How to Register for the ACT + Free Resources
Are you taking the ACT as part of your college application process? While the SAT often stands as the stereotypical college-related standardized test, the ACT is considered equally by almost all colleges in the US, and more students actually take the ACT each year.
We at CollegeVine generally encourage students to take both the SAT and the ACT; this provides students with more opportunities to achieve competitive results. You might even find that one of the two tests suits your strengths better, allowing you to achieve a comparatively higher score.
The first step to taking the ACT is registering for your test session, which most test-takers do through the ACT website. Here’s what you need to know in order to register—plus a few additional resources from the experts at CollegeVine to help you prepare.
What You’ll Need to Register for the ACT
Registering for the ACT can take up to 45 minutes, so plan accordingly. You’ll also need to make sure that you register far enough in advance; registration deadlines generally fall about a month before the test date. (Late registration may be available, but is not always guaranteed and requires additional fees.)
Here’s what you’ll need to gather before getting started with your ACT registration.
- Your personal information. This includes your name, date of birth, Social Security number, and preferred contact information.
- Your testing preferences. You need to know where and when you want to take the test, whether you want to take the optional Writing section, and which four colleges you’ve chosen to receive your initial score reports.
- Your high school’s ACT school code number. Your guidance counselor may have given you this number already; if not, you can look it up here.
- Your high school transcript. You’ll need to enter your former and current courses and grades while registering for the ACT.
- A headshot photo of yourself. This photo is required for security purposes. You can find the ACT’s photo requirements here.
- A payment method or fee waiver. If you want to register online, you’ll need either a credit card or a fee waiver with a serial number. For other forms of payment, you’ll need to register via mail.
The ACT Online Registration Process
Once you’ve assembled the information you need to register for the ACT, it’s time to start the registration process. While registering via paper form is still possible (more on that below), the vast majority of today’s test-takers choose to register online. Online registration is faster and easier, and it’s the method the ACT recommends when possible.
Looking at this list, you may think that the process of registering for the ACT involves a lot of work. Don’t worry! Several sections of the registration form are optional and have no impact upon your test or scores, so you don’t need to stress out about perfecting your responses. Just follow the directions the registration form provides, do your best, and move on.
Here are the steps you’ll need to follow to register for the ACT online.
Step 1. Set up your online ACT account. If you haven’t done so already, you’ll need to create your account by visiting the ACT test webpage, clicking on Registration, and then clicking on Register Now. Follow the directions to set up your account. If you’ve already created an account, don’t create a second one; just go ahead and log in.
Step 2. Log into your ACT account. On the home page, click on “Register for Test.” This is where you’ll start entering information about yourself and your test choices. The website will guide you through the process, but we’ll go over the basics here as well.
Step 3. Fill out your personal and contact information. It’s very important that your responses in this section be complete and accurate so that your scores can be processed, tracked, and sent to you and to colleges correctly.
Step 4. Fill out information about your interests and college plans. This section is optional; your responses are used to send you additional information about colleges, and also contribute to the ACT’s ongoing research on their test-takers.
Step 5. Fill out the ACT Interest Inventory. This section, which uses your responses to recommend some college majors and careers that might interest you, is also optional.
Step 6. Agree to the ACT’s Terms and Conditions. Basically, you’re agreeing to follow the rules of the testing program and to not engage in cheating or other misconduct.
Step 7. Choose your test date. You’ll also choose whether you want to take the ACT with or without the Writing section; colleges differ in their requirements, so check with the individual schools you’re considering.
Step 8. Review photo uploading guidelines. You’ll actually upload your security photo later, after registration is complete.
Step 9.List your high school courses and grades. Include courses from 9th grade onward, including any courses you’re currently taking. Your GPA based on this data will be sent along with your score report to any colleges you specify.
Step 10. List 4 colleges to receive your score report for free. Additional reports and/or reports ordered later on will incur an additional cost, so use this option while you have it.
Step 11. Fill out the Future Plans section. This is another optional section that asks about your plans and goals.
Step 12. Choose your preferred test center. You’ll be provided with a list of test centers near you offering the ACT on that date. You don’t have to take the ACT at your own high school, so feel free to choose whichever site is most convenient.
Step 13. Complete your registration and pay your test fee. If you have a fee waiver with a serial number, you can enter that number at this time.
Step 14. Upload your security photo. You’ll do this within your online ACT account, no later than 8 days before your test date.
That’s all! If you need to make changes to your test registration, such as switching to a different test center, you can do so within your online ACT account. (Additional charges may apply for some changes.)
If you require any specific accommodations in order to take the ACT, you’ll need to work with your high school officials and the ACT program to make sure they’re in place—requests are made separately from this basic registration form. For more information on testing accommodations, you can get started here.
Another Option: Registering By Mail
The fastest and simplest way to register for the ACT is to do so online, and this is the route most students choose. However, a handful still choose to register using a paper form, and in certain special cases, registering by mail is actually required.
You are required to register by mail if you meet any of the following conditions:
- You’re under age 13. (Security restrictions mean that students aged 12 and under aren’t permitted to create an online ACT account.)
- You’re paying your test fee using a method other than a credit card, such as a check or money order.
- You’re using a fee waiver that doesn’t have a serial number you can enter online.
Paper registration packets for the ACT aren’t routinely handed out anymore; you’ll have to specifically request one, which you can do on the ACT website here. Your packet will be mailed to you for you to fill out and return. You’ll be asked the same basic questions about yourself and your test preferences.
When you’re registering by mail, timing is extra important. Deadlines are strict, and the mail is much slower than an online form, so start early and allow plenty of time to request, fill out, and send back your paper registration packet.
Useful (and Free) ACT Resources from CollegeVine
This article is just a brief review of the ACT registration process, but there’s much more to get familiar with when it comes to the ACT, from the test’s format to interpreting and sending your scores. On the CollegeVine blog, you’ll find more in-depth posts on these topics and more—just visit our ACT Info and Tips section.
If you’re just getting started with the testing process, here are a few posts that might be of special interest to you:
- How Good is the SAT/ACT at Predicting College Success?
- What to Ask Your School Counselor about the ACT and SAT
- What You Need to Know About Submitting ACT & SAT Scores to Colleges
- The CollegeVine Guides to the ACT
One topic that often confuses new college applicants is the difference between the SAT and the ACT and the choice they’ll have to make over which test(s) to take. For more information about the differences, the similarities, and formulating your own best strategy, look here:
- SAT vs ACT: Everything You Need to Know
- Should You Take Both the SAT and ACT?
- Your Official ACT to SAT Score Conversion Chart
Want to know how your ACT score impacts your chances of acceptance to your dream schools? Our free Chancing Engine will not only help you predict your odds, but also let you know how you stack up against other applicants, and which aspects of your profile to improve. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to gain access to our Chancing Engine and get a jumpstart on your college strategy!