I was chatting with a high school student recently. She is in her junior year, the tell-all year. She spoke of college visits, future plans, and of course the SAT's. While I am past my standardized testing high school days, I couldn't help but draw some parallels: why life is like the SAT's.
- There are expectations. Lots and lots of expectations.
- It is tempting to disregard the directions.
- It is important to read the entire question before blurting out an answer. An informed response will draw better results.
- A majority of the questions have an exact answer, even if we disagree with it. And we can only pick one: the agony.
- The remaining questions are open-ended. Despite our sincerest wishes otherwise, there is no clear cut answer. Even worse, a stranger may judge our efforts.
- We are confined to the constraints of a demographic. Vibrant, multifaceted and unique people diminished to an age, race, and/or gender.
- Not everyone performs well, relatively speaking. Their talents will manifest in other ways regardless of pressure to conform.
- It is time-bound. As a result there is an indescribable urgency to get it exactly right.
- There are instructions to color within the lines, but the temptation to break outside the boundaries is ever present.
- It would be wonderful if it came with a handy sheet of formulas. A Pythagorean theorem to get through a breakup, or losing a loved one. A universal equation for picking the right job, the right spouse, the right path.
As much as life might seem like the SAT's using cheeky little analogies, and I do love analogies, the bottom line is life is not a test. There are no answers, no clear cut directions. No score that dictates exactly where we belong. There will be pressure to do the best we can. To get the perfect score. (MTV even made a movie about this...)
We may feel like we didn't perform well enough. But at the end of life, an SAT score won't make a smidge of a difference. The people we were, will.