College Possible Milwaukee is preparing 300 low-income high school juniors to take the ACT, an entry exam for most colleges and universities, by giving them four-hour practice tests on Saturday mornings during the school year.
The first practice test was administered on Oct. 6, and provides a baseline score.
“An ACT score is a significant part of the college admissions package,” said Edie Turnbull, College Possible executive director.
College Possible offers four practice exams over four months. Between the exams, the students meet twice a week after school to work on academics as well as test-taking strategies. The actual ACT test will be administered in April.
“This test is the first step toward college and what I want to accomplish,” said Quinnton Maney, a Milwaukee High School of the Arts junior. “It might be an early morning, but it’s definitely worth it.”
Students usually score in the bottom 15th percentile the first time they take the ACT. However, after working with their coaches one-on-one during the four months of preparation, on average students improve their scores by 18 percent, compared to the 12-14 percent increase promised by for-profit companies, according to a College Possible press release.
“Most colleges and universities have minimum score thresholds, so by giving our students several practice tests, we help them to achieve a score that expands their college options,” Turnbull said.
Ninety-five percent of College Possible participants go on to college, according to Hannah Wallisch, external relations coordinator.
For high school juniors and seniors to be in the College Possible works with high school juniors and seniors who come from low-income families and have a grade point average of 2.0 or higher. College Possible Milwaukee, founded in 2008, serves 500 juniors and seniors. The organization was launched in Minnesota in 2000, and serves nearly 12,000 students at its three locations in Milwaukee, Nebraska and Minnesota.
According to Wallisch, the students who take the practice ACT test have a better chance to be admitted to college.
But Turnbull pointed out that it’s not just the practice tests that improve their odds.
“The ACT test preparation, along with assistance in applying to college, securing financial aid, and resumé help, gives our students the tools they need to be successful,” Turnbull said.