This post was written by Laura Hubbard, Director of Academics at Everydae. Laura has 10,000+ hours of tutoring and tutor-training experience. She was previously Director of Academics for the adaptive learning product ORION, directed curriculum creation at AJ Tutoring, and was a course writer at Chegg and manager at The Princeton Review.
The college admissions scandal (aka Operation Varsity Blues) shed light on an academic epidemic. And it’s not cheating celebrities or corrupt coaches. It’s bigger than that.
60% of high school students we surveyed this summer say they have anxiety around the SAT.
And it’s no surprise — they’re told that the test is going to determine their entire futures and it’s unlike any test they’ve ever taken before.
That stress is magnified by the college application process, which has incentivized students to frantically compete with one another instead of focusing on becoming the best versions of themselves. We all feed into it, especially parents. Not intentionally, but because the system trained us to be this way.
In the aftermath of the college admissions scandal, many have pointed their pitchforks at the SAT itself, calling the test inherently biased. This is all true, and is a good argument for why we should find another way of determining whether our children are ready for college. But as long as we’re stuck with the SAT (it’s unlikely to disappear anytime soon), we might as well actually prepare our students in a way that isn’t fundamentally insane. The SAT is supposed to be a reflection of years of work in high school — not whether or not you can afford to pay thousands of dollars to hire a private tutor or sit through a six week cram class.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Let me tell you a story.
I went to a public high school in South Carolina. We were known for two things: a terrible football team and tons of National Merit Semifinalists. The secret to both? Practice. (Or, in the case of our football team, lack of practice.)
We had a teacher who made it his mission to make the SAT feel like any other test. He taught at both our middle and high school, and after every test he’d give us a section of a PSAT for homework. By the time I got to junior year, I think I must have seen 20 complete PSATs. The PSAT and SAT themselves felt like any other test because I’d seen it all before — it felt normal.
I thought about Dr. B’s strategy a lot as a tutor. Because forcing students to cram for the SAT in prep classes and tutoring sessions isn’t just bad for learning. It makes the SAT into something exceptional. Something to be feared. This approach doesn’t help with student test anxiety… it feeds it.
As Director of Academics at Everydae, I’m a huge proponent of employing Dr. B’s teaching philosophy. We believe that part of ensuring student success on the SAT is making it a normal part of life, not something to be feared.
Instead of making our students show up for a cram-course six weeks before the test, we help them conquer the SAT in just 10 minutes a day in the months leading up to the exam. And by including information about college and career opportunities beyond the SAT, we help our students put their studies in context and connect what they’re studying to why they’re studying it.
Imagine a world in which preparing our kids for life after high school isn’t a stressful zero-sum game.
Instead of competing against each other, focus shifts to helping them realize their own full potential.
Instead of maintaining a system that facilitates procrastination through last-minute cram-courses, we normalize the process of preparing for high-stakes exams.
Sending celebrities to jail captures headlines. Making the SAT optional is not the worst idea. But neither solution cures the student anxiety epidemic that’s rampant across the United States.
We can alleviate some of that stress simply by changing how the world thinks about standardized tests and the college admissions process. It starts with demystifying them. And normalizing the process of preparing for them. We should reward effort over outcome. And growth over perfection. It’s time we help students realize their own potential, not society’s expectations of what that should be.
Everydae is a digital tutor for high school students. It helps them build their skills, their SAT scores and their confidence… all through 10-minute micro lessons that make studying feel like a game, not like a chore. Try it for free.