“I’m terrible on the SATs.” said Kerry, a junior at Choate. As has become routine, I reviewed Kerry’s scores and explained that scoring in the 92 percentile nationally is not terrible.
Routinely, I discuss the challenges of SAT and ACT scores with Connecticut students and need to impart the thought that these tests generally help Connecticut students when striving for admission to national colleges and universities.
Kerry’s example is part of what I call “Choate Syndrome”, the affliction of comparing oneself only against the most thinly sliced portion of the elite. Kerry thought she did poorly because her roommate (Choate is a boarding school) had a near perfect score and her three other close friends scored higher as well. I sometimes tell my students to get less high achieving friends if they are going to play the comparison game.
The Choate Syndrome could be renamed the Hopkins or Williams or Daniel Hand or Guilford or East Lyme or any other school location where students routinely perform higher than average.
In Kerry’s case, as it is with many of our students, I had to point out that her grades were very similar to the grades of students who attend public schools in Mississippi (nothing against Mississippi but the school systems are usually ranked last nationally). She looked confused for a second and then paraphrased my point: “my grades won’t differentiate me from a similar student from a less rigorous school but my SATs will.” Exactly. The SATs will actually be part of what helps Kerry attain her college dream.