Information Brief 2012-29

Relationship Between ACT Composite Score and College Persistence

How is the ACT Composite score related to the likelihood that a student will stay in college?

As the figure below illustrates, students with higher ACT Composite scores were more likely than those with lower scores to remain continuously enrolled at the same initial institution through year 4 for ACT-tested 2003 high school graduates who immediately enrolled in a four-year college in fall 2003. Students with lower ACT Composite scores (18 or below) had the largest decline in persistence rates from year 2 to year 4.

College Persistence Rates to the Same Initial Four-Year Institution by ACT Composite Score

ACT Score RangeYear 2Year 3Year 4
28 to 3687%80%74%
25 to 2783%73%67%
22 to 2479%67%60%
19 to 2175%60%53%
1 to 1868%52%44%

Note: Based on data from a random sample of 18,860 ACT-tested 2003 high school graduates who enrolled in a four-year college in fall 2003. Enrollment information was obtained from the National Student Clearinghouse. Persistence was based on annual fall re-enrollment to the same initial four-year institution; rates were model-based estimates. Similar findings were seen for persistence to “any” college through year 4 for the students in this sample, as well as for a random sample of 5,990 ACT-tested 2003 high school graduates who immediately enrolled in a two-year college in fall 2003. For a more detailed description of the study, see the full ACT Research Report 2012-2.

More Information Briefs


infobrief@act.org for more information or to suggest ideas for future ACT Information Briefs.