The spring semester has arrived, and that means high school juniors are focused on standardized tests and managing all of the stress and additional work that they bring to students’ lives. No one enjoys taking the SAT or the ACT, but because many colleges require these test scores, most high school students will encounter at least one of these exams during the college search and application process.
All of us need to remember that the results of these tests do not represent the best of a student’s potential, either academically or personally. Students are not defined by numbers, and the test scores will not define or dictate the success that high school students will enjoy in the future. Some students may be natural test takers and ace the SAT/ACT with little advance preparation. Other students will enroll in a 3-month test preparation program with a private tutoring company, experience score increases during practice tests, but ultimately they don’t see significant gains on the actual test date due to test anxiety. Of course, many students are in the middle of the spectrum as well.
Parents often find themselves on the sidelines anxiously watching students go through this test-taking experience. This phase of the college application process usually lasts longer than most would like and brings high levels of stress and frustration that can be felt by the entire household. Everyone just wants these tests to be over.
They will be over eventually, just not as quickly as we would like. So, what can we do in the mean time?
As students engage in the test-taking, parents and other family members, as well as educators, can best support students by reminding them that as long as they try their best, they can feel content and confident that there will be successful outcomes in the college application process. Students are concerned enough with their test performance; it is never helpful for anyone to say, “If you can’t get your scores up, you’re not going to get into ________ college.” Trust me, this notion is already on the forefront of students’ minds. As parents and educators, we should be doing everything we can to lessen students’ stress, not increase it. In addition, if students exhibit anxiety regarding the tests that is not easily reduced by family support, they should be encouraged to pursue counseling that specifically addresses test anxiety management. This challenge is extremely common for students of all ages, and given the resources that are available, there is no reason for students to struggle. At Popp & Associates, we work with students who are facing test anxiety and help them explore various options for controlling it so it no longer controls them or their test performance.
We need to recognize the value of standardized tests and also the value that they should not and will never have. Regardless of the scores earned, a student is just as smart, creative, hardworking, motivated and destined to succeed as before the SAT/ACT arrived. At most, these tests may influence a student’s candidacy in a college’s admission process, but these test scores will not affect students’ potential to fulfill their academic and employment goals. SAT/ACT scores will not influence a student’s ability to develop meaningful friendships, successfully network in professional settings, find a life partner, or build the dream career. All of these efforts build lives, SAT/ACT scores do not. In other words, standardized test scores don’t impact at all what really matters in life.