The Woes of An 800

I never thought I'd be unhappy with a perfect score.

I had been trying for months to raise my SAT Writing score when it happened: this past March, I got an 800. And yeah, I was pretty ecstatic. It may have been dumb luck (most 800s are, theoretically, since a stray bubble or two can destroy a perfect score), but I was pretty darn proud of myself.

I felt like the writing section posed a personal challenge. Writing is my "thing"; it's my favorite thing to do, the one talent I rely on most. I'm hoping to study writing in college and pursue a career in journalism (fingers crossed!). I want to prove to colleges I'm a good writer; I wasn't about to let any SAT score indicate otherwise.

So I studied. I wrote practice essays, cleared out my library's SAT prep shelf, and rationed my hours of sleep a little more harshly. I worked my butt off, got the score I wanted, end of story, right?

Well... not exactly.

The sad thing is that while my score will (thankfully!) count at most schools, many top colleges don't accept the SAT Writing. They'll have no problem considering my math and critical reading scores but won't even look at the other third of my superscore.

I might be a little (okay, very) biased, but I don't understand the logic. Only considering two-thirds of a test seems strange. Schools trust the College Board to evaluate writing skills -- if they didn't, they wouldn't accept AP English exam scores. I don't know why this trust doesn't extend to the SAT.

Sure, the writing test is just that: a test. And, much as the College Board would like to deny it, with every test there are tricks .Just ask anyone whose written or read a test prep book. A 25-minute essay and 80 multiple choice questions might not be the best indicator of student writing ability, but it's no less valid than the reading or math sections. After all, if the College Board can't evaluate how well I write, why should they get to place a number on how well I read?

I don't really have a right to complain. I should just be grateful for my score. I realize how spoiled this sounds:"Oh, poor me, I got an 800 and not every school I apply to will see it!" The majority of these schools will, though, and they'll understand why I'm proud of that score.

But the fact is, the SAT is important. (A college representative I talked to on a campus tour told me the test "matters less than you think and more than you want it to.") It's the tool colleges use to compare me to other students, ones at schools completely different than mine. Not all As are created equal; a perfect GPA at one school might translate to a B+ or worse at another. Love it or hate it, the SAT is at least meant to be an equalizer. The test -- the whole test -- has a place and a purpose.

I just wish more colleges knew that.