Auntie, I really need your help.
I have always identified myself as a smart, slightly nerdy girl who keeps her grades in tip-top shape and doesn't get in trouble. Everybody always says I'm intelligent, and I've always done well with standardized tests.
However, my SAT scores just came. And I am freaking out. I can't breathe. I did awful. Seriously, completely bad. I am in the lowest percentile. This is not a mistake, because I constantly checked my bubble and made sure everything was going well. My parents are furious. I don't know what to think. I felt fine taking the test. What went wrong? Am I stupid? Is that it? Why didn't I do well? I had a whole future planned out. I would go to an amazing college and find a job I love. But now, that dream is gone.
I'm starting to feel like I'm lying to everybody. I'm too stupid to be a Sparkler. Who am I, really? If I don't have my intelligence, I have nothing. What am I supposed to do?
With that attitude? Um, nothing, I guess! You're right! It's all over! Your life began and ended with the SAT, darling, and you might as well put on your Stupid Pants, bury your face in a vat of Cheez Whiz, and resolve yourself to a lifetime of working the fryers at Taco Bell and answering any and all questions with a vacant look, a smattering of drool, and a prolonged, "Duuuuhhhhhhhhhhhh."
THIS IS YOUR LIFE NOW, SPARKLER. ENJOY.
And let's be real, now: the only "stupid" here is the suggestion that a single bad day at the testing facility somehow wipes out the previous seventeen years of evidence that you're a smart, capable, valuable person who is destined to do good things. Even if you bombed the test (and we'll get to that in a second), one failure does not equal a life derailed. So no more "my dream is gone" stuff, okay? It's too silly! I won't stand for it!
And as for what happened... hey, who knows? Maybe your scores got crossed with another kid's; maybe your pencil was hexed by evil wizards; maybe you missed or doubled-up on an answer that threw your whole test out of whack. (I know from painful personal experience that this can happen even if you're careful.) Or maybe worse really has come to worst, and you've just learned an important lesson about a weak spot you never knew you had. But given your history of good grades and high standardized test scores, it makes much more sense to assume that your freakishly poor performance is just that—freaky!—and it makes no sense to conclude that you're a big, fat fakey failure who only thought she was smart. Trust me: if you were a latent dumbass, you'd have found out a lot sooner than this.
Meanwhile, I hope it goes without saying that any further SAT-related panic should be exchanged for a focused plan to re-study, re-take, and re-await your scores. (You are doing this, right? You should. And depending upon which colleges you plan to apply to and their admissions requirements, you might want to hedge your bets and take the ACT as well.)
See what happens. My guess is, it'll be something good—or at least, something markedly better than what happened the first time. But in the meantime, use this opportunity to make yourself the best possible candidate even with your current scores. Polish the rest of your resume to a high sheen. Look for opportunities that'll look good on paper, and for schools that take a more holistic approach to admissions and aren't such sticklers for standardized tests. And do this not just on the off chance that you're a very good student who's very bad at the SAT, but to remind yourself of all the things you have to offer beyond the ability to correctly mark a Scantron sheet on one Saturday morning out of your entire life.
I don't even know you, but I know you've got so much more going for you than that.
Did your standardized test scores send you into a panic? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at email@example.com.