A Test of Potential for Success

We are deep in the throes of college applications at our house. Things are getting intense; there’s so much to consider. And so many applications to look at, both for the schools and scholarships. We are narrowing things down while keeping his options open. How’s that for non-committal? I think he might be ready to say for sure where he’s going. I’m not. And I have no idea why not.

In this process we’ve learned a lot about college admission exams. Namely the ACT. Oldest son is taking the ACT for the 4th time as I write. We all hope this is the last time. Of course he is trying to reach that magic score that means a significant renewable scholarship. No pressure, Son. It’s just thousands of dollars riding on this test. See, he has met all the other requirements; class rank, GPA, rigorous course of study. Just the ACT score remains. They say it is a good judge of how successful a student will be in college.

I disagree.

On a couple levels.

I think its a reflection of natural ability or aptitude, years of rigorous courses, test-taking skills and a parents ability to pay for special tutoring. The reality is, if you have the money for the tutor, you can most likely raise your score. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing – I do believe in capitalism after all. But to say it is an indicator of whether you will be successful in college? I don’t know. More a reflection of the perseverance to keep taking the test until you get the score you want/need. More a reflection of the expectations put on you by your family – you have to get a better score. More a reflection of your parents’ ability to pay for additional help. I suppose all those could be considered contributors to a successful college career. I just think of the kids who weren’t told to take the test many times, who didn’t know where to get practice tests. Who’s parents don’t have the money to enroll them in an ACT prep class. Are they destined to fail?

I believe there are much more significant factors in whether a student will be successful in college. Things like, can they balance a checkbook? Have they had to live within a budget, keeping track of expenses and income, saying no to fun activities when they aren’t in the budget? Have they lived in close quarters with others? When you move into a 12 x 14 ft room with a total stranger, those quirky little things become really big things. The potential for conflict is great and if they’ve never had to negotiate, compromise or give-and-take they are at a huge disadvantage. Have they had to budget their own time, manage their own meals and keep their own schedule? The dining hall won’t make them a sandwich when you get home from a late study session. And a professor isn’t really concerned with the fact that you had to work last night. College requires students to be self-sufficient. Where’s the assessment for that? Who is asking the student if they know what they are getting themselves into and if they have the determination to go the distance to get their degree? I think that’s what will determine their success.

But, it doesn’t really matter what I think now does it? I’m pretty sure the colleges aren’t going to revamp their system because I don’t like it.

And from the look on Oldest Son’s face when he got home from today’s attempt, there are more ACTs in his future.

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Filed under School, Senior Year

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