Now that I am in college and am removed from the almost ritualistic nature of standardized tests, I have been able to look back on and reflect on them. I remember a time not long ago where I thought that they were crucial for everything from defining my intelligence to determining if I would end up at a college where I would be happy. Without the constant presence of the SAT, ACT, SAT Subject Tests, state standardized tests, and AP exams, I finally able to truly look back and see how much stressing about all of these tests was entirely unnecessary. While this letter is to myself, I consider it also applicable to all those who are encountering standardized tests in their life.
Dear Past Self,
So it may be hard to believe (in fact I am sure it is rather hard to believe), it turns out that these standardized tests that you are stressing about won’t define you. They won’t even matter once you are done with college applications. Your future employers aren’t going to judge you based on your SAT math score. You aren’t going to walk around college with a nametag that says “Hi my name is (insert name) and I got (insert score) on the ACT”.
When you are in high school it feels like numbers define you and in some ways they do. Your GPA, class rank, and standardized test scores are almost universally asked by the summer programs/colleges/scholarships you apply to. Yet at the same time, we often neglect all the other things asked of us that define as in ways numbers never will. Our essays show the world our voice, our resumes demonstrate our passions, our recommendations reflect our commitment. These things combined with a myriad of other things make us a three-dimensional person the way standardized test scores never will.
Standardized test scores will not determine what majors you can pursue, who your friends will be, whether or not you will one day have your dream career or who you will become. It is easy to fall into that trap of a mindset where you say things like “But if I don’t have a 5 on my AP United States History exam, (insert dream school) won’t accept me!” or even “Do I really deserve to attend (insert name of a school you are accepted to) if I couldn’t even break (insert number) percentile on my SAT 2 math subject test?” Wherever you may end up attending college, you are attending because you are a good fit for the school. That school knows your academic abilities are not defined by one numerical value, and furthermore they know that who you are as a person is not defined by just some quantitative values.
You may have some standardized tests left, but keep what I have been saying in mind. Yes, you should take some time to perhaps prepare and review what you are being tested on but you shouldn’t let these tests consume you. Go out with friends and see a movie, make sure you are actually getting enough sleep, and enter the testing room with the mindset of “This is just another standardized test, it would be great if I did well, but if I don’t that is okay.” You may end up being in the 99th percentile, you may end up being in the 15th percentile, either way it is okay because at the end of the day you are who you are.
It is far easier for me to say scores don’t define you than for you to believe me, which is why I have been so repetitive about it. But trust me, one number (or any quantity of numbers for that matter) do not have the power to determine your destiny.
– College Me