Christina Bergamo is the Director of College Counseling at Trinity Hall. Questions? Email [email protected].
The Stress of the Test
Our school year began with our annual junior class college trip during the first week of September. This year, I decided to plan a trip for our 65 juniors to visit colleges in Upstate New York, and I have spent much of the last three weeks meeting with each junior individually to see what she thought about the schools we visited. I hope that by attending this trip, each student is able to better articulate what it is she wants in a college – big or small, public or private, traditional campus or city campus, etc. Of course, I always ask them if they have any questions for me, and most of the time the question is exactly the same: what do I do about the SAT/ACT?
It is no secret that standardized testing creates a state of panic in high schools students (and their parents) when it comes to the college admissions process. While over 700 schools across the country have gone “test-optional," meaning SAT or ACT scores are not required as part of the application process, the pressure to perform well on these tests is often the main focus of their late high school years.
At Trinity Hall, we try to create a culture that alleviates some of the pressure of the SAT and ACT. We in no way diminish the importance of these tests, but instead assist with their preparation, by implementing a year-long, in-school SAT prep course for the junior class, and a third trimester course for the sophomore class. The pressure of fitting in SAT/ACT prep classes in between school work, athletic and performing arts practices, part-time jobs, and family responsibilities proves to be challenging for most high school students. By providing our girls with a prep course during the school day, they are all given the same opportunity for success, and this, hopefully, alleviates a little bit of their stress.
We also reiterate the significance of the grades they receive in their classes as well as the classes they choose to take. Any college admission counselor will tell you, the work that is done in the classroom is paramount, and many times is the best indicator as to how well a student will perform in college. I can speak from experience that during the college application process the high school transcript is the first to be reviewed and ultimately the most important factor.
I also ensure that each student realizes that test-optional college admissions was created for a reason. Not all students are the same, and many times a student’s SAT or ACT scores do not accurately reflect how well they perform in the classroom, and certainly do not highlight their gifts and what they have to offer their future college. There are a number of incredible institutions that have become test-optional, the most recent being the University of Chicago, which will no doubt create a positive shift in the college application process nationwide.
Always remember: you are much more than a number and your perfect-fit college will agree.