The SAT: A measure of college readiness or the weight of your wallet?

Everyone knows far and wide that the SAT is the most commonly used test for college admissions. That it is a way to showcase your achievements and demonstrate your college readiness.

But I have older siblings you see, and they didn’t score as well as my classmates do on average today. Its not that my siblings are any less intelligent, in fact they are quite bright. So why the large gap between scores?

When my oldest sister was looking to take the SAT, she didn’t study very much. She bought loads of books and told herself she would study, but she never really did. In fact, if it is a test to determine how well you would do in your first year of college, why the need to study at all?

SAT_mix_horz

But nowadays SAT prep programs are widely popular, like Elite, especially, and Revolution. With these programs students can potentially raise their scores up to 300 points. So, what is it about these programs that allows such a jump?

Many, or should I say most, of my friends have been or are enrolled in some sort of these college prep classes. One of my friends, who took the class in the summer, said that they took 8 real SAT practice tests over a course of 8 weeks. Homework was additional.

Well, it only makes sense that 8 practice tests later suddenly you are likely to do much better in your first year of college than are others. And while students who have the luxury of 4,000 dollars towards these prep courses, others of course may not. In these circumstances, you’ll here people say, “Oh, that’s tough. Well, you can always buy SAT prep books or do the practice tests online.”

And while this is true, who would voluntarily put themselves through 32 hours of test taking in preparation for a test? Its not like any material is being reviewed, its just that the formatting and style of a test is being engraved into your head. The 4 hours of testing may seem less brutal every time you take another.

That being said, the reason that these prep classes are so popular is because most students don’t have the will power to study alone on their own. They take these classes to force themselves to do it.

Despite this fact, SAT scores have been viewed the same way. And some students who take courses and do exceptionally well love to boast about how great their scores are, posting up Facebook statuses and making them widely known. And some students who may not have done as well look at these other kids, thinking, “How did that happen? I know for a fact I am definitely smarter than that guy.”

And really, if you really are as smart as you want everyone to think you are, why did you find the need to take a SAT prep course in the first place? And might I remind you-

ImageNo offense.

Besides the expenses of the prep classes, the SAT itself rather pricey. 50 dollars for 1 test. Now that doesn’t seem to bad. Except for the fact that the majority of students take the SAT at least twice. Maybe three times, for good measure.

3 times? Yeah, that’s ok. Its also 150 dollars. What else can you buy with 150 dollars? Well, a lot of things, really. Stuff that, you know, you might actually enjoy. Why do kids so readily spend so much money and so much time taking this test? Why can’t you just take the test when you’re actually ready?

Well, this one’s pretty obvious as well. But it really hit me not to long ago. A friend of mine was conflicted over whether or not to join another group friends over the weekend. She was conflicted because it would cost her around 50 dollars. So I told her, why don’t you take one less SAT, or apply to one less school that you’re applying to and probably will never go to even if you get in (why?) so that you can spend the night having fun for a change?

She replied, “Gurlll, that’s my parent’s money. But if I want to go out this weekend I have to use my own money.”

Seems obvious enough. But until that moment I never realized how messed up it is. And pretty much every kid does it. Just because you’re parents make their own money, doesn’t mean that you can take as much money as you want and spend on useless things, using the fact that its for college or school or whatever as an excuse. Really? Not cool.

So, many of my friends have fantastic scores, and that’s great. I’m more than more than with my score, and that’s great too. And when I ever do feel happy with any of my accomplishments for whatever reason, I always remember a scene from the book (and movie) A Separate Peace by John Knowles. In the movie (at least) Finny, who is a great athlete, beats the school’s record for the fastest swim time. His friend Gene, who was timing him, told him that he just had to get credit for it. Finny said, “No, that would ruin it.” Really, ever since watching that movie I felt that the more modest you are about an achievement, the more special it becomes. Of course, it is good to get recognition in a variety of situations, but when it deals with such things as scores and test taking, I think its better not.

Speaking of SATs and college readiness, if you’re in high school and you’re starting college applications, just remember that you don’t need to apply to every single school in the book. If you’re in Cali don’t apply to every single UC. Come on. Be realistic. Just apply to the schools you would actually go to. Schools that have good programs for what you plan on majoring. And if you are undecided on which subject, apply to schools that don’t just specialize in a specific area. Remember, roughly 70 dollars per school. Is it really worth it?

Also, if you aren’t happy with your performance and you feel that you’re future is not headed towards where it should be, know this- the only things that define you are things that cannot be measured. 

Don’t strive for perfection or your ideal self, strive for happiness!

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