First Person

The SAT is unfair. My son is studying for it anyway.

It’s hard to quit the college admissions game.

When the national scandal over college admissions broke last spring, my son was preparing to take the SAT. Our family avidly read reports of how some wealthy parents had paid proctors to take the SAT for their children and had even manufactured false athletic credentials in an effort to boost their children’s chances of getting into selective colleges. We found these she­nanigans entertaining, if unsettling.

As I read these reports, I had to recognize in myself some of the same anxiety that drove these parents to pursue their schemes. My husband and I had just been discussing whether to hire an SAT coach for our son. That’s perfectly legal, of course, and hardly the same as bribing someone. But I had never seen myself playing the college admissions game even to this extent.

Our family’s philosophy of education had never included an emphasis on test scores. We had chosen the place we lived not because it had great schools and a record of academic achievement but because we wanted to live in a diverse community in the mountains. We loved the grittiness of the town. We loved that our son could spend many of his days tromping through the woods. When friends talked about how their children attended International Baccalaureate schools and took AP classes, we replied by saying something about the “unique experiences” we were creating for our son.