High Achievers Attend College Farther Away from Home, ACT Finds

According to the report “College Choice Report – Part 2: Enrollment Patterns” newly published by ACT, academic igh achievers typically travel farther from home to attend college than their lower-achieving peers.

The report looked at student’s ACT scores to judge levels of achievement and found that those who earned scored between 28 and 36 on the 36-point scale traveled an average of 113 miles from home to enroll in college. For those with scores of 33 and above, the median distance between college and home was 170 miles.

On the other side of the scale, students with scores of 24 and below, on average, attended schools about 50 miles away.

The report also noted a similar correlation between parental educational attainment and distance between home and college. The more educated the parents were, the farther away the students went.

Among first-generation college students, the median distance to college was just 24 miles.

“Better educated parents tend to have greater financial resources, but they may also have more knowledge of college application facts and resources to share with their children than do less educated parents who have not been through that experience themselves,” said Jon Erickson, ACT president of education. “We must take steps to better inform all students and their families of the variety of options available to them.”

The authors speculate that level of awareness of educational options plays a role on determining how far away a student may end up. Students taking the ACT were asked to estimate how far away from home they’d like to be when attending college. Nearly four out of five ACT test takers ended up within their preferred distance window.

According to Steve Kappler, head of postsecondary strategy for ACT, these kinds echo the ones published by The Hamilton Project that showed that high achievers from low-income families weren’t taking advantage of all the academic opportunities open to them because they weren’t aware of them.

 “Students may be selecting a small choice set and sticking to that set without exploring all of the options available to them. We must help students understand that the colleges that best fit their needs and interests may be ones they have never even heard of.

“It’s important for students to have meaningful conversations with many types of institutions so they can make more informed decisions about their future. ACT is committed to helping all students, particularly underserved low-income students, understand the choices and opportunities in front of them.”