Sixty Years of Answering #WhyApply

This blog originally appeared on

Think back to 1958. Imagine a professor hunched over a desk, laboring over a handwritten list. After decades of teaching, research, invention, and test administration, this determined educator was creating a list of attributes for the college admissions assessment he had long wanted to build.

That list, penned by ACT co-founder E.F. Lindquist, became the conceptual blueprint for the ACT testing program. What made the list so remarkable was his focus not only on the mechanics of the test, but also on the needs of students. Quoting from Lindquist:

The truth is that there are many different types of students who can profit from a college experience, and that there are many different types of college experience available to them.

The task of constructing the examination…calls primarily for the exercise of judgement—with reference to a basic system of values—rather than for empirical statistical approaches in test construction.

The examination should describe the student in meaningful terms—meaningful to the student, the parent, and the elementary and high school teacher. 

#WhyApply Day

To kick off the college application season and inspire all students to pursue education beyond high school – be it a certificate program, two-year degree, or four-year degree – the American College Application Campaign is hosting #WhyApply Day on September 20. An anticipated 8,000 U.S. high schools will hold college application events during the school day to encourage more than 600,000 students – particularly students from underserved backgrounds – in their efforts to apply to college.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 67 percent of 2017 high school graduates enrolled in college by the following October. The ACAC seeks to increase the percentage applying to college, especially among first-generation college students and students from low-income families. By removing barriers, ACAC aims to ensure that all high school seniors complete at least one college application.

Across the country, students and their supporters are using the social media hashtag #WhyApply to answer the question “Why apply to college?”

Here are just some of the reasons one student – Sage, now a college student in Colorado – is giving her younger peers:

  • The whole experience of college is something I think a lot of students are intimidated by, and they are not alone. On each campus there are an abundant amount of resources to make sure each student can be successful.
  • My major is neuroscience, and I have found many students studying the same major. It is perfect because we are each other’s support group for all our classes.
  • I understand some students are incredibly tired of high school, and they want to be done with school. If that is the case, still go.

Sage’s advice resonates with me. I remember feeling tired and fed up after graduating from high school. That’s why I took a gap year. But after that I still applied and became a first-generation college student.

Last year, students submitted more than 870,000 college applications during ACAC events. ACT is proud to be the owner of the ACAC. Whether you are a student or just know a student, I also encourage you to share your reasons for #WhyApply.

Enduring Vision

Lindquist devoted his career to helping students succeed. He wanted all young people to develop the skills necessary to succeed in class and in life, a “basic system of values” reflected in the long list of must-haves for the ACT test he compiled at his desk more than 60 years ago.

He didn’t have hashtags, but you do. Share your #WhyApply reasons. Tell young people across the country why they should apply to college-today.