with this list of the most common ACT math topics. Make similar preparations for the writing, reading, and science skills you need on the test.

Tip 6: Make a Good ACT Study Schedule

Just because you can get a top ACT score in time for scholarship deadlines doesn’t mean that you will. To truly succeed on this front, you need to be organized and make the most of your time. Make a good ACT study schedule and stick with it. If you’re not sure how to put together an ACT study plan, check out the example plans on Magoosh’s ACT study plan web page.

Tip 7: Mark the Scholarship Deadlines on Your Study Calendar

Sometimes the most obvious mistakes are the easiest ones to make. Every year, I hear from at least one or two students who struck the perfect balance between ACT study timelines and scholarship deadlines… but then got so wrapped up in their studies that they forgot to submit their scholarship materials. So make sure that your scholarship deadlines are clearly marked on your ACT prep planner.

By David Recine

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