Many high school students set their bars very high when it comes to enrolling for college. Regardless of what career path they may choose, getting the best education - perhaps with help from scholarships - is a priority to many.

Before these dreams can become a reality, certain requirements must be met. Getting good grades is a step in the right direction, but performing well on the ACT or SAT will give students enormous opportunities when it comes to gaining scholarships or getting accepted into colleges. The tests can be daunting, so it is important that students are prepared.

"I usually tell the kids to make sure they challenge themselves to take more advanced classes," said Deborah Nelson, Sequoyah High School counselor. "Get online and look at the many different ACT preparation materials that are available. We give students booklets where they can take the test and score it themselves as another form of preparation."

Many schools in Oklahoma use the ACT for their students, as opposed to the SAT. The ACT consists of a four-part test: math, reading, English and science. Each section is timed, which often intimidates students.

Jennifer Lynn, Tahlequah high school counselor, said that if students take practice tests online prior to the real one, they can become more familiar with the process.

"We have an ACT preparation website that our juniors utilize to prepare themselves for the test," said Lynn. "The ACT website also offers a preparation test, as well. So getting on that and taking the test a few times can really help a student familiarize themselves with the content."

The ACT score caps out at 36. The average score on the ACT is right around 21, with many academic scholarships requiring scores higher than average. The honors scholarship at NSU, for instance, requires a minimum score of 28 to be considered.

Nelson said one of the most important things for students to remember is to just believe in themselves. Students who are relaxed and confident tend to find more success than those who are worried about the outcome.

"We mainly just encourage the kids to try," said Nelson. "A lot of the kids may assume it's too hard for them, but we just have to encourage them and make them feel relaxed about it."

It is also important for students to remember the teachers and faculty and their schools are there to help them, and if they have any questions, they can always ask.

The next upcoming test date for the ACT falls on Feb. 6, giving students about three weeks to hunker down and familiarize themselves with the material.

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