Do you remember the day the College Board released SAT scores, and your high school erupted in a contest of who did better? Even if you tried to remain tight-lipped about your score, it didn't matter. It got out, and you were either slapped on the back or picked on. And if you did extremely well, people were nice to your face and then talked about you behind your back.
And that was all before the Internet! Today's kids have not just their peers to compare themselves to, but an entire world's worth of celebrities whose SAT scores can be brought up with a few keystrokes on Google. Bill Gates got a 1590 (on the old "1600" system)! Ben Stein got a 1573! And so today, as the College Board once again releases the big numbers, parents need to keep their kids off the 'net. It's no good for their psyches.
I've never been crazy about the SATs for this reason. They become a comparison tool, a means for kids to one-up another, when they mean so little in the long run.
I was that kid who tried to remain tight-lipped about her score. I had a decent showing (decent enough that whenever I did something stupid, my dad used to give me a look and say, "X number on your SATs, huh?" like he couldn't believe I was being such a dolt. It sounds worse than it was -- he was just goofing around). But I was an over-achiever raised in a family where there was emphasis put on test scores and grades.
Raised in the old "1600" system, it sat in the back of my mind in my high school days that my cousin had achieved a near perfect score in her days. I wasn't striving to get into college when I sat down in a classroom at a neighboring high school with my No. 2 pencil. I was striving to kick A.'s ass. I didn't, by the way. About the only thing I did beat her on was giving birth first (her daughter came 11 days later!).
There was no celebrity SAT score list on Google to pull up, but A. was my celebrity, the one I emulated and vowed to beat. And it's only with hindsight that I can recognize I was the only horse in the race. A. had long since graduated from high school and moved on to college. Her life wasn't defined by her SAT score. Even if it played a small role in getting her into college, there was a lot more to her than that 15-whatever.
I remember my SAT score because it was a family joke, but today it says absolutely nothing about my life. It didn't buy my house, land me my job, make my husband fall in love with me, or help me get through labor. A. and I are now, for all intents and purposes, equal. We're just two moms doing the best we can for our kids, two moms who have created the next generation of geniuses for our family tree.
The celebrity SAT scores being pulled up on Google today don't represent the people who scored them. So Courteney Cox got an 1150 -- it didn't get her a role on Friends. So George W. Bush got a 1206 -- it didn't get him votes. Congratulate your kids on their accomplishments today, but please remind them it's not a competition.
Do your kids look at the SATs as a competition?
Image via Casey Serin/Flickr