You are probably correct that I read into our OPs question what was on my own (small AND old, quite the combo) mind. I should pay more attention to the actual question asked.
You and Maple will keep me on my toes.
Actually, I said a 15 year old or
a grandparent (not AND but or).
I'm all for giving 100% to "do your best". That all said, wouldn't it be fantastic
of us gave 100% on everything we do in life? If we are honest with ourselves, it should be obvious that most high performing people (2-3 standard deviations to the right) still
don't give it their all. Whether it be school, work, nurturing our marriage, etc, etc. All to often, we all can give more.
Forgetting that for a moment, let's say you really are giving it your all to make that goal. Then time management mandates that you have to accept a compromise and realize when you need to refocus on other aspects in life. It's all about juggling several important priorities. At some point, you can be in a position where you have to pick taking another ACT test versus studying a difficult class(es) to get an A. Or maybe you need to focus on the commitment of being a captain of a team and its respective responsibilities. So realistically, that is part of the algorithm; time management and knowing when to change your focus. In fact, our DS had to make those decisions and decide when enough was enough specifically on the ACT. I bet he could have gotten a point or 2 higher IF he wanted to risk letting something else slip. Same thing with getting into medical school. He didn't have months to study for the MCAT. He had to juggle responsibilities with keeping an eye on what MCAT score was "good enough". As it turned out, it was "good enough". In my world, that's not settling. So to say "36 on your ACT should be your goal" isn't how I would personally manage my time. Being well rounded trumps a 36 ACT. If
studying for that 36 consumes your bandwidth, then that was bad advice.
That all said, maybe the OP is a coaster. I don't know. But I'm not so quick to judge. If Mrs. Fencemother kicks butt 24-7, then you are an outlier and then you should be rich or famous (or both).
Most people need to manage their time and juggle their focus. IMHO, in life, "Work as hard as you can" needs more clarification than that simple cliché.