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Preparing rural NC high school students for CALS.

As a part of the UNC System, NC State will be test-optional for 2024 and 2025 spring and fall first-year applicants. The ASPIRE program is temporarily paused due to these changes.

CALS student Montana York, who used the ASPIRE program to get admitted.

Rural high school students interested in pursuing careers in North Carolina agriculture are often not successful in gaining admissions to four-year institutions offering agricultural degrees.

This is often due to their test scores on a college entrance examination.

ACT Supplemental Preparation in Rural Education (ASPIRE) helps to bridge deficits in rural high school students’ performances on the ACT College Entrance Examination to increase the number of students pursuing higher education.

Through the ASPIRE program, Cooperative Extension Agents and public high school teachers team up to offer courses in rural counties to prepare sophomores and juniors for the ACT college entrance exam.

Why Choose ASPIRE?

By participating in an ASPIRE class, you will learn the latest tactics and strategies to improve your ACT score.

The program is open to rural high school sophomores and juniors and includes 30 hours of ACT course instruction where students will learn the skills they need to tackle the ACT.

Students also receive the Princeton Review ACT study manual, the Princeton Review 1,460 practice question manual, and access to four ACT full-length practice exams with score analysis and breakdown.


As a part of the UNC System, NC State will be test-optional for 2024 and 2025 spring and fall first-year applicants. The ASPIRE program is temporarily paused due to these changes.

Student in the forest.

SAT/ACT Average Scores in NC Counties

Below is a table depicting the average ACT and SAT scores for the top livestock and crop producing counties in North Carolina compared to Raleigh Charter High School, Chapel-Hill Carrboro City schools and Wake County schools (urban counterparts).

All scores are compared to the NC State incoming freshman class average of fall 2014.

School/CountyAverage SAT Average ACTNC State Average SAT DifferentialNC State Average ACT Differential
Raleigh Charter High School125427.7-12-0.3
Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools119424.6-72-3.4
Wake County Schools106320.5-203-7.5
Top 10 Livestock/Crop Producing Counties93817.2-328-10.8
Top 10 Livestock/Crop Producing Counties vs. Urban Counties. Average SAT column includes critical reading and math.

On average, the top ten livestock and crop producing counties (a total of 15 counties within North Carolina) had a deficit of 328 points on the SAT and a deficient of 10.8 points on the ACT.

These counties bring in a great deal of money for North Carolina, yet their young adults find it increasingly difficult to further their education. Often, private standardized test preparation tools and tutors are luxuries that students in rural, economically distressed counties may not afford. ASPIRE offers rural high school students a cost-effective way to increase their ACT scores and become more competitive when applying to college.

Counties With ASPIRE Teachers

Below are the counties with trained ASPIRE teachers. Counties in red indicate that a class is currently in session or will start soon. If you are in a surrounding county, you may apply to the class location closest to you.