Skip to content

ACT Newsroom & Blog

Hide All News & Blogs View All News & Blogs

American College Application Campaign Announces School of Excellence Award Winners

National campaign supports more than 20 percent of 2020 high school graduates

IOWA CITY, Iowa—The American College Application Campaign (ACAC), a national effort to increase the number of first-generation college students and students from low-income families pursuing a college degree or other higher education credential, is proud to announce its 2019 ACAC School of Excellence award winners, a group of exemplary schools across the nation that are helping students pursue postsecondary success.

ACAC, which is part of ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning, selected the School of Excellence award recipients based on their demonstrated commitment to student success, serving as an exemplary model for their state’s application campaign and timely submission of data. This is the first year for the ACAC School of Excellence awards and it is intended to become an annual recognition.

Each year, the Campaign works with coordinators in every state and the District of Columbia to host college application events and reach students in their schools and communities, encouraging them to apply to college.

“We work hard to encourage college applications because we know it’s the first step on an important journey,” said Director of ACAC Melissa Caperton. “It is our goal that all students at ACAC events have a plan for education after high school be it a certificate, associate degree, or bachelor’s degree. We thank everyone who played a role in helping the class of 2020 apply to college, especially our School of Excellence recipients who are leading the way in their communities, their states, and our nation. Together, we must stay strong and continue these efforts in the next school year, no matter what hurdles we face.”

The winning schools were key contributors in helping ACAC reach the following national achievements, as reported by state campaigns on the 2019 annual survey:
  • Nearly 7,300 high schools (more than one-fourth of high schools in the U.S.) hosted a College Application Campaign event.
  • More than 763,400 seniors (30% more students than in 2018) submitted at least one college application during events.
  • More than 1.2 million college applications were submitted during 2019 College Application Campaign events.
  • Additionally, at least 600 elementary schools, 540 middle schools, and 160 community-based organizations also hosted college application events to learn about the college-going process.
The 2019 Schools of Excellence, which include winners from 20 states and the District of Columbia, can be viewed here. The winning schools will receive a plaque, delivered via mail since school-based events were cancelled this spring.

Nationally, more than 3.36 million students have been served by ACAC and 5.38 million applications have been submitted since the Campaign began in 2005.

Research has shown that most U.S. colleges admit those who apply to them, discounting fears that students can’t get in.

Many students find the college-going process stressful, overwhelming, or confusing and don’t know how to ask for help. ACAC events help students break down the steps for applying to college and guide them along the way.

In preparation for the 2020 campaign season, ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning is hosting the webinar, “Making the Case for College During COVID-19” on Tuesday, Aug. 4 at 3:00 p.m. CDT to address the importance of a unified message from K12, higher education and community business leaders that education beyond high school is for everyone and college is still a priority. Presenters include Brian Coleman, 2019 National School Counselor of the Year and counseling department chair at Jones College Prep; Angel PĂ©rez, CEO, NACAC; and Nicole Smith, research professor and chief economist, Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, who will join Doug Hughes, president, Navigation, ACT, in this moderated discussion.

Additionally, ACAC formally kicks off the college application season with a #WhyApply Day social media campaign on Friday, Sept. 18 to encourage young people to make a plan for education beyond high school.

Schools interested in hosting a college application event can register at

About the American College Application Campaign

The American College Application Campaign® (ACAC) is a national initiative designed to increase the number of first-generation college students and students from low-income families who pursue a postsecondary degree. The purpose is to assist high school seniors as they navigate the college application and admissions process and ensure each participating student submits at least one admissions application.

The Campaign is conducted state by state and each state determines which week or month is officially designated as the College Application Campaign. Events across the country often take place between September-December.

Many states are also connecting college application completion events with FAFSA completion and College Signing Day celebrations. After submitting the admissions application, some events encourage students to register for their FSA ID and are provided with the date of their state’s FAFSA completion event to ensure they complete the admissions process and apply for financial aid.

About ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning

ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning focuses on closing gaps in equity, opportunity, and achievement for underserved populations and working learners. Through purposeful investments, employee engagement, and thoughtful advocacy efforts, the Center supports innovative partnerships, actionable research, initiatives, campaigns, and programs to further ACT’s mission of helping people achieve education and workplace success.