SAT Pressure: Thoughts From Past, Present, and Future Test-Takers

Among both upper-and-underclassmen alike, the SATs have amassed quite a reputation among high school students everywhere. With the test widely considered the determining factor in college admissions at schools across the country, both stress and stakes are incredibly high. But recently, several universities have shifted away from using the scores, with student perceptions beginning to shift as well. Is it possible that the SATs don’t fully show what students are capable of?

“I feel that it’s unnecessary pressure for students,” says junior Adrienne Hunter (‘25). “I really struggled with the PSAT and tests like it, for some reason. I had good enough grades and I wanted that to reflect in my scores, so I feel like sometimes there’s a disconnect, and the scores don’t reflect the whole person.” 

Opinions like this have started to resonate with lots of students. Fearing years worth of academic progress begin reduced to a simple score, some have even opted not to send their results in.

“I chose to not send in my number beforehand,” said senior Fiona Stoker (‘23). “I would have felt like just a number to them if I sent it in.”

Around the country, more and more universities have begun to stop taking score submissions entirely, instead focusing on GPAs, recommendation letters, and high school transcripts. In Michigan alone, only two universities require SAT scores as part of the application.

“If you get a low score, you don’t have to send it into colleges,” said Stoker. “That was nice. Even if you do bad, don’t worry about it.”

Some students, however, approach standardized testing with a different outlook, seeing it as an opportunity to grow more than anything else.

“I don’t stress about it that much,” said sophomore Anna Brant (‘25). “Just take it as practice for you to understand what’s going to come. It’s more of an experience than something that’s going to define you.”

Is there such a thing as trying too hard on tests? While a lot of students spend loads of time studying and stressing out, others feel that some of the preparation isn’t really necessary.  

“I see and can understand why other people get more stressed,” says sophomore Jordan Nelson (‘25). “With the majority of Americans taking the college route out of high school, it seems like quite a big milestone. But, when people approach it, they put too much mental faculty behind it.”

Stress might be high, but it’s important for students to remember that SAT scores don’t define them. Options still remain, and it’s clear that the test is no longer the make-or-break for college admissions it was once considered to be.