11/23/2014  | 

The Condition of College and Career Readiness report ( released this past August by ACT represents 1,845,787 students—or 57% of the 2014 US graduating class—who took The ACT ® . Since 2010, the number of ACT-tested graduates has increased 18 percent. The report represents a subset of the entire 2014 student population, with results reflecting the achievement of only those tested, not the entire graduating class.

Unfortunately, this year’s report revealed that 47 percent of 2014 ACT-tested US high school graduates met zero or one of the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks. Essentially this means the students are not adequately prepared for the academic rigor of postsecondary coursework. At ACT, we realize more needs to be done to improve this number and have more students prepared for success as they graduate from high school. We also believe that being college and career ready is about MORE than just academic preparedness.

In October, ACT Research released the groundbreaking report, Broadening the Definition of College and Career Readiness: A Holistic Approach ( The report speaks to these other dimensions of readiness and why a more holistic approach to college and career readiness is in order.

Preparing students for life after high school involves a multifaceted set of goals, including academic and workplace skill readiness for a rigorous postsecondary curriculum or workplace environment, effective studying behaviors, and educational and career plans based on accurate information. Research indicates that, in addition to academic achievement, measuring salient psychosocial variables can increase schools’ abilities to identify and intervene with students at risk of academic failure and dropout. The ultimate goal in developing a more holistic view of college and career readiness is to provide counselors, educators, parents, and students with personalized and timely information to help individuals realize their potential.

A New Readiness Definition: Multiple Dimensions

Beyond theory, this report provides evidence that educators, policymakers, and employers embrace a wide variety of skills critical for success. The research also shows that the prediction of college and career readiness can be improved by measuring a broader range of skills. Key components of this definition include:

  • A broader range of skills: While current approaches to measuring college and career readiness focus on measures of core academic skills, research shows that other areas do indeed have an impact on readiness. These noncognitive types of skills fall into two key areas. The first area includes academic behaviors such motivation, social engagement, or self-regulation. The second includes education and career planning skills. Ultimately, academic achievement levels continue to be the best predictor of postsecondary success. However, these other areas are also considered reliable predictors and they help overcome weaknesses in academic achievement levels.
  • Earlier measurement: Traditional academic assessments tend to measure students’ college and career readiness in the 11th grade. Research confirms that outcomes can actually be predicted much earlier, allowing more time for intervention. Ideally, timely interventions across all of the domains of readiness mentioned above will enable students to reach their fullest potential.

ACT is committed to helping students understand their journey to success and seeks to provide students, parents, and educators with the data, tools, and insights to make good decisions along the way.

ACT is a nonprofit-based research organization. To receive ACT Research Reports, sign up at to receive an email alert when reports are published.

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