The ACT Academy is a 5-day program held on campus by the College Access Initiative each summer. This experience allows high school students to work on test-taking skills, learn more about the University of Arkansas and experience a bit of campus life by living in a residence hall. This intensive preparation allows the learner to improve their ACT score in less than a week, seeing their results at the end of the program by taking an ACT test. In 2019, the program was held July 9-13.

The students arrived on a Tuesday afternoon, settling into their residence hall before a short class that night. The following two days are much more intense with students in class for 6 hours per day. Sarah Beth Draine, director of the College Access Initiative in the U of A Center for Multicultural and Diversity Education, explains though it may be a long process, the results are more than worth it.

Talia WestTalia West, a University of Arkansas sophomore marketing major, said that her experience within the ACT Academy in 2017 was a rewarding opportunity. She explained that she still uses the tips and study skills she learned to this day.

“The ACT Academy was a great program to prep for the ACT. I think anyone wanting to improve their ACT score should go through this program,” West said. “It helped me with my college experience because I was able to see college, and specifically the University of Arkansas, at a younger age and meet with staff members I still know to this day.”

Though the days might be busy with intensive study, the nights are fun with lots of activities around campus. There is a lawn night at the Arkansas Union to watch a movie and even a night to have snow cones with other participants.

The students have a lighter work load the day before the students take the ACT. They have many session including time management, wellness and college applications that attendees can opt to attend. Aside from the variety of sessions, the rest of the evening is fun and allows for plenty of rest before the exam.

The typical student who should apply to go through the program is a high schooler who is interested in the University of Arkansas and has a seriousness about their college plans. Due to the interest being exceedingly high within the last number of years, the ACT Academy prioritizes juniors and seniors, however; all high school students may apply.

This experience has helped hundreds of students find their place to go to college, and many of them do choose to attend the University of Arkansas. West said that she chose to go to the University of Arkansas because of some of her family going here and that the ACT Academy helped her network with mentors and incoming students.

Aleayah WalkerAleayah Walker, a recent graduate of the U of A with her degree in Political Science and African American Studies, said that the experience with the ACT Academy not only gave her information about college in general, but it solidified where she wanted to go to college – the University of Arkansas.

“The ACT Academy not only gave me insight regarding the steps I needed to take in order to get into college, but also the steps I needed to take to stay in college,” Walker said. “The Multicultural Center, as well as other departments involved in the ACT Academy program, made the University of Arkansas home for me. They showed me people that looked like me that were excelling because they followed the same steps I was encouraged to follow.”

Current University of Arkansas students can also get involved with the ACT Academy. There are mentor positions that students can apply for. Draine explained in detail what kinds of individuals would be right for the role.

 “As for students who we look to hire, we are looking for a current student who has attended the ACT Academy. These students can speak directly from their experience within the program. If not an alumnus of the ACT Academy, we look for students who are doing well academically, first-generation, low income, minority population, but not exclusively. The geographic of staff must match the schools we serve during this program,” Draine said.

Jasmine DennisEven though this is a demanding position, the experience is worth it. Jasmine Dennis, a junior studying history and African American history, said that she loved her experience as a high school participant and as a mentor. She explained how the experience of being a mentor and interacting with students taught her how to teach while being her most authentic self.

“I enjoyed connecting with the other mentors and learning how our experiences are similar even though we have different backgrounds. Being a mentor is not only about leading someone but getting to know yourself and building relationships with others. My experience has definitely made me a better and more rounded person,” Dennis said.

If this experience sounds right for someone you know, applications for both student participants and mentor roles opened in December. For any questions or more information, please contact the College Access Initiative at