ACT Scores for Admission to Top North Carolina Colleges

A Side-by-Side Comparison of College Admissions Data for 15 Top Schools

The Old Well at UNC-Chapel Hill
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Learn what ACT scores you'll need to get into one of the top North Carolina colleges or universities. The side-by-side comparison table below shows scores for the middle 50 percent of enrolled students. If your scores fall within or above these ranges, you're on target for admission.

Top North Carolina Colleges ACT Score Comparison (mid 50%)
(Learn what these numbers mean)

Composite 25% Composite 75% English 25% English 75% Math 25% Math 75%
Appalachian State University 23 27 23 28 23 27
Davidson College 30 33 - - - -
Duke University 31 35 32 35 30 35
Elon University 25 29 25 31 24 28
High Point University 21 27 21 27 20 26
Meredith College 20 25 18 24 18 25
NC State University 26 31 25 32 25 30
Salem College 23 29 23 32 21 27
UNC Asheville 22 28 22 29 21 26
UNC Chapel Hill 28 33 28 34 27 32
UNC School of the Arts 22 28 22 31 20 26
UNC Wilmington 23 27 22 27 21 26

*Note: Guilford College, Wake Forest University, and Warren Wilson College are not included due to their practice of test-optional admissions.

View the SAT version of this table

The scores in the table are presented as percentiles. The lower number indicates that 25 percent of applicants scored at this level or lower. The 75th percentile tells us that 25 percent of applicants scored at this level or higher. To be competitive at a college, you'll want to be above the lower number. 

Discussion of Admissions Standards in North Carolina

An average ACT score is about a 21, so you can see that the great majority of students who attend the schools in the table have scores that are above average. Keep in mind, however, that 25 percent of students were admitted with ACT scores below the lower numbers. You may have an uphill battle, but don't give up hope if your score is less-than-ideal. A low ACT score isn't necessarily the end of your college dreams.

Duke University, Davidson College, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are the most selective schools in the state. When a college has a high admission bar and a low acceptance rate, you should consider them reach schools even if your ACT scores fall comfortably within the range in the table. Many students with solid "A" averages and high ACT scores receive rejection letters from places like Duke.

For nearly all schools in the country, the most important piece of an application is a strong academic record. Grades earned over the course of several years are a much more meaningful predictor of college success than an exam you take on a Saturday morning. The strongest applicants have high grades in the most challenging courses available to them. AP, IB, honors, and dual enrollment classes can all be important pieces of a successful college application.

The more selective public universities and most of the private schools in the list have holistic admissions, so the admissions folks will be evaluating much more than your numerical measures such as grades and standardized test scores. A winning essay, meaningful extracurricular activities and good letters of recommendation can all play an important role in the admissions process. Selective schools have the luxury of enrolling not just students who will succeed academically, but students who will also contribute to the campus community in significant ways.

Test Optional Colleges in North Carolina

As the table shows, Guilford College, Wake Forest University, and Warren Wilson College have test-optional admissions. This means you are not required to submit ACT or SAT scores as part of your application. This is good news if you're a student who does well in school but doesn't shine during high-pressure timed exams.

Keep in mind that "test-optional" means that you do, in fact, have the option of submitting your ACT scores. If you think your scores will strengthen your application, you should definitely submit them. The score that will help get in you varies for each of the schools. At Guilford, it's probably worth reporting a score of 24 or higher. Warren Wilson students tend to have scores of 25 or higher, but as a work college, decisions are likely to be based more on your reasons for wanting to attend than any numerical data. Wake Forest is one of the more selective test-optional schools in the country, so you might want to withhold scores that are below a 28.

A Wide Range of Options

North Carolina's best colleges and universities are pleasingly diverse. Duke University consistently ranks among the nation's top universities, and UNC Chapel Hill is often near the top of rankings of the best public universities. UNC Asheville is one of the top public liberal arts colleges, and Davidson ranks highly among the top liberal arts colleges.

For the public institutions on the list, North Carolina does better than many states when it comes to cost. For both in-state and out-of-state applicants, tuition is roughly half of what you'll find in states such as Michigan and California.

North Carolina's top colleges and universities have something for nearly everyone. The size of the schools on the list range from 1,000 students to close to 40,000. You'll find an art school, a women's college, and a work college among the state's top schools. And if you want the excitement of NCAA Division I athletics, you'll find several options on that front as well.

Data from the National Center for Educational Statistics

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Your Citation
Grove, Allen. "ACT Scores for Admission to Top North Carolina Colleges." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Grove, Allen. (2020, August 28). ACT Scores for Admission to Top North Carolina Colleges. Retrieved from Grove, Allen. "ACT Scores for Admission to Top North Carolina Colleges." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 4, 2023).