Information Brief 2013-14

Early High School Achievement and College Enrollment

An earlier ACT study found a relationship between 8th-grade achievement, as measured by ACT Explore® Composite scores, and later college enrollment.1 The figure below shows several trends:

  • The rate of enrollment in both 2-year and 4-year colleges increases as 8th-grade academic achievement increases.
  • The rate of enrollment in 4-year colleges increases sharply as 8th-grade academic achievement increases.
  • The rate of enrollment in 2-year colleges decreases as 8th-grade academic achievement increases.

College Enrollment Rates by ACT Explore Composite Score

ACT Explore Score2-Year College4-Year CollegeTotal College
10 or less24%15%39%
1123%14%37%
1227%15%42%
1329%19%48%
1430%25%55%
1530%33%63%
1627%42%69%
1725%49%74%
1822%55%77%
1919%63%82%
2015%68%83%
2113%72%85%
2211%76%87%
238%79%87%
24 or more5%82%87%

Note: These results are based on the EPAS sample of 2009 high school diploma graduates. The college enrollment data are based on matching these graduation records with college enrollment data from the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC). The NSC provides college enrollment for 96 percent of all public and private institutions in the United States.


1 Richard Buddin, Implications of Educational Attainment Trends for Labor Market Outcomes. ACT Research Report No. 2012-7 (Iowa City, IA: ACT, Inc., 2012).


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