Last weekend, the College Board made the difficult but wise decision to cancel the SAT. They have now also cancelled the May exam, while the makers of the ACT have cancelled their April test date.
In light of these developments, what should teens be doing?
I am encouraging all my student to use this unexpected delay in testing to their advantage by setting their target scores higher and striving for loftier personal goals.
This shift in thinking has several benefits.
Psychologically, it is easier to stay motivated for a challenging, even audacious, goal than it is for a mundane, predictable one. The idea of getting a great score is simply more exciting that getting an okay one. Making this shift does not require working with a test prep professional, nor does it mean setting up an oppressive test prep regimen. Rather, it means adjusting one's mindset in a positive way and doing, say, 10 to 15 problems a night so as to keep making forward progress.
The important thing, for a number of reasons, is for students to stay on track with their test prep. The routine of doing their prep, alone, will be helpful psychologically. Attending to our responsibilities is one way we can all maintain a sense of continuity in our lives during this time of dramatic change. And on a practical level, of course, continuing with regular prep will help increase scores.
Learning and improving one's abilities are fundamental endeavors that both support human well-being. Our minds, like our bodies, need healthy, ongoing challenges to remain in shape. Regardless of when the SAT and ACT occur, applying oneself now to the puzzles and problems offered by these tests will increase mental fitness. To do well on the SAT or ACT requires clear thinking, focused attention, high levels of comprehension, and more. These skills and capacities will serve teens well in life and are worth cultivating for their own sake.
So, my message to teens is this: Set your sites high. Make good use of this unexpected "bonus" time. See if you can surpass your own expectations for yourself. And, then, when you do, see if you can do it again...