Tomorrow students across the country will take the new, overhauled SAT for the very first time. If you’re nervous about the changes (or about testing in general!), it’s understandable. After all, haven’t we been told that a greater score will increase our chances of getting into a good college? Doesn’t our academic fate lie in numbers printed on a simple sheet of paper?
The Scholastic Aptitude Test, commonly known as the SAT, was created to help colleges level the playing field during the admission process by quantifying a student’s abilities. Today the SAT tests students in three subjects—Critical Reading, Mathematics, and Writing—to create an overall score, one that many students believe will determine their academic future. However, test scores are simply one aspect of the college admission process and cannot truly depict a student’s capabilities, and many college admission officers ultimately understand this.
You want to know a secret? Do you want to know what colleges really look for during the admission process? Leaders: well-rounded students with a strong extracurricular portfolio and a high GPA. Your high school transcript is probably the most important part of your admission process. It shows the classes you have taken over a four-year period and just how hard you worked for them. In fact, a 2014 report showed that students with higher GPAs but low or modest test scores often performed better in college than students with lower GPAs and higher test scores. So, hard work does pay off.
Colleges want students who exhibit commitment and resilience, who have a diverse portfolio filled with aspiring potential. A student who participates in recreational sports, plays in the school band, and has good grades is much more attractive than a student who takes SAT prep classes for several months in order to achieve a higher test score. You see: tests are not everything. Sure, colleges do take them into account, but those numbers on a page do not average your intelligence. No test or grade ever can.
To make yourself stand out during the admission process, think outside of the box. Help out in your community and take a leadership role. Start fundraisers for your local food bank rather than volunteering for only a few hours. Create talent shows in your school and donate the revenue collected to your local charity. Write a book or create your own start-up business. These actions and many more are the ones that will truly make you unique and stand out amongst the others.
So do test scores really matter? Sure, they may have some importance, but they are just one piece of the bigger picture. Remember, you are never a number, but rather a complex human being. Show colleges that by becoming involved in your school and your community, and you’ll be on your way to a great education.