As a senior in college, I look back at my last year of high school remembering my college application process. Like any other ambitious high schooler, I wanted to get into the best of the best schools. Hearing time and time again from politicians, news anchors, family, friends, and SAT prep-course teachers that with the poor economy we had it was difficult for college graduates to find a job gave me a pessimistic perspective on the future. I had taken in all of the negative things people were saying about the economy and was convinced that the only chance I had at finding a decent job with a decent paycheck was by going to a highly competitive university.
While I had a good college resumé (A/B honor roll, good writing skills, extracurricular activity involvement, the works) there was one area that I defaulted in: my SAT scores. Although I took an SAT prep course, I did not do well. I barely scored above average in my writing and reading sections and well below average on the math section. When I saw my scores I began to hate myself and feel like I had blown my chances at being able to get a good job after college. I felt so embarrassed because my friend did very well on her SAT and as a result was on her way to an expensive private university out of town.
I didn’t bother applying to any schools I had been dreaming about because I thought it was over. None of those schools would want someone with awful scores like mine. I therefore enrolled at a university with a 99% acceptance rate in my hometown.
I was so embarrassed that I was going to that school. It was the only university in my city and students, friends, even COUNSELORS at my high school belittled it! I remember one counselor talking to me about not getting accepted into competitive schools and she said “well, this school is always a safe choice”. I was going to a “safe choice” school… I felt so inadequate. When senior year ended and pretty much everyone I knew was off to some fancy competitive school I stayed behind at the safe school in my hometown.
Fast forward to the present day and I am one year away from graduating from college. I’ve been working hard to finish my degree in French and my minors in Spanish and Translation. As a college student I’ve learned my “safe school” is just as good as any university with staggering tuition fees and low acceptance rates. I’ve had great professors who are experts in their fields that truly care about my success. I even got to study abroad in France for a semester…with a scholarship! Needless to say, I’ve had a pretty great college experience.
Now I know that what makes a college great is not its reputation on a Forbes top whatever list or how high your SAT scores have to be to get in, it’s you. You’re responsible for deciding how great or lame your college experience is. If you study hard and get good grades you will have a multitude of opportunities ready for the taking. And at the end of your college career, you’ll have the education necessary to get out there and chase the job of your dreams.
If only I had known all of this as a high schooler…if only I knew that college success is dependent upon you and not how difficult it is to get in. I could’ve saved myself a lot of time moping, hating myself and feeling like a failure. So while SAT scores do play a role in getting admitted into schools, it’s important to remember that the reputation of your school doesn’t decide your future, you do.