If you’re a high school junior or senior, you’ve almost certainly been asked this question multiple times. Of all the questions people ask to compare themselves to others academically—What did you get on that quiz? How many sources did you cite in that paper?—it’s the question I hate the most and one I’ve decided not to answer.
If you’re taking the SAT or ACT this year, let me tell you why I chose not to share my scores, so that you can think about what feels right to you when the inevitable question comes up.
We put too much emphasis on what these tests mean. Most of us think that people who do well on these exams are “smart” and those who don’t are “less smart.” That’s just not true. These tests measure how you do on a particular kind of test on a particular day, which is very different from anything you’re going to be doing in college. There are all kinds of intelligence, and even students who do very well in their classes might not score as high on these kinds of exams. I happened to have done well (only after three tries!) but I don’t share my scores because I don’t think they reflect anything about my intelligence. I scored high because I spent a full year preparing, I learned how to “do” the test, and I got lucky that the last test I took clicked. I’m no smarter than anyone who had a lower score. Even I had low scores on tries one and two.
The tests aren’t fair and equitable. This has long been an issue with these exams. People whose parents can afford expensive tutors can bring their scores up significantly. People who go to schools that “teach to the test” and have more resources tend to do better. People whose parents are highly educated and built these skills into their homes from a young age have an advantage. I took the test because it helps me for college, but I also feel ambivalent about this because I know the tests are rigged in my favor.
It adds to college admissions stress. We’re already comparing ourselves to our classmates as we submit our college applications. The process is inherently stressful, and when I hear about someone who scored higher and wants to go to the same schools I do, it just messes with my mind. On the other hand, if I hear about someone who scored lower, I don’t like the sense of relief I feel. I don’t want to be happy because someone did less well. That’s not the person I want to be, so I’d rather not know other people’s scores, or share mine, because I know other people will feel bad about themselves if I did better, and good about themselves if I did worse. I want to avoid that kind of mindset in myself and my friends.
Everyone handles the question, “What did you get?” differently, but remember, you can always just say, “I’d rather not say.” For me, it’s a way of taking care of myself when I have so much else to worry about as I send in my applications.