Test Prep

This Student Didn't Break 20 on His ACT -- Here's His Admissions Journey


Do you constantly worry that you may not get into college if you get a lower ACT score than you'd hoped? When he was a senior in high school, Texas native Anthony Giacomo faced this same nerve-wracking situation when he scored a 19 on his ACT – but he ended up with acceptance letters from almost all of the schools where he applied. We spoke with Anthony to discuss his test prep strategy, how he approached his applications, and what advice he has for students who aren't thrilled with their test scores.

College Confidential: How many times did you take the ACT?

Anthony Giacomo: I took the ACT twice and the SAT once. My SAT and first ACT were during junior year. My SAT was REALLY low (don't want to say what it was) because the math really held it down. I'm bad at math and have been diagnosed with dyscalculia, a math disorder. I did try and get accommodations for the tests because of my math disorder but was denied. I thought about appealing, but my counselor advised against it because no one has ever gotten through on appeal from our school, and it requires a lot of work. So I took the ACT twice and got a 16 the first time and a 19 the second time. By then, it was pretty close to when my applications were due, so I didn't take it again.

CC: What was your test prep program?

AG: I didn't do any test prep before my first SAT and ACT. Then after the ACT score came back as a 16, I got a test prep tutor to work with me on the problems I had on the math section. We worked together twice a week for two hours each, and I studied on the days we didn't get together. I think that's how I was able to get my score up to a 19.

CC: Which colleges did you apply to and where did you get in?

AG: I applied to Texas State University, Sam Houston State, University of Texas at Dallas, Midwestern State University and Tarleton State. My parents only wanted me to apply to in-state schools (I live in Texas), and that's what I did. I got into all of them except UT Dallas, and that was my reach school, so I knew there was a good chance I wouldn't get in there. I decided to go to Sam Houston State because they have a strong criminal justice program, which is now my major.

CC: How do you feel about the process, and is there anything you would do differently?

AG: I wish I had appealed that math accommodation on the ACT. It would have been good to have at least tried to get it, because for years, I have had an accommodation in math. I always assumed I'd get an accommodation for the test. I was led to believe that it was basically a given if you had a 504 plan – but when I got denied, I just went along with it. But now I am at the right school for me. I love SHSU, and I don't think I would have picked a different school even if my score had been higher.

CC: What advice do you have for other students?

AG: Don't freak out if you don't get a high ACT or SAT score. People talk to you like you won't get in anywhere if you don't have a 30 or a 1300 or more, but that's not true. Not every student is going to a top 10 school. There are a lot of options for those of us who didn't break 20 on the ACT, and once that part of your life is behind you, what you got on the ACT is forgotten.