As most high school student-athletes want to obtain an athletic scholarship to continue playing in college, it is essential for them to understand how to prepare for both the application process and eligibility with the NCAA and NAIA. An important aspect to chasing that elusive athletic scholarship is to take tests such as the ACT and SAT. As many high school student-athletes sit down to test over the next few months, I am regularly asked which test do college coaches want recruits to take to be accepted and eligible. The simple answer is that all colleges take both tests (check with the colleges you are applying to if specific major programs require a specific score), so it really depends which test will demonstrate your academic abilities in the best way possible.

While admissions standards at colleges vary, when we interviewed 65 college coaches and athletic directors for my book on the college recruiting process, Looking For A FULL RIDE?: An Insider’s Recruiting Guide, most coaches were looking for “the higher the better” in academic scores and GPAs for their athletic recruits. They hated to have to worry about whether their top recruit would meet admissions or eligibility standards. If you want to play in college, it is imperative to email coaches your academic information. Download our Special Report: Strategies to Emailing A College Coach.

While I have been a college coach for 14 years and had my fair share of ACT and SAT scores come across my desk, I am not an expert and I felt it would be great to bring in a test prep expert as a guest blogger this week.

I would like to introduce Jennifer Henson, owner of GoalDigger: ACT Prep, to help address this question:

As a certified high school teacher and test prep expert, the question I hear most often from parents and students is, “What is the difference between the ACT and SAT tests?” Although there is no one word (or even one sentence) answer for that, there are some distinct differences. The most obvious difference is that the SAT test contains some math questions that students are not permitted to use a calculator on AND some that are not multiple choice questions, but students must instead provide an answer on a grid. The ACT has a separate and distinct science sections, whereas the SAT mixes the graphs/charts into the reading/writing sections.A third main distinction is the timing: the SAT does allow more time per question.

However, I have analyzed questions from both tests and there is a difference in the rigor of the reading comprehension questions. The SAT is more difficult; so, students do receive more time on tougher questions. I am not sure the extra time allotted is a true advantage then. That being said, there are students who fare better on the SAT than the ACT. My advice is to sit for both and then for the student to determine which they liked better. For more specific information, please see my Free Special Report entitled “Comparing the SAT and ACT.”

The words ACT and SAT are unavoidable buzz words if you are heading to college. Prior to 1959 the SAT (created by the College Board) was the sole player in the college testing game, but as student enrollment in colleges increased, the American College Testing Program (or ACT) joined the race. As with most any field, competition is a good thing. The purpose of these tests is to provide colleges and universities to assess the educational level of students, when school GPA’s and class ranks might not be easy to compare. These tests are national tests, which means that students all over the country are taking the same standardized test, meaning the same standards are testing at the same frequency.Does a College Coach Want ACT or SAT Scores? | Guest Blogger: Jennifer Henson | Coach Renee Lopez

Should students take these the ACT and SAT tests multiple times?

The answer is a resounding “YES!” My advice to parents is to have your child sit for either the SAT or ACT with no prep to see a baseline score. Then, see what you are up against and create a plan. Another great debate in the realm of test prep is whether or not to seek a tutor for these tests.

Will the money invested in tutors open doors for students in terms of opportunity or extra scholarship dollars?

It is wise to invest in this help for many families, just as parents pay for strength coaches and hitting lessons and private music lessons. The ACT claims a student will only raise their score 3 points with any type of prep work. I (and others in my field) know this claim to be completely false with the proper help.

Students who choose the right tutor can improve their score significantly: I have had students who worked with me who improved as much as 12 points in a sub-section. Take, for instance, Devin D. from Cincinnati, OH. Devin came to me with a science score of a 26. Not a bad score (well above the state and national averages), but I knew with a few adjustments he could do better. On score release day, I received a call from his mom. Devin’s science score improved to a 36: a perfect score!

I also cite Tory N. from Cincinnati who met me at Panera over my yearly summer visit to Ohio. Tory was excited to improve her score, but her mom was a bit hesitant about spending any money without a guarantee. They signed Tory up, and through my program she brought her 25 composite up to a 30, with a near perfect 35 on the English section!

I have taken 9 composites to 18s—the success stories are really endless and all have the same message: with proper teaching and preparation, a student will continue to improve. There is a rumor that a student will max out a score after taking the test 3 times. I am glad Lauren M. from Ohio did not listen to that tall tale. Lauren prepped with me for 2 tests but continued to practice the strategies she learned and take released practice tests. On her fifth attempt at the test, Lauren maxed out her score to a 30—her goal score (she started at a 25)!

What are some ways I can improve my test scores?

First, buy and complete practice tests from books with valid practice tests. There are many books out there, but I prefer “The Official ACT Prep Guide”, as it is full of released tests the ACT proctored within the last couple of years. Many of those books contain rules for grammar and math concepts that student need to know. I have compiled the punctuation rules into one document.

Another tip is to make sure to leave no bubbles blank on the answer sheet. None. Pick a letter to guess and stick with that letter throughout the entire test if you are unsure of an answer OR run out of time. No joke: a student could bubble all “A and F” and score a 14 composite (disclaimer: I am not sure the ACT would consider this a valid test though!).

Lastly, a common mistake that students make on the math portion of the ACT is to rush through the easier problems (1-20) and potentially the medium rigor problems (21-40) to get to the hard problems (41-60).

This is a huge mistake. Many students can’t answer the questions at the end confidently, so this “rushing” approach in the Math ACT causes them to miss easy questions and spend valuable time on tough questions.

The test prep process can be overwhelming. As with any aspect in life, seek help from professionals who understand the process and can guide you through the maze effortlessly. With so many ACT v SAT differences, books available to study, and simple strategies that can be learned from experts, it makes sense to seek help. Families can email and mention this blog will receive one free 20 minute phone consultation PLUS $50 off the test prep deposit. You can look at the program materials here.

Why is this important for a student-athlete who wants to play in college? Simply put, college coaches want to bring in academically strong recruits so they don’t have to worry about if the student will be eligible or not to play for them. In addition, not all student-athletes receive a full- ride athletic scholarship. The better your academic record, the more likely you will qualify for academic merit scholarships, which makes you more marketable to college coaches! It is also imperative for you to understand the whole picture of what a college coach is evaluating a recruit. I would recommend our recent blog Beyond the X’s & O’s.

Would you like help with the college recruiting process?

1. Go to to get your FREE Report: Strategies to Emailing A College Coach. 


2. Want some help with the recruiting process? Join some of our 9 Facebook Groups:

3. Would you like her to do individual consulting with your family to get an insider’s perspective?
Email for more details.

4. Did you know Coach Renee Lopez can come to your school or sports organization?

Email for more details.


Coach Renee Lopez

Looking for a Full Ride? by: Coach Renee Lopez

As a 17 year coaching veteran, Renee Lopez is a recruiting expert for high school student athletes. She uses her NCAA Division I, II, and NAIA Head Coaching experience to help families navigate the recruiting process to be identified by college coaches and help them find the right “fit” for playing at the next level.

She presents recruiting seminars across the country, has recently been featured on ESPN Radio, and is the author of the book, “Looking For A FULL RIDE?: An Insider’s Recruiting Guide” where she interviewed 65 college recruiters across all sports and college levels.

She also does private consulting for student-athletes and their families to help in understanding the often daunting process of recruiting. (See one family’s testimonial.) If you are looking for help in the college recruiting process, please email Coach Renee Lopez at