There’s been a lot of criticism and discussion over the SAT scandal at Great Neck North High School in New York. While the news articles and columns published in papers across the nation highlight the cause behind this scandal as pressure placed on today’s students, the writers don’t truly understand. The majority of these writers are grown men and women, many of whom attended high school and took standardized tests many decades ago. Times were different then. Pressure on students was not nearly as intense. The only person who can truly evaluate the stress behind the scandal in a current student.
The students involved in the scandal were wrong. A lot of media has been focused on the student accused of taking the test for the students, but it’s impossible to overlook the kids who were filling his pockets
with cash as he earned their way into college. Despite society’s gut reaction to scold these students, it’s hard for any high school student to not somewhat understand where they’re coming from.
The logic behind their poor decision is simple. Parents pile on the pressure and don’t seem to tone down until a top university has excepted their child. All this pressure builds up into a sort of stress that is unimaginable to a parent. While it is ridiculous to say parents don’t feel the same amount of stress their children do, it’s a different sort of stress. High schoolers are still kids and eager to please. A bad SAT score
will get them in trouble; secretly having a smart college student take the test for them and earn a significantly better score will make parents wallow in pride. In addition, many of them have felt little stress before ninth grade. The combination of classes (many of them AP), standardized testing, extracurriculars, scholarship applications and community service leave many of the more emotional kids teary-eyed at night. Parents get stressed too, but they’ve been dealing with it for years. In high school (especially eleventh grade, which is the year of the SAT/ACT for many), a hectic schedule and challenging courses are thrown on students’ plates for the first time all at once.
Such vast amounts of pressure was unheard of back in the late twentieth century. Teens back then had a lot going on too, but a couple honors classes, summer job and decent test scores got them into college. Now, as competition peaks, the stress shoots right up with it.
Of course, not every parent is like this. Students with parents who are on their case 24/7 about school, though, can likely relate to the poor decisions the students at Great Neck North made.
Now, this by no means justifies what the students in Long Island did (or paid to be done). But I guarantee a larger than expected number of high school students from New York to California have thought about pulling something along those lines at least once. The blame shouldn’t be solely placed on kids that cheat the system; after all, it’s society that applies such fierce pressure on students.