College students reflect back on SAT

September 15, 2010 — by Shivani Chadha and Dylan Jew

As senior Kaitna Shankar heads to the parking lot after school on a Friday afternoon, she isn’t gearing up for a night at the movies or other entertainment. Instead, she is planning to study for the SAT she will take again in October—a last attempt to get her best score and gain entrance into her dream college.

The SAT is a standardized test that used to be required by all colleges, but now is only required by some and can be replaced by another standardized test, the ACT. Although the tests are recommended for juniors and seniors, some students begin studying as early as freshman year and devote hours to doing better on them. But how does the SAT come into use for students after they take it?

Despite the importance placed on the SAT during high school, many college students feel that it does not accurately define a person’s knowledge and ability to succeed in a college environment.

Saratoga alumnus Eric Jung, UCLA ’14, believes that the SAT only measures test taking skills and not work ethic or knowledge.

“I don’t think it predicts how well one will do in college,” Jung said. “I know people who did badly on the SAT but study and do well in college. But then there’s people who got a 2,400 that come to college and don’t know anything about working hard or time management.”

Jung said the SAT is easy to wing and study for in one night, but college tests are different since they require actual studying to do well.

“My advice for anyone worrying about the SAT is not to let that score define you, because no one cares about your SAT score in college,” Jung said.

When Saratoga alumni look back, they believe that too much stress is put on achieving the perfect score on the SAT during high school.

“Doing well in school is the main goal,” Saratoga alumnus Tiffany Tsao, UCLA ’10, said. “The SAT is only one aspect of this, and you need to focus on everything else as well.”

Instead of concentrating solely on the SAT, students should also spend time on extracurricular activities, such as leadership and community service, alumni said.

“SATs help colleges sort through huge numbers of people, but extracurriculars make people really stand out,” Tsao said.

The SAT is the tool colleges use to get a general idea of students’ academic abilities in an efficient manner, because there is no other standardized tool that can accurately gauge this on over 50,000 prospective students. However, some students have mixed feelings about the test. Shankar said she uses the SAT vocabulary in her everyday conversations but does not feel the same way about the other sections.

“I don’t think the critical reading or math sections have really helped at all,” Shankar said. “Maybe my stamina has increased on taking 4-hour tests, but otherwise I think it’s completely useless.”

High school students may think the four-hour SAT will prepare them for challenging tests in college, but some college students think otherwise.

“The SAT is nothing like college tests, which are much harder,” Tsao said. “The only tests the SAT is similar to are the grad school tests like the MCAT or the LSAT.”

Alumnus Amrit Rathi, UC Berkeley ’13, said one of the rare uses of the SAT during college is when students apply for college clubs. When students try to join clubs their freshman year, they haven’t had any semester grades yet. Because of this, clubs are forced to look at SAT scores for background information on new members. But aside from this process, the SAT does not play a factor whatsoever in college.

“The SAT is definitely not a test of how smart you are; it’s rather how well you can beat the test using different strategies,” Shankar said.

Despite the importance placed on the SAT during high school, alumni believe there is more to every person than a test score.

“A one-time test can’t depict what you’ve done during your whole life,” Jung said.