Spring is here and with that comes the inevitable SAT and ACT anxiety. Juniors and sophomores all over New York City, Westchester and Fairfield County are in the midst of preparing for these tests. With all the talk about whether or not these tests are still valid, you might think they were going away from the college process, but they are not. Since we have to deal with these tests as a necessary evil at least for the short term, I thought I would give some tips on how to survive this ordeal.
- As the parent, you need to be organized. You can take a lot of stress off your child if you know the dates for the exams, help your child sign up for them and at least act like you are in control of the logistics. Little things like having sharpened pencils, knowing where you are going, preparing a decent breakfast, or any breakfast, make a big difference to your child.
- Stay cool, calm and collected. Your child is already getting enough pressure from classmates, advisors, teachers and the general public. Even the most good-natured student is going to lose it if she is asked one more time what colleges she is thinking of applying to. Be the sounding board, stay positive and no matter what; don’t engage in the game with other parents.
- Support, support, support. This may take the form of supplying the right prep books, (I recommend the College Board Books) hiring a tutor (we have many test prep experts at the Learning Consultants) or buying the right amount of chocolate for late night studying. (I recommend tootsie rolls.) But support often comes in the form of being the sounding board and letting your child blow off all kinds of worries without you trying to fix it all or give advice. Often, they just need to rant and then they can go on their merry way back to studying.
- Stay involved but not too involved. The balancing act of being there at the right time, giving feedback at some junctures and staying quiet at others, can be very challenging. But this process should be about your child finding the right fit for the next four years, not about you telling them where you think they would best fit. Let them make a list of schools they think they might like without telling them what test score they need to get in. Let them set up their own approach to preparing for the SAT and ACT exams. Let them interview their tutor and be involved in who you hire. Then you can go back and tweak their ideas, make suggestions and offer assistance. But letting them go first calms the waters and makes them feel in control, and they really need to feel that during this process.
- Stay grounded. This sounds so obvious you may think it is silly to mention. But once you hear murmurs of how early Sally started test prep or how many colleges Mark has already visited, it gets challenging. Now imagine being in your child’s shoes. Remind them of all the other aspects of the college process that are important, not just the test score. And keep in mind that although it may not always feel like it, the student is choosing the school.
Lastly, as a tutor working with these students, I really feel for them. But I see how the simple act of sitting down one on one and going over the test and helping them with strategies so they know what to expect makes a huge difference. Their anxiety level falls in the first minutes that we start to talk about the test. As a parent going through this with my own daughter, it is much harder. I have to bite my lip a lot. And she really does not want to hear from her mother, even if her mother is a tutor. I see myself as the garbage disposal, a place for all her bad stuff to go, anxiety, worries, panics, concerns, however ridiculous I think they may sound. I just try to take it all in and dispose of it.