Do the SAT and ACT Matter?

Today’s New York Times Magazine includes Deborah Solomon’s interview with Brian Greene, a Columbia University physicist who is, in his own words, “hot on the trail” of Einstein’s unified theory of the universe.

The interview touches on parallel universes and the fact that Greene’s mother still wishes he had become a “real” doctor. And then Solomon asks, “Do you think SAT scores define intelligence?”

“No,” Greene replies. “They define the capacity to answer questions on an SAT test.”

As recent acceptance letters from the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and other top schools demonstrate, it takes more than a single score to define how smart you are. Colleges have standards, but they know that potential students have a great deal to offer. They do their best to see you as the sum of many elements: grades, scores, activities, essays and more.

The mom of one of our students put it this way: “I never realized how important essays are to the admission process,” she said, reflecting on the challenges her son had faced (and overcome) during high school. His transcript was not perfect; he had a lot to explain. By her own admission, she and her son “complained loudly and often about the U of M supplement.”

But, as they realized when he was invited last week to audition for the University of Michigan’s prestigious Department of Music, Theatre and Dance, “U of M didn’t design their application as a form of torture. They designed it that way so they could see the whole person… It humanizes the process. Genius.”

So take your SAT’s and ACT’s seriously. At the same time, keep in mind that your entire life has brought you to this point. Make the most of who you are and what you have to offer. Keep those letters that say “Yes, we want you,” “No thanks,” or “Give us a few months; we’ll let you know” in perspective.

College is an important part of a long and fulfilling journey. Wherever you are headed, we at Wow wish you the best.