College Admissions and Test Prep: “It is what it is”

By General Education Advice
We have to teach our children how to deal with reality.

I recently sent a note to my son at college.  He was complaining about how strict dorm life was compared to how I described my experiences at the same college.  I was in college in Washington, DC, one of the last places in the country that had a drinking age of 18.  I was actually surprised about how strictly the “no drinking” rules are enforced and almost felt badly for him as being a freshman boy leaves him and his buddies at the mercy of upperclassmen to let them into apartment and house parties.  Then I gave him my lecture on dealing with whatever reality has been presented.  He could complain or just realize that these are the rules. If he will continue to attend his college, then he will have to abide by them.

So, it is with standardized tests.  I used to feel far more self-conscious about telling parents that they should prep their children vigorously.  Giant self-interest alert.  But now that I have worked with Connecticut students for 15 years and have my own three children going or getting ready to attend college, I know what I do for my children so I feel less self-conscious in suggesting that others follow what I do myself.

I always note that there are exceptions… but for most competitive colleges, SAT/ACT and in some cases SAT II scores matter A LOT.  I’ve commented elsewhere on the false narrative that scores do not matter that much.  It is true that many lesser colleges have eliminated test scores.  The reason is that these mostly lower ranked colleges are in financial peril and need both as many applicants and as many students as possible. For stronger schools – even the ones that claim test scores are optional – the tests matter.

Don’t shoot the messenger.  It is what it is.