“I’m terrible on the SATs.” said Kerry, a junior at Choate. As has become routine, I reviewed Kerry’s scores and explained that she had scored in the top 10% of the country. Far from terrible. Or -as she laughed when I said it – we would have to redefine terrible to include the bottom 90%!
Kerry’s example is part of what I used to 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 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. Now I just call it “Elite School Syndrome”.
In Kerry’s case, as it is with many of our students, I had to explain that the SATs were her friend.
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). Those who live in places like Shoreline, CT or Fairfield, CT should delight that they have a test that will be used to compare themselves against students nationwide.
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 most Connecticut students attain their college dreams.