Preparation is Key: Why Helena High School Needs an ACT Prep Class


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Like many of my fellow juniors and seniors, the beginning of the second semester proved to be somewhat of a shockNot only are students simply trying to keep their grades up during a literal pandemic, but they are also expected to keep up with extracurricular activities and part-time jobs, all while studying for potentially life changing college entrance exams like the ACT.  


While it’s not possible for the school district to fully relieve the stress students feel, there is a way they could benefit not only our class of students but thousands of students for years to come. Creating a class solely dedicated to ACT test preparation would promote the continuation of higher education among students and supply an affordable resource to help students strive for the best test scores they can get. 


Thanks to a grant, Helena High School students can take their first attempt at the ACT for free. However, if students choose to retake the ACT, they must pay for subsequent tests. So, if the school district is already supplied with hundreds of free tests, why not prioritize test preparation?  


While core classes aim to prepare students for the ACT, that is not their only job. It is unrealistic to expect teachers to form their lesson plans solely around ACT prep. Additionally, core classes are not designed to be the only preparation students need for this exam 


The boost students would have from an elective ACT class would benefit everyone. The glowing ACT scores from hundreds of students would most definitely bolster the school district’s reputation and would reduce the need for ACT retakes, which not everyone can afford.  


Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of an ACT prep class during school hours is the amount of money it would save students. A very unfortunate but harsh reality of ACT test prep is the hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars some students end up spending in the hopes of getting a good score. ACT prep books are a less expensive option if a student is planning on self-studying for the test. However, the cost of these books adds up quickly. I just purchased three ACT test prep books focused on general ACT test prep, the English section, and the math section. Together, those three books cost over eighty dollars, and that did not include books to prepare for the reading and science portions of the test. 


Furthermore, the cost of ACT tutoring classes outside of school is even higher than the cost of self-study booksFor example, resources such as PrepScholar ACT (an online ACT tutoring system) costs $397 just to access the basic study plan. For a comprehensive, complete tutoring plan that includes individual study sessions with an ACT tutor, students must drop a whopping $995 (if not more). While more local tutoring programs (such as Sylvan Learning) are cheaper, their prices still begin at $33 an hour.  


Think about it this way, $33 dollars an hour is more than what the average high school part-time job pays per hour. Even if a student is making as much as ten dollars more than Montana’s minimum wage of $8.75it still would not be enough to pay for ACT prep. This is especially true if a student is also responsible for paying for their own insurance, their own gas, or pitching in to help pay for necessities around the house, like food or utility bills.  


Clearly, these methods of test preparation are simply not an option for students from lower income homes, especially for those who would have to pay for tutoring out of their own pocket. This may partially explain why students in lower income households tend to have lower ACT scoresIn 2016, students with a family income of over $80,000 had an average ACT composite score of 23.6, while students with a family income of under $80,000 had an average score of 19.5. A free, elective ACT prep class could mean a several point increase on the ACT for students who would not otherwise have these kinds of resources. 


While there are free ACT test prep options, navigating these alone is a daunting and, at times, impossible task. Trying to find reliable sources and the most effective methods of studying is a challenge and can drain a student’s valuable study time with potentially unreliable resourcesA class whose sole purpose is to give students’ guidance on effective study methods and to provide sound resources for ACT prep would be beneficial. 


It is also important to note that students are trying to study for the ACT while simultaneously juggling their classes, extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, social life, and  responsibilities at home. Giving students a designated 45 minutes of class time each day to prepare for the ACT would relieve so much stress and allow students more time to enjoy being a teenager. After all, they are supposedly the best years of one’s life. 


Simply put, having an elective ACT prep class would benefit both students and the school district. If the Helena Public School District really wants to nurture students’ education and provide them with the best resources they can get, the solution is simple. Offer a free ACT prep class and watch students, and ACT test scores, soar to new heights.