Academics for All

It's time to close the affluence gap in standardized testing.

Photo of Natalie Laky

Written by

Date Started

4/28/2018 (April 28th 2018)

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Idea (hoping to get started in the future)

1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."

As we were finishing up our junior year of high school, everyone seemed to be talking about how stressed they were about taking the ACT. After hearing how many students got to work with ACT tutors on a weekly basis, we realized that students with families who cannot afford a tutor are at a disadvantage through no fault of their own. Although many students seemed to be complaining about what a chore it was to work with an ACT tutor, we had an epiphany and realized that working with a private tutor is an indispensable tool that should never be taken for granted. Traditionally, ACT tutors are expensive, but family income should never be a barrier to academic opportunity. Students shouldn't be systemically hindered from succeeding on an ACT because of financial circumstances that they cannot control.

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

There need to be more opportunities for students from all financial situations to succeed on the ACT through tutoring to lessen the pervasive, systemic inequity in standardized testing. Since so many college scholarships have a minimum ACT score to receive financial aid, it is especially important that students who will rely on scholarships to attend college are able to fully represent their academic ability through standardized test scores.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Academics for All is based on students who have succeeded on the ACT who volunteer to share their knowledge. We are in the process of bringing together a group of students who can volunteer their time to tutor low-income students in specific sections of the ACT (reading, writing, math, or science) for an hour at a time. We also hope to be able to use funding to purchase official ACT prep books, the best ACT-approved calculators, and cover registration fees for students who do not qualify for scholarships from ACT, Inc. but would still benefit from being able to take multiple tests without worrying about the cost. We hope to primarily work with incoming juniors who are starting to take ACT tests. Since our school is in a northern suburb of Chicago, we are going to start by focusing on area schools, but we want to expand this project as soon as we can.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

When a student or parent approaches Academics for All seeking a tutor in a particular section of the ACT, we will find a volunteer tutor who is proficient in that discipline. Then, the tutor and student meet in a quiet public area (like a library) and spend an hour working on that subject together. If the student feels they need more help, we can schedule more weekly sessions. In addition, the tutor helps the student register for the test and set a goal score so that the student can retake tests until they're reached their goal. For tutors, the entire commitment is volunteer work: we have confirmed that many students with high ACT scores have interest in volunteering as a tutor, especially over the summer. When a tutor gets involved, we work with the tutor, student, and parents to schedule a time slot that is most suitable for all parties, since stress decreases focus.

5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

Academics for All is different from academic support that schools may offer because our entire operation is student volunteer-based. High school students who have taken the ACT recently have a special perspective on the test-taking process and can relate to the student they are tutoring because they went through the whole process themselves. Additionally, although ACT, Inc. provides waives some registration fees, there are no provisions for prep books or private tutors, nor for students whose families have income too high for fee waivers, but too low to afford taking the test multiple times.

6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

We plan to follow up with students all the way through their final ACT test and see that they have met their goal score, then see how the improved ACT score helps in college applications and scholarships. If Academics for All raises a student's score by a few points, we will see the difference in college acceptances to more prestigious programs and more generous financial aid packages. Standardized testing is stressful because of more than just bubbling answer sheets: ACT scores have implications all through the college application process. When we see students raising their scores and getting into the colleges they really want to attend, we will know we have made a difference.

7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

As we get ready to take Academics for All to the next level, we are reaching out to school liaisons around the northern Chicago suburbs. We hope to partner with as many volunteer tutors as we can, especially while people have lots of time to tutor and prepare for the ACT over the summer.

8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?

To get Academics for All started, we are working on expanding the project in a number of ways. First, we are in the process of building a website to apply for tutoring and to apply as a volunteer tutor. This should be complete a few weeks into June. We also want to register as a 501(3)c not-for-profit organization so that donors can receive tax deductions for donations to Academics for All. After that, we hope to purchase insurance to protect the organization and find permanent space to hold tutoring sessions so that we can expand to an area beyond the northern suburbs of Chicago. In addition, we would love to organize a fundraising event so that we can purchase more resources for students to use during testing.

9. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors

10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.

We hope that people from other communities, who we may not know personally, are interested in Academics for All's mission and want to help out. We've also talked to teachers who are very interested in what we are doing for the community, so we are looking for a way that teachers can help out with standardized testing tutoring as well, even though it may have been a long time since they took the ACT test themselves.

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media
  • Recommended by others
  • Word of mouth

Evaluation results

6 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 16.7%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 16.7%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 66.7%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. - 0%

2. Changemaker Quality

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 16.7%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 50%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 33.3%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Creativity

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 16.7%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 16.7%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 16.7%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 50%

No Answer - 0%

4. Commitment

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 33.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 66.7%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 100%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Connection

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 20%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 40%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 20%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 20%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Sravya Alla

This is an incredible program. I am not sure if the ACT has class and race as entrenched in its results as the SAT did, but I am sure that there are many discrepancies.
Here's some of the data from the SAT:

These problems need to be solved. I know that CollegeBoard has partnered with the Khan Academy to provide services for all students, so it is great to see you all provide something equivalent for the ACT. I think the in-person tutoring factor is key because the learning sessions become more interactive. We would love to collaborate and forward any resources you all create to students who use At the end of the day, it's about making sure that more students get access to the most opportunities. I'm excited to how Academics for All evolves.

Photo of Natalie Laky

Hi everyone:

I don't think there's a way to edit our entry, but I'd like to provide a few updates about Academics for All.

I'd say we are past the Idea stage (into Startup) because we have a few key activities already rolling. We still have the confirmed list of volunteer tutors, along with specific subjects for each tutor. We are in contact with liaisons from about ten local high schools who will help us get in contact with potential students. Also, we are in the midst of organizing an ACT Prep Book Drive.

In the book drive, we are placing collection bins and flyers around the community (in schools and in libraries) to collect ACT prep books and ACT-approved calculators. We plan on running the book drive through August so that students who have already finished taking the ACT have plenty of time to donate their materials.

We are also hanging flyers (printed in English and Spanish) around the community to advertise our services. Academics for All will probably have a fundraiser at a local frozen yogurt store as well, to help us cover costs like registration fees and calculators.

Stay tuned to see our website launch soon at, or email either of the co-founders at or

Thanks for keeping up!

Photo of Vasya T

I really liked reading about your project -- I actually kind of enjoy taking those SAT and ACT tests that you talked about, so it was interesting to hear your opinion :)

Photo of Hannah and Zoha

Three cheers. Great project. A much needed service.
Hannah and Zoha (HER)

Photo of Giovanni Turri

Great job! I'm also trying to deliver education free support or voluntary based with crowdsourcing: everyone has more knowledge than someone else, so can give tips or answer questions. If many people commit, there can always be almost real time support! :)

Photo of Old Friend

This is amazing. I know a lot of people who could not afford an ACT tutor so thank you for this. I'm glad there are people like you guys trying to help with these things and giving everyone an equal opportunity!

Photo of Natalie Laky

Hi there! Just like you said, we realize that tutors are an immense privilege and that there are lots of people who don't have that for reasons beyond their control. We really hope that Academics for All can make a positive impact in our community and beyond.

Photo of Naysha Young

This is such a great and well thought out idea!

Photo of Natalie Laky

Thanks for taking the time to read through the idea! I'm glad we share the motivation to help bridge opportunity gaps that exist in education.

Photo of Anchron

Affluence plays way too big of a role in standardized testing and college admissions right now. It's great to see another Illinois-based organization address this unnoticed issue!

Photo of Natalie Laky

Hi! I just checked out Anchron-- I love what you're doing! I think the mobile app approach is so unique and perfect for a lot of teens who mainly access the internet through their phones. Just like ACT tutors, which is our industry, college applications are obviously another sector with a huge affluence gap. I'm so glad you're working to create equity in education. Keep doing what you're doing :)