When I was in high school, the SAT wasn’t something I worried about. My school had a PSAT scheduled for all the sophomores and we all had to take it. Like the ISAT’s, we looked forward to a day without sitting in class. Then we had to take the real SAT at some point during junior year to start applying for college by senior year. Totally formulaic. The ACT was no different. I thought it was another college entrance exam that I should take in case I bomb the SAT.
Little did I know, these tests were going to be the difference between me getting into a good school and getting into the “stopped schooling after high school” academy.
My parents told me the standard line. “You have to take this test to get into college.” They never told me why or what scores were actually good. They never told me what scores the schools I was interested in wanted me to get. They really didn’t tell me anything about this test. I took their nonchalant attitudes as indicators that this test wasn’t a big deal. Looking back, I wish I had a little more information. Because that notion was simply wrong.
So to assuage my 17-year-old self – this is why the SAT/ACT is important:
- First, these scores help universities differentiate you between an average student and an above-average student. As much as I hate assigning people to numbers, this number is actually a great indicator for your reasoning skills, retention rates and general knowledge of high school curriculum.
- Second, most universities require a specific score or above to get into their school. This means that even if you got straight A’s and participated in extracurricular activities instead of going to parties, you can still be rejected by your dream school because your SAT or ACT score wasn’t great.
- And finally, the SAT and ACT can really help you figure out what you are good at and can help you choose a major. For example, I took my SAT and totally rocked the reading section. I ignored this and spent my first semester in college failing as an elementary education major. When I switched to English Composition, it was all sunshine and daisies. From then on I had a major I was actually interested in and good at.
Basically what I’m saying is, don’t take these tests for granted. Study hard, just like a chemistry final. Go the extra mile and get exam prep courses under your belt. See a tutor for specific issues and subjects you’re struggling with. If college is important to you and you know it’s the next step, take the time now to prepare for these exams. Instead of hanging in your friend’s basement playing Apex, sign up for a study course. Not only will this improve your chances of getting into the school you always wanted, but it will pave the road for getting those college scholarships that we all need.