Hey prospective Penn Staters! The SATs are this weekend, and while there are probably a few other things you’d probably be spending your time doing, the SATs are a crucial part of the college application process– especially if you want to be a Nittany Lion! It’s been a little while since I’ve taken them myself, but I like to think that I did pretty well and that I still have a few helpful hints and pieces of advice for all of you high school juniors and seniors.
1. Don’t Cram
This is a mistake that so many students make, and it ends up backfiring! Don’t stay up the last two nights before the exam trying to memorize every flashcard. Focus on key themes that you’ve struggled with in the past and study leading up to the exam. Once you’re a day or two before the exam, you should be focusing on physically and mentally prepping to be in the best condition possible to do the best you can do.
2. Bring in Backup
I’m talking calculator, pencils, erasers, etc. You don’t want to be in a time of crisis and your calculator batteries run out, or your calculator breaks, you realize that your eraser is leaving weird smudge marks all over your exam packet, or there isn’t a pencil sharpener to be found. If you have extras of everything you need, you will be able to stay much more calm during the test (well, calmer anyway!). Make yourself a checklist of everything you need, set those things out in a bag (aforementioned things + student ID, for example) and leave the checklist on the front door so that you won’t forget anything or be scrambling the day of.
3. Rest Up and Eat Up
These tips may sound like they’re straight from your mom, but it’s true– you’re going to do so much better on a good night’s sleep than if you decided to stay up all night with friends the night before. Don’t make any plans to stay up late the night before or to do anything physically or mentally exhausting. Get a decent breakfast the morning of and give yourself enough time to wake up before taking the exam. Set several alarms and put your alarm clock across the room so that you will have to get out of bed to turn it off. If you are driving yourself to the exam, see if a parent or sibling will volunteer to make sure that you are awake.
Never panic. If you don’t know a question, circle it and come back to it later. Keep an ongoing list on scrap paper of questions that you would like to come back to if you have time. Take deep breaths along the way– in through your nose, out through your mouth. The SATs are important, but they aren’t everything. Colleges look at SAT scores, but they also look at high school grades, extracurriculars, recommendation letters, and all sorts of other amazing things that you have done. You will be great– just believe in yourself.