13 October 2010

Pick your gift for accident...

My PSAT experience:

Eleventh grade: Mrs. H., high school career and college counselor: "You need to sign up for the PSAT."

Me: "Umm. Okay. What is that?"

Mrs. H.: "Preliminary SAT. All college-bound juniors should take it."

Me: "How much does it cost?"

(Because poor kids always have to figure out where they're going to come up with the funds for this stuff.)

So, I register and get my practice booklet which goes into a pile of other stuff. I have more pressing things going on: my class is planning the homecoming dance, and I'm a student government rep. Because college-bound juniors also need to demonstrate involvement in non-academic school activities and volunteer stuff. And it happens that the homecoming dance is the night before the PSAT.

(You think I multitask these days?)

My best friend LS and I go to the homecoming dance, where we do stuff and have fun, and then we go back to her house where I'm spending the night. Around 1 am, I pick up the PSAT practice booklet and read the front cover. I get to the part where it says that the top 1% of juniors in the U.S. will qualify for consideration for a scholarship.

I snort, thinking "fat chance I'll manage that." And open the booklet.

For the first time.

I glance at the questions. Nothing overwhelming. Standard standardized testing stuff.

I go to sleep.

Four hours later, LS and I trundle over to the high school cafeteria and take the PSAT.

Six months later, I'm notified that I'm a National Merit Scholarship Semi-Finalist. A few months after, having "proved" my PSAT score with an even higher SAT and submitting an application and writing an essay, I'm awarded a four-year scholarship.

How did it feel? I was overwhelmingly embarrassed that I didn't take that test more seriously. Also, I was overwhelmingly relieved that I didn't take that test more seriously. Also, typically, I never take myself seriously. And it all worked out in the end.

The son's PSAT experience:

Eighth grade: The school notifies us that they are giving the son and his class the PSAT to determine how much coaching they'll need over the next several years to maximize their scores. I roll my eyes and point out to the son that he's already taken the SAT, and at the ripe old age of 13, scored 1900. His greatest challenge was the math section: he'd only had two weeks of geometry when he took it.

Tenth grade: The school notifies us that they are giving the son and his class the PSAT to determine how much coaching they'll need over the next year to maximize their score. I roll my eyes. The son scores the highest in his class. I ask him if he wants to enroll in an SAT prep course over the summer. He laughs at me.

Eleventh grade: The other mothers ask me which SAT prep class the son took over the summer. "None," I tell them. And duck.

(If you don't run with the herd around here...*shudder*)

Last week, the son received his PSAT practice booklet. Last Friday, I suggested that he do the practice test.

"Mom...," he said in that teenager voice. You know: are you nuts, old lady? I've almost already aced that thing...

"You know that I was a National Merit Scholar, yeah?" I asked, a little amused.

Yup. I pretty much saw the whites of his eyes.

So, today, he took the test.

"How'd it go?" I asked after he finished.

"One plus one is two. 'See Spot run.'" he droned.

He is, indeed, my son.

Go listen to some good music: "Your Hands (Together)" from the album Together by The New P*rnographers. No, as a matter of fact, I'm not bragging here, neither about my accomplishments nor the son's. I don't know why academic achievement makes everyone bristle. Substitute "gifted athlete" or "gifted artist" or "gifted musician" for "gifted academically" and no one gives a damn in quite the same way.

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