October. The heat’s really and truly broken, candy corn is back in stores, and the kids are well entranched at school. But, if you’re the parent of a 16- or 17-year-old kid, chances are you’re about to head into the stress of SAT season.
So what do you do when you pick up your weary and pencil-stained progeny after the test and he tells you he wants to cancel his score and start all over again? Do you say you’re sure he did better than he thinks and not to worry—or play it safe with a score that can have a big impact on his future?
“I don’t recommend that students cancel their score unless they have a complete mental breakdown the day of the exam,” says Alex Weiner, owner of Collegewise, a test prep firm in North White Plains. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, students do a lot better than they think they did.”
Weiner, a veteran educator of almost 25 years who has worked with celebrities and calls himself “the Neiman Marcus of tutors,” says most students who want to cancel think (erroneously) they’ve done poorly, often because of first-time jitters or distractions. He recommends practicing the test beforehand so kids know what to expect.
“Not paying attention to timing,” Weiner adds, can also be an issue, so he sends his students with wristwatches and other just-in-case items—like extra pencils, calculator batteries, and ear plugs—in a “battle pack.”
Today’s test-takers have until the Wednesday after the test to cancel their scores, but, even if students really believe they’ve fallen apart, Weiner says there are other considerations to canceling. There may not be enough time to take another test before college applications are due, and, as of 2010, many colleges (though not all) let kids send only their best scores. Applicants can take the risk of seeing how they did because they can decide not to send the score later if it’s bad.
Another complication is that you would have to cancel all scores you took that day, so students could wipe out a number of good scores just to hide one that may be so-so. Finally, the students your son or daughter is competing against for an admissions spot probably took the same risk.
“Anecdotally, it’s a non-issue,” says Weiner. “I’d say less than five percent of my students cancel their scores.”