Thousands of Northeast Mississippians probably think what might have been each time they hear about a high school junior or senior who excels on the American College Test, the ACT as it’s almost universally known among students who aspire to attend college.

The ACT is widely used in the South, especially for admission to public universities and colleges, so scoring well on the test, whose “perfect” mark is 36, is a milestone for many adolescents.

Some students, however, don’t fare as well as others, and the disappointment can be palpable.

An independent group of University of Mississippi students has organized itself to help by giving ACT prep courses to students in rural Mississippi.

The group, which appropriately calls itself Team Thirty-Six, is a special project of the CREATE Foundation, headquartered in Tupelo.

The team has no affiliation with the University of Mississippi, and it is seeking to become a 501(c)(3) charitable tax exempt organization so that contributions to it would be tax deductible and independent.

Team Thirty-Six members went into three North Mississippi high schools in the 2015-16 first semester, and nearly 100 students took classes to strengthen their time management and study skills, diagnose and correct their own weaknesses and work toward a goal.

Students also reviewed the materials on which they will be tested.

This semester, in a more rigorous curriculum, students use an ACT prep book and work through problems and questions.

Many kinds of ACT prep courses are offered across the nation, but some students who want to take the ACT remain underserved in terms of preparation. That is, no courses exist in their schools or communities, so taking a course to help them better comprehend and improve scores on the test isn’t an option.

High scores for some students mean they potentially qualify for scholarships at colleges of choice, and in some cases higher scores open doors of academia that might otherwise be closed.

Some historical background may be helpful.

Entrance exams for colleges as they are known today are relatively recent, dating to the early 20th century. Rather than being designed to exclude students, the early tests were part of an attempt to get schools to standardize curriculums so that students who took the same courses could be measured on an even footing.

The Scholastic Aptitude Test, the SAT, evolved first. The American College test, or ACT, did not come until 1959.

Now, virtually all students seeking college admission take one or the other, perhaps both.

Team Thirty-Six has the potential to help many students perform better. We hope more volunteers qualified by their own backgrounds can be recruited and that the service can eventually extend to most high schools in Northeast Mississippi.

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