First-Generation Students and Academic Preparation

June 26, 2015

A new report from ACT and the Council for Opportunity in Education found that the vast majority of first-generation students who take ACT's college entrance exam plan to attend college, but about half of them are academically unprepared to succeed.

The report found 52 percent of ACT-tested first-generation college students in the 2014 high school graduating class failed to meet the four college readiness benchmarks set by the nonprofit testing organization. Overall 31 percent of all ACT-tested graduates failed to meet benchmarks in English, math, reading and science. More than 9 in 10 first-generation students who took the ACT said they plan to attend college.

"The upside of these findings is that as more first-generation students take the ACT, their access and exposure to the college admissions process is increasing," said Jim Larimore, ACT's chief officer for the advancement of underserved learners, in a news release. "But our research also shows that students' likelihood of enrolling in college right after high school increases based on the number of readiness benchmarks they meet."

The minimum scores students must earn on each of the ACT's four subject tests indicate that students have about a 75 percent change of earning a grade of C or higher in a typical credit-bearing, first-year college course in the corresponding area.

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