I’m going to tell you something that you won’t hear from anyone else in the test prep world.
Boosting your SAT score by 150, 250 —even 300 points—will not drastically change the course of your life.
I know it seems crazy for me of all people to make such a claim.
Aren’t I a test prep tutor?
Of course I am, silly goose. But as controversial it may seem, it’s true. How you do on the SAT won’t drastically change your future.
Skeptical? Let me make my case.
Money = Freedom
When you’re pursuing anything in life, you always have to ask yourself what your end goal is.
Why do you want to boost your scores?
To get into the best college possible.
Why do you wantv to get into the best college possible?
To get a good job.
Why do you want to get a good job?
To have a financially secure future.
OK. So, we’ve found the real motivation here. We want to boost our scores to be financially stable.
Whether you realize it or not, this is the end game.
We want to be in a position in which we can provide for ourselves and our families, have nice things, but, most importantly, have options.
There’s no denying: when you have money, you have options. Options = freedom. Freedom = bald eagles. And who doesn’t love bald eagles?
Want to live in a nice part of town? You’ll need money. Need surgery for you or your children? That costs dinero. Want to be able to eat sushi every night for the rest of your life? You get the idea.
So, it makes sense to give so much importance to a test that has a massive impact on your financial future.
That would make sense. The only problem is that your SAT scores have hardly any impact on whether or not you will be successful.
The Starbucks millionaire
To see what I mean, let’s contemplate a possible worst case scenario of your life.
You drop out of high school tomorrow, and start working as a barista at your local coffee shop. You work your butt off and make $35,000 a year. Being the diligent economist you are, though, you save $10,000 a year for the next 5 years.
After those 5 years, you’re now 22 (possibly 23) and you’ve amassed $50,000, which you invest into a mutual fund (a type of investment). When you do your research, you find a fund that grows your investment at a 9% annual rate of return (These exist. Don’t believe me? Go to https://vgi.vg/21c5oi2 and scroll down to US Stock Funds).
For the rest of your life, you don’t invest a penny more. You continue to work, covering your expenses and spending the rest of what you make on frozen yogurt, designer track suits, and vitamin water.
In this worst-case scenario, in which you’ve dropped out of high school and worked as a barista your entire life, just how much money would you have in that account by 67, the typical age of retirement?
That wasn’t a typo. You would have nearly 6 million dollars.
But with the advancements of modern medicine, in the future we probably won’t retire at 67. In fact, at that age some of you might even take a cross country road trip to Burning Man in your Jeep Wrangler.
So let’s see what happens when we let that money sit in the account for another 10 years. How much money would it be by age 77?
Just a measly $13,542,298
What is the point of all of this? Am I telling you…
…to drop out of high school? Nope.
…to not go to college? Nah.
…that there’s anything wrong with being a barista. God no. Who would make the coffee?
What I am telling you is that you don’t even need to go to college to end up with a buttload of cash.
Not too shabby.
Great SAT scores are the cherry on top
By every objective measure, you are currently living in the greatest time in the history of the world.
While as recently as the 20th century, millions across the globe died of starvation, today, with a few taps on your screen you can summon double bacon cheeseburgers to your doorstep in minutes.
When less than 100 years ago, you might have worried about dying of polio or tuberculosis, you now have the luxury of worrying about whether you’ll get free 2-day shipping on the dog toy you want for Penelope the Pug.
And as we just discussed, with a bit of planning, hard work, and discipline, there’s no reason why you can’t become incredibly wealthy.
Life is really good. Great SAT test scores are just the cherry on top.
If you have an ice cream sundae without the cherry on top, don’t you still have an ice cream sundae?
This needs to be your baseline perspective from here on out.
Do I want you to get the best scores, the most acceptances, and the largest financial aid packages possible?
That’s why I wrote this book.
But don’t make the mistake of equating your performance on this one test with your long-term success.
Getting your best test scores is the cherry on top of an already amazing life you have ahead of you.
When you stop caring so much, results come
It’s rare to come across a student who is struggling with their SAT scores because they just don’t care enough. Most of the time it’s caring too much that keeps them from achieving their true potential.
By overly obsessing about how we NEED to get a certain score, how it will be the end of life as we know it if we don’t, we generate enormous pressure that keeps us from achieving our intended goal.
Don’t get me wrong: putting pressure on ourselves can help us achieve goals, but only to a certain extent. You see, there’s an optimal amount of attention and effort you can give to something.
It seems obvious that when you care too little, you won’t take the necessary action to achieve your goal.
If you don’t brush your teeth, they’ll fall out.
If you don’t water your plants, they’ll die.
If you don’t study or prep for the SAT, you won’t improve.
In our taking-action culture, what isn’t as obvious is that caring too much can be equally as ineffective.
If you brush your teeth 6 hours a day, you’ll wear down the enamel, and they’ll rot and fall out.
If you water your plants every 30 minutes, they’ll die.
If you give the SAT an inordinate amount of importance in your mind, you’ll freeze up on test day and bomb it.
Stop putting insane pressure on yourself. Detach yourself from the outcome. Forget about your self imposed expectations of perfcetion (see what I did there?)
As I hope I’ve convinced you, in the grand scheme of your life, this test matters very little. Knowing that, you can give yourself permission to give it your all, make mistakes along the way, learn from them, and simply accept the results.
It’s when we’re most relaxed that we can achieve our best performance.
When you understand that, not just intellectually, but with every fiber of your being, you’ll be in a state conducive to achieving your highest score possible.
This was an excerpt from our upcoming book on SAT prep “SAT Mastery: the ultimate test prep guide”
If you enjoyed it, please show your support by sharing with your friends or someone getting ready for the upcoming SAT!