A Project for Better Journalism chapter

Why your scores should stay silent

Dear Sophomores and Freshmen,

Never tell anyone your SAT scores and never ask for anyone else’s.

  As a child, I loved to learn. I was only in the first grade when I decided to write a report on Abraham Lincoln just for the fun of it. Throughout elementary school, I would write just to write. Somewhere in between then and high school, my excitement for education was diminished by an expectation of success. I was no longer writing to be happy; I was writing to achieve something. When I strove for recognition, the experience of writing became tainted. Yes, I am still fascinated with learning, but now, I’m fighting my way up an academic ladder. It is steep and uninterested in my work ethic or creativity. It is all about the numbers. Most importantly the number, one.

  Every day, I am surrounded by immense and diverse talent. My peers form one extraordinary crowd. While they each hold so much potential they become insecure if they take too long of a look around at everyone else. They think: “Well… we can all be great.” Searching for answers, they check out the competition to see what they have to beat. As a result, I know most of my friends’ SAT scores, and most of them know mine. This isn’t rare for teenagers today.

  Think about yourself. How many of your friends know your PSAT scores? Do you know theirs? My father told me that when he was in high school, students rarely prided themselves on their intelligence. They challenged themselves, but it wasn’t something they talked about. People minded their own business.He didn’t know anyone’s scores but his own. Now, all students are racing to be the first to the finish line instead of trying to achieve their personal best. Whether our generation’s misguided obsession with measuring ourselves against each other comes from the pressure surrounding college or a sharing-addiction created by social media, the result can be damaging.

  Students don’t realize how sharing scores can have a negative effect on their relationships. The sole reason that people ask each other what scores they get is to rank themselves. There is finally a numerical way to compare each other. Except they are wrong. The SAT is supposed to predict your success in college. It is a guess, an estimation. However, students let the numbers define them. They go around trying to find where they fit on a theoretical scale and they either become arrogant or hurt. One West Ottawa junior explained how comparing SAT scores caused trouble for her relationship with a close friend. “Hearing how my friend thought her score was horrible when mine was so far below hers made me feel insecure about my intelligence. I had always put myself on the same level as her, but now I feel like there is a divide between us.”

  When students ask each other “What score did you get?”, they are really asking “Am I better than you, or are you better than me?” In reality, it doesn’t really matter how you and your friends compare. SAT scores are primarily used to get accepted to colleges. Your goal should be to achieve a score that gets you admitted to your ideal college.

  As I started comparing my scores with other people, I felt robbed. My self-confidence was taken from me. How dare they? I can’t really blame my peers either since I gave them that power. I was proud of my score. It was a step up from the score I had received before and it could get me into a number of colleges that I would gladly attend. However, I couldn’t be proud of my progress because the score didn’t feel like enough. That’s what competition does; we never feel like we are achieving anything even when we are.

  The truth is that there will always be someone “better” than you in some way or another. You can let these thoughts hinder you or you can choose to look beyond this petty way of thinking. Competition can be good. Winning is the impetus of our generation. However, getting caught up in it can ruin you. Nothing defines you unless you let it. Set your own personal goals and work to achieve them. Be happy by your standards and no one else’s. I questioned myself and almost lost track of what was really important to me. Don’t make the same mistake as me and hold fast to your ambitions. Personally, I refuse to let someone else decide my fate and disappoint the little girl that just wanted to learn.