Taking the SAT is certainly not one of the highlights of my young life. Like many high school students before and after me, I put in many hours of SAT prep in the hopes of getting a near-perfect score. Being the oldest child in my family, I still remember my nervous mother rushing me around Barnes and Noble, piling SAT prep books into my arms and I, did what any high school junior would do; groaned about it the whole time. In the pursuit of the illustrious 2400, I even went as far to take SAT prep classes.
Despite all of this preparation and effort, though, I was still terrified of sitting down and taking that test. I had heard so many differing opinions and facts, so no resource, Internet or otherwise, could soothe the nerves I was feeling. Now that I have faced (and conquered) the SAT, when I reflect back on my countless hours spent on all that studying and preparation, there are things that I wish I had known beforehand. I learned from my experiences and I’m here to break down what I learned for you, so you don’t have a breakdown over the SAT like I did. Here are some of the things I wish I knew and what I know now.
What I Thought: The SAT is going to be terrifyingly difficult.
What I Know Now: It’s not that bad.
Yes, the SAT is not a walk in the park, but it’s not exactly a walk over hot coals either. As long as you go into the exam having some knowledge of what to expect, you will be fine. Like many people, I am not a good test-taker by nature, and my experience on the PSAT didn’t exactly go well. As I’m sure you can imagine, walking into the SAT the first time around was, well, nerve-wracking. When I walked out though, all I could think of was how foolish I was to have been that worried. The SAT is worth putting time and effort into, but it isn’t worth obsessing negatively over.
What I Thought: This is going to hurt my chances of getting into my dream school.
What I Know Now: Actually, the SAT is not the most important factor in the college application process.
Looking back, I was convinced that my SAT score would lead to a rejection from my dream school because I couldn’t quite make the recommended SAT minimum score that my first choice school set. I almost settled on my safety school because I feared my SAT score would prevent me from getting in. Now that I am a junior at my dream school, I can tell you that is not the case. Many colleges are now going SAT-optional, including my very own, and there is a declining shift on the amount of attention a college pays to SAT scores. While it is important to take the SAT and keep in mind the minimum score a particular college sets for its applicants, your score won’t destroy your chances. Colleges are looking more closely on what the applicant does in and out of the classroom, as opposed to a score on a five hour long test. Long story short, colleges are beginning to care more about your high school grades and who you are as a person, rather than a score on the SAT.
What I Thought: I won’t get any scholarships if I don’t get a high score.
What I Know Now: You don’t need a perfect score to get a decent scholarship.
I’m not going to lie, I don’t remember what I got on the SAT, but I think my personal score is worth mentioning. After I superscored it, I think it came out to somewhere around a 1650. It’s a bit far from a perfect score, but it’s certainly not bad. Back when I was applying to colleges, though, I wasn’t sure if my SAT score was high enough to guarantee me enough scholarships. Like many of my other fears though, this one was unwarranted. I ended up with a decent scholarship to my private college that proved advantageous; I still ended up paying less per year at my private college than at a state school.
College is a rather large financial endeavor and there are plenty of reasons to be worried. Something to keep in mind though, it’s easy to find apply for other scholarships that are not through your college. A quick Google search can lead you to other scholarships that are based on a variety of other factors, so it will be feasible to find one that is right for you.
What I Thought: What everyone else got on the SAT is important.
What I Know Now: Only my SAT score matters and it won’t matter for very long.
I still remember having those days in high school where my classmates would be getting their SAT scores back. They would do the typical high school student thing and go around asking, “hey! What did YOU get?” It was a common conversation in those hallways and I’m sure it still is in high schools everywhere. I would overhear people talking about their SAT score and immediately feel inferior and nervous if it was higher than mine. The fact of the matter is, what everyone else got on the SAT didn’t―and doesn’t―matter. What they got on their SAT is simply their own business. In college, no one speaks of their SAT scores. Once you get accepted to college, your SAT score no longer matters. As I mentioned previously, I don’t even remember what my exact SAT score is. Even my mother doesn’t remember my score.
When it comes to taking the SAT, it’s good to do some research on what to expect and it’s certainly a good idea to study as much as you can, but there are many other factors in the college application process. When you go to take the SAT, take a deep breath, bring lots of extra pencils and snacks, drink some water, and go conquer it! Above all, though, remember, the best thing you can learn from is your own experience, so don’t be too hard on yourself the first time around.