Test Prep

SAT's for Middle Schooler?

Question: Dear Dean, Thank you for reading my question.  My daughter is in Middle School and is in a talent program through a well known University.  In order to qualify for another program, they request that she take the SAT.  I am concerned that taking it too early and perhaps doing great on one part and doing poorly on another will "stick" with her through high school.  Can you shed some light on how Colleges/Universities view SAT scores sent prior to high school or if they will show up on her SAT record given the time lapse.  I've heard some schools require ALL SAT scores.  Thanks so much!!

If your daughter is in 8th grade or younger and takes the SAT, her scores do NOT become part of her permanent unless she submits a request to the College Board to have the scores saved. This request must be received before August of the year in which she tested, otherwise the scores go up in smoke even before she starts high school.

So colleges, including “ALL-SCORE” institutions, will never see her middle-school test results unless she specifically adds them to her cumulative report, which some (but not most) middle-schoolers elect to do. Even the universities that request these scores for their programs (e.g., Duke, Johns Hopkins) won’t receive them down the road, when your daughter is ready to be a freshman applicant, unless she does decide to keep them in her permanent record.

If you are worried that low ... or skewed ... scores from tests taken now might frustrate your daughter and thus have a negative impact on her self-image (“I TOLD you I suck at math!!”), you just have to assure her that the tests were designed for high school juniors, and that—while younger students may do well on them—they’re not expected to, and that uneven results are especially common at her age, when students may be ahead of their grade in math but are more limited in their verbal abilities, or vice versa. Although most parents of bright adolescents are terrified by tales of girls and boys who achieve near-perfect scores on the SAT while they’re still too young for Kotex or Clearasil, in reality the median SAT score (verbal and math combined) submitted to Duke’s TIP program is under 1,000, which is far less daunting.

So if your daughter is up for the challenge of the SAT ... and for the enrichment program that it may lead to ... there’s really no down side to it. But if she’s unhappy about this “opportunity” to do school work when she doesn’t have to, keep in mind that parents often view programs like Duke’s TIP and Johns Hopkins’ CTY as an express lane to the Ivy League and other "elite" colleges later on. However, although such programs are indeed well regarded, there are so many students these days who are involved in accelerated academic undertakings that they really don't help college applicants stand out in a hyper-competitive crowd, and you should only urge your daughter to take part if she herself is gung-ho.