August 27, 2014

Third Prize #2: The Number

Third Prize #2: Madison Tschauner, Hastings, NE: University of Redlands

The Number

Five.  That is how many times I sat in that insipid room lined with chairs exactly three feet apart for four agonizing hours, number two pencil in hand, banking my future on the ACT.  Each time, a result of my disappointment in the previous score:  the score that is nothing more than a number that defines me to those who view it.  Over and over again I’d ask myself: How is it that I’m such a smart student in front of the books and in the classroom, yet so overwhelmed the moment I’m faced with a test booklet and an answer sheet coated with bubbles?  Throughout my college application experience, it was “the number” that gave me the most obstacles in the process.

Fifth grade was the pivotal year when my love of learning was transformed into a perfunctory education in test-taking.  I became a soldier who could prove that 36 points could get me into any college with abundant scholarships. The sacrifice of having a perfect number resulted in insufficient learning, an education ripped of the arts, leaving children wishing years later they had played the violin.  I know that I had been taught how to find the circumference of a circle, but I was never given the opportunity to find purpose in how all those numbers can collide and separate to give the correct answer.  Maybe if I’d been taught more thoroughly rather than for a test, I would have had a clearer picture of my future on graduation day.

Prior to taking the test, there was this small part of me that believed for once I could magically rock a standardized test after a three inch test-help book and hours of prep-tests.  Post-test I felt silly for thinking my intelligence could be measured in such way and still come out impressive.  I was embarrassed and discontented.  How was I going to get into the colleges I wanted to with only an average score?  I’ve always aimed far above average and this was one area I couldn’t grasp that goal.   I started researching all my college options, taking the “what are your chances” tests and observing what criteria I met.  I was always a few points shy when it came to that dreaded number yet outstanding in all other aspects.  I would continuously overhear my peers discussing their scores, and it never failed that someone was upset knowing how easy it was for others to attain that thirty or above.  This often left me uneasy as I found myself encouraging someone else’s feelings of inadequacy.  Sadly, I was the one who needed this pep talk and I can see that now, months later, after I have finished the crucial yet exciting process.

Ten.  That is how many colleges accepted me with superb scholarship offers, each of them confident in my ability to succeed regardless of that “number.”  For those who struggle as I did:  Although the ACT is a very important step in the college entry process and a high score is exceptionally valued, it is not an assessment of who you are as a person or student and it will not deter you from success.  It is one smidge blank on your application; know that you shine on many others.  You are more than “the number.” I am more than “the number.”

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