Stories and insights on excellent education.
Pick up your pencil: you may now begin. First section — done. Check the work carefully as you go. The next problem is too difficult to solve in the allotted time, so ‘fail’ fast — and tackle another one. Fifteen minute warning. Pencil down; I’ve finished early.
When people see your SAT score, they often don’t know anything of the process that brought you to that number. It takes around three hours to complete the test, but preparing well involves months — and years — of learning. Not only do you need to manage time under pressure, you also need to navigate complex reading passages and mathematical ideas, and master difficult vocabulary and college-style writing. You have to think critically about new experiences and be able to respond to challenges effectively; you need to know how to think on your feet.
Of course, it’s the scores that catch all the attention. They’re crucial for college acceptance and financial aid. When you do exceptionally well, you just might even be applauded by the College Board (developers of the SAT). And while I was proud to have earned the highest score of my class — a score that places me in the 97th percentile of all test-takers in the nation and earned me a nomination to become a National Hispanic Recognition Scholar — I know the real importance of this test is not only about the numbers.
Many people understand that you need strong scores to get into elite colleges, but they don’t realize how much our education system is flawed — that it often stacks the odds against minority students. So the top score isn’t always what’s the most important. Together, my class and I achieved an average score that was far above the rest of the country’s. It wasn’t just me who took part in this achievement — it was all of us.
My whole class — all minority students — proved that your skin color does not determine your mental capacity. It does not determine your capabilities. We’re showing everyone that, regardless of where you come from or what area you grew up in — South Bronx, anywhere — it does not affect your capability to be great.
We’re showing everyone that, regardless of where you come from or what area you grew up in — South Bronx, anywhere — it does not affect your capability to be great.
Preparing for the SAT meant surviving the ups and downs together. As the founding scholars of Success Academy, we’ve supported each other for nearly 12 years. We drive each other to be better, and I believe that it’s this collective commitment that pushed us to achieve something momentous on test day.
On a personal level, our achievement lines up with my own goals for the future. We need more women in STEM careers, and we especially need more women of color. This would change so many social barriers and constructs that have been in place for too long. I would like to be hands-on and involved in the field; I want to connect my work in STEM to political and social areas so that I can create change.
That’s what we’re doing here. We’re breaking so many different barriers in terms of our scores. I can strive for acceptance to top STEM programs like at UC Davis (in fact, I attended a summer STEM program there, and loved it). As a class, we refuse to be held back simply because of gender or skin color or zip code, and definitely not because of test scores.
It’s been an intense journey. From the funny celebrations — when our principal Mr. Malone would toss us candy for our achievements — to the serious (and sometimes scary) moments of openly assessing our practice test scores on the Smartboard, we came a long way together. Taking the SAT is not just about testing and doing well; it’s about stretching your mental capacity and your academic abilities. Judging by the strides we’ve made together, I can’t wait to see where we’ll be this time next year. I have a feeling we’re only getting started in our accomplishments.