According to one college test prep expert, a high ACT score can be the key to unlocking college scholarships.

As college tuition rates continue to go up, many students are looking for ways to pay for college without having to resort to student loans. College scholarships have always been an attractive option but unfortunately, they can also be quite competitive and hard to obtain. However, for students who want to pursue this option, the answer may be found in their ACT scores.

One test prep expert told CBS affiliate KOLN in Lincoln, Neb., that achieving a high ACT score is the best way for students to earn a scholarship.

For instance, by scoring a 32 on their ACT, a student qualifies for the Regents Scholarship at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, possibly earning them a full ride to college – which is a yearly savings of $9,000.

Regardless of the school students are hoping to attend, students need to find out the minimum ACT score they need to win a scholarship. Students can start taking ACT prep courses well before their senior year to see what their baseline score is and begin working to improve it, KOLN reported.

After all, the best way to prepare for a challenging test is to know what to expect, which is why practice is so important. Students can also work through any testing anxiety they may have.

Practice tests allow students to see the areas that are tripping them up. The ACT breaks down the scores in each section, allowing students to see the areas where they scored the lowest.

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Students should go into the practice test with a target score in mind. This will help them focus on how to prepare. The majority of students who take the ACT find that their score improves dramatically between the first and second time they take the test.

Students should also work on their time management skills so they can pace themselves correctly during the exam. Students who have a lot of leftover time at the end of each section may be rushing. On the other hand, students who consistently run out of time might be moving too slowly.

However, it’s not a good idea to study the day before the final test. Students might find that taking a few days to rest will improve their performance on test day. Students should aim to get a good night’s sleep the night before, eat a healthy breakfast that morning, and arrive at the testing center a little early.

If you want to boost your chances of getting scholarship money and reduce your need for private student loans, search for schools that offer scholarships for high test scores. The work you do to prepare ahead of time can pay off for many years to come.