I’m taking my first SAT tomorrow, and surprisingly, I’m not stressed out. I say surprisingly because I always thought I’d be having a panic attack the night before, but instead I feel fine, calm even, and instead of going over more practice tests, I’m sitting here writing a blog post.
Why? Because I want to share what I did to remain calm, so other people can too.
How did I end up feeling so calm the night before a test that might determine which colleges accept me?
- I didn’t talk to other people about the test. Period. I just decided that whenever people were talking about the SAT or ACT, the conversation stressed me out. Were they studying more? Did they have a tutor? How many practice tests did they take? What did they get? Should I take the ACT instead of the SAT, because someone said the reading comp was easier, even though I already prepped for the SAT? I realized that by staying focused on my own process, I could avoid the anxious thoughts and lack of confidence these conversations always left me with.
- I didn’t tell people when I was taking it. The last thing I wanted was people saying, “Good luck!” or “Are you ready?” when I might not want constant reminders that I had this high-stakes test in just a few weeks or days. I also didn’t want to deal with questions like, “How was it?” before I got my scores (what if I thought I did well but didn’t?) or the dreaded, “Did you get your scores back?”
- I won’t share my scores. Knowing that my scores are between me and the colleges I apply to makes me feel less self-conscious and less prone to comparing with others. If I don’t do as well as I want, I’ll feel bad if someone did better, and if I do really well, I might make someone else feel bad. So it’s not just that I don’t want to share my score–I don’t want to know anyone else’s score either. I want to avoid comparison completely.
- I was nice to myself. I can be really hard on myself if I miss a problem that I think I should have known, or I get a score on a practice test that isn’t what I think I’m capable of. So when I was prepping, I made sure to do the opposite: I complimented myself whenever I got something right, and I cheered myself on when I got something wrong. So instead of saying, “That was so stupid,” I said, “Now you understand it and you’ll get it right next time.” Being nice to myself made all the work less painful, and honestly I think I learned more than I do when I’m self-critical.
- I didn’t overburden myself or go crazy prepping. I know some people did a lot more work, or took more practice tests, or had expensive tutors, but I decided early on how much work I was willing to do in order to get my goal score and still leave me time for homework, activities, and downtime. I worked hard, but I also had some balance, so I don’t feel worn out going into the test tomorrow.
- I got enough sleep. See above. I feel rested, and research shows that getting enough sleep helps you perform well.
- I remind myself that SAT scores aren’t everything in college admissions. Our college counselors have said over and over that SATs are just one part of a student’s application. I can go test optional. I can get a perfect score and still not get into my first choice school. Not everything depends on this one test, so I’ll go in, do my absolute best, and then move on.
Okay, I’m going to bed. Hope this helps someone out there taking an SAT or ACT 🙂