I am hoping the OP is looking for honest advice and I will agree with @Cerberi. She stated that the average ACT score is a 22 which would most likely mean that some of the subject scores are less. In the eyes of the academy's the test are not "overblown" and are the only real tool they have to compare and contrast applicants across different school systems. You will be competing against kids that have all of the other stuff as well but also have 30s on their ACT. You would struggle getting admitted to most state schools with scores that low and I would question his readiness for college level work. I too grew up in a very poor area with few high school standards. Most of the kids that graduate from these schools do not have the educational foundation to be successful at the college level. I am not stating that it is his fault but it is the dirty secret of public education. I would suggest some sort of test taking class that will help with the process of taking the test. One of those classes helped me many moons ago and may be just what he needs but you do not have much time. If the scores do not rise to the 28-30 level, investigating a prep school or Junior College might be the best option to help him meet his long term goals. There are different ways to get to his goal. I have a DD who got in on her second try.