In a few hours my son will wake up and sharpen a few Number 2 pencils, then go off to take his SAT. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this particular phenomenon, the SAT is the Scholastic Aptitude Test, and in the U.S. it’s the biggie for college (or university) acceptance.
In addition to scrutinizing students’ academic records and reviewing their extracurricular activities, schools also look at their test scores to decide little things like whether or not to accept them and/or offer them various types of financial aid. Naturally the better a student scores, the more opportunities are likely to become available to him.
Realistically, in this country there are so many colleges and universities that virtually any student willing to fork over tuition money should be able to find a spot somewhere. The application process, including the whole SAT (or, in some cases, ACT – a similar test) exercise is really just to sort potential students into various tiers. Top universities want top students, so these exams are supposed to give them some feedback on who those top prospects might be. I get it. It still stresses me out a little.
Honestly, I think I get a little more worried about these types of things than my son does. I suppose it’s because I can see cause and effect relationships that can result from scoring well or not-so-well. To him it’s just another test, another hurdle he has to jump over in his high school career. I don’t know that he sees it as any more or less important than any other test. I mean I know that we’ve had conversations about it, but truthfully I don’t think they really made much impact. He’s had a lot on his mind, and this is just another thing on the list. Frankly, I think he’d rather skip it, but he knows it’s required, so he’ll do it.
It isn’t that I don’t think he’ll do well. I do. He’s bright and retains information really well. He has good test taking strategies, and good time management skills, and he’s been preparing. He knows the format of the test, and he has the ability to do well, if the practice sessions are any indication. He’s also a good test taker, meaning that he doesn’t get overly anxious. He’ll be just fine.
Over the years I’ve worked part-time administering standardized tests such as the SAT and I’ve seen thousands of students take them. Some come in nervously chewing on their pencils, others come in as though they’ve been up all night partying. There are flirty girls, nervously giggling, and beefy guys who look uncomfortable in a large lecture hall, and kids like my son. Kids who are regular nice high school kids trying to do their best so they can keep as many options open for their futures as possible. Kids who work hard and study, but also have other interests. Kids who want to do well, not only for themselves, but also to make their families proud. I always root for those kids. I always think those are the kids who are going to make a difference. I’m rooting for those kids today, but one of them is getting a little more of my support than usual. Show them what you’ve got, son.