Cloud of dread

ACT/SAT loom over students while neglecting to consider their childhood

Story by Maddie Anderson, staff writer

I first felt the “college creep” my eighth-grade year: the ever-looming black cloud of dread and anxiety that comes with college admissions and taking the SAT and ACT. Counselors and teachers constantly drilled into students the importance of doing our homework, participating in school clubs and extracurricular activities, getting involved in the community and scoring well on exams. We were, and still are, constantly reminded of the severity of good grades and test scores, as these help decide our future schools and careers.

The mentality that school was the key to my future and my success followed me throughout my freshman year and completely dominated my studies. I felt that the pressure put on me to score well on the SAT and ACT affected how I perceived high school and beyond.

Taking these exams is an integral part of applying to colleges. The SAT and ACT tests structure learning all throughout high school, such as taking AP courses, and help to decide which university you will attend. They are offered every year to each grade— with emphasis on juniors— as they apply for scholarships and submit their application.

College Board offers the SAT seven times a year and the ACT six, and most students prepare during their sophomore year and summer before taking it their junior year. Since both exams are test-specific to skills of each course and grade, the question arises if high school freshmen have the requisite knowledge to score well.

Many who wait to take the exams debate the validity of test scores because it is impossible to determine whether a student has a deep understanding of a concept that they have never learned. In an interview with The Washington Post, Bruce Vinik, president of Vinik Educational Placement Services, expresses his displeasure at students taking the test at far too young an age. “We need to step back a bit and give our kids a chance to be kids and to enjoy their lives in high school. They should have the time to explore their interests both inside and outside the classroom without the constant worry of “college” hanging over their heads. By jumping into standardized testing before they need to, kids run the risk of burning out,” Vinik said.

Children should have the right to be children, without their success being limited by a 36 or 800 test score. By taking the SAT or the ACT freshmen year, a disservice is being made. Most freshmen haven’t prepared academically or matured enough to grasp such difficult subjects, no matter how many advanced classes they are in. For freshmen, there is no immediacy in taking the exam, so take the time to prepare in such a way that is needed.

Students should remain students, focused on their studies and school life. Let freshmen be freshmen, not statistics and exam scores over-shadowed by the black cloud of the college creep.