When the PSAT scores came home earlier this year that envelope was opened as fast as any birthday present. I’m not sure, really, what the results actually mean. They say the scores are rough predictors of future SAT scores. So, for instance, if you earn a 200 on your combined PSAT, you can expect to earn about a 2000 on your combined SATs. 2400 is the Holy Grail.
There are, however, some variables, they say. Your student will be months older when he or she takes the actual SAT (for the first time). He or she will have had those additional months of substantive instruction. And, very importantly, he or she might have taken an SAT prep course. Omni Test, Horizons, Kaplan, Sylvan, you name it. We willingly pay the small fortune for these courses, in hopes of helping our children improve their SAT scores by 100, 200, some say even as much as 400 points. These can be life-changing numbers for a kid whose GPA alone won’t earn that letter of admission. Or so we believe.
Oddly, we heard no comparisons. There was no chat about who in the class had done well and who had not. Something good has happened with our children, and they have learned to respect each other’s privacy. Or, perhaps they have learned to protect themselves. If you are not asking, then you are also not telling. Maybe they have begun to mature or evolve to that place where we adults now stand, where your position relative to others in the professional world is not something you talk about with polite company—it is a subject reserved for you and your supervisor, or you and your spouse or partner or closest friend.
For most of us, our kids have also taken the SAT by now… Scores are in, and I can tell you the numbers do not always go up from PSAT to SAT. I think the truth is, “test day” may be as important as the number of prep classes your child has taken. Our daughter took SATs on the Saturday following mid-term exams. She was fried. No matter she had learned all the tricks for easy elimination on the multiple choice format, no matter that she understands the quadratic equation. She was tired, and a tired kid is not a good test taker. They don’t really focus on these common sense pieces to test prep at the fee-for-service operations. We know she will take the SAT again – most kids do. But now we know it is not all about the prep course (although we remain hopeful that our investment is not a waste!). Tests are tests are tests, and sometimes your teenager performs to ability, and sometimes not.
So, congratulations, I say! Whatever that PSAT or SAT score was, I say “good job!” As we do for ourselves in real life, I will encourage our kids to try harder, do better if they can the next time, and learn something. But, as in real life, we must acknowledge where we stand right now. Not everyone will get that 2400 on the SAT, and not everyone can be the MVP at work. For all you overachievers out there, a disappointing score might spur you to action. But for the regular kids, I say love yourself. The world will meet you where you are.