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Popularity: ACT vs. SAT

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All colleges and universities are required to report various statistics to the National Center for Education Statistics. One of the statistics that is tracked is the percentages of students that submit specific college admissions test scores on their college applications.

The following table shows examples of colleges and universities in Illinois. These percentages represent college applications submitted in the Fall of 2017 that included ACT scores.

Illinois Colleges & Universities


Percentage of students submitting ACT scores on their college applications:

University of Illinois – Champaign 85%
University of Illinois – Springfield 94%
Illinois State University 98%
Eastern Illinois University 97%
Northern Illinois University 97%
Western Illinois University 96%
Southern Illinois University - Carbondale 94%
Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville 98%
Bradley University 94%
Millikin University 94%
Illinois Wesleyan University 91%
Northwestern University 77%

Look how high the percentages are, and those would include Illinois public school students that took the taxpayer-funded State SAT test. The clear majority of students were still taking the ACT.

The following table shows major colleges and universities throughout the Midwest. Again, these statistics are from the Fall of 2017 and the percentages represent those applicants that submitted ACT scores.

Midwest Colleges & Universities


Percentage of students submitting ACT scores on their college applications:

University of Iowa 95%
Iowa State University 90%
University of Wisconsin 89%
Indiana University 67%
Purdue University 59%
Ohio State University 86%
University of Kentucky 92%
University of Tennessee 99%
University of Michigan 76%
Michigan State University 57%
University of Missouri 96%

The following table shows the Ivy League schools and their percentages based on Fall of 2017 college applications.

Ivy League Schools


Percentage of students submitting ACT scores on their college applications:

Yale University 57%
Harvard University 53%
University of Pennsylvania 54%
Brown University 61%
Princeton University 54%
Columbia University 57%
Dartmouth College 48%
Cornell University 56%

This table is significant. Fall of 2017 was the first time in history that over half the applicants submitted ACT scores.

Here’s the irony: the SAT was originally invented by the Ivy League schools! It was their test and now most of their applicants are submitting ACT scores.

The ACT has been the most popular college admissions tests nationally and internationally since 2011.

Over 130 countries administer the ACT.

I live in Illinois. The ACT has been the most popular exam since the 1960s.

Illinois is one of eight states that administer a taxpayer funded State SAT, but 20 states administer a state ACT.

States that provide a taxpayer-funded ACT:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Hawaii
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

States that provide a taxpayer-funded SAT:

  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • New Hampshire

*Ohio and Oklahoma require each public school district to administer a “free” ACT or SAT but allow each district to choose which test they will use. 415 of Oklahoma’s 425 public school districts chose the ACT. Approximately 95 percent of Ohio’s 1,245 public high schools chose the ACT.

I have eight children. As a parent, I have had to help my children go through this ACT/SAT process. They took both, because Illinois provides a taxpayer funded State SAT, but I had them focus on the ACT because it is the most popular of the two, and that’s what the majority of college-bound students are doing.

Because more college-bound students are taking the ACT, this is why schools tend to connect more scholarship opportunities to the ACT.

Which test should a student take?When should students start taking the ACT?