Allan Schwarz’s article, “Risky Rise of the Good-Grade Pill”, focuses on how some students use prescription drugs to enhance their academic ability to earn better grades and SAT test scores to ultimately position themselves for the university admissions process. Some of our students, particularly those through Envision Test Prep, our specialized division for students with learning differences, receive prescriptions for Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta, et al and use them to great benefit in their work. However, we have at times come across the question of using performance-enhancing drugs (PED’s) for students who do not clinically require them. It’s obviously a controversial subject – as it should be – but, as I see it, the topic actually helps to crystallize a core issue: student confidence.
As the CEO & Founder of CATES Tutoring in New York City with offices in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Westchester, and abroad in cities such as London, I personally have worked with hundreds of students – and CATES as a company thousands – from elite private schools in the New York area and all over the world. Our clients run the gamut: regular time, extended time, double time, 2400 caliber on the SAT test, students hoping to simply break 21 on the ACT test.
Over the course of the next few days, we’ll examine specific aspects of this article and lend some insight and guidance to help students and parents understand that a healthier attitude towards the US admissions process – whether you are from the Upper East Side, Scarsdale, or London – not only helps you succeed in the process, but also sets you up for success in your professional life.
Charity Begins at Home
As Schwarz’s article states, one of the “dealers” at Long Beach High School on Long Island plays upon the “burdens and insecurities” of their classmates. Playing upon insecurities was also cited by the current law student in Manhattan who dealt Adderall at his high school in Sarasota, FL, mentioning that the students who didn’t buy Adderall from him “would feel at a huge disadvantage.” The core issue here is that students are acting out of a place of fear rather than out of place of faith. If students felt more confident in their abilities to be successful by coupling their innate talents with consistent focus and hard work, students would feel less compelled to use PED’s.
This situation speaks to how the student needs to establish confidence early on so that he or she can build natural mechanisms to maintain and build self-confidence. Unfortunately, a lot of it relates back to parenting issues, where parents coddle and manage their kids’ schedules so much that the student does not develop the inner fortitude to be able to manage pressure on his or her own. Without facing their challenges head on, students can struggle to overcome fears and make them more susceptible to the draw of performance-enhancing drugs.
If you’re a parent looking to help your kid succeed in school, in the testing process, and college admissions process, here are some tips inspired by “Conquering the SAT: How Parents Can Help Teens Overcome the Pressure and Success” by Ned Johnson and Emily Warner Eskelen, which is a wonderful book I recommend to all parents:
Evaluate how you handle stress
How you handle stress is likely how your kid handles stress. Each of us possesses conditioned responses to the challenges and problems. If you kid is reacting adversely to the exam experience or process, he or she may be mirroring what you have demonstrated to them, however unconsciously. Share the way you overcome stress with your kid. You are probably an expert on how to handle your emotions by now. Pass along your wisdom to your child.
Set boundaries for taking about the test and about the college process
Many students get tired of the several years of constant conversation about the testing and application process. It can eat away at the student’s patience and desire to do well on the test. Keep your testing & admissions talk to 30 minutes twice a week once second semester of junior year comes around. Then perhaps build in a 15-30 minute window after dinner three-four times a week during senior year, or establish a 90-120 minute “college meeting” once a week to connect and complete action items.
Recognize hard work & get involved
Students need to know their parents are there for them and want to be involved – that this experience (and your child) are important to you! If your child doesn’t want help, let her know that you respect her independence, are confident in her ability, and are there for support if ever needed
Diffuse social pressure
Make sure your kid understands his or her capabilities are separate from those in his or her social group. Treat her like the great test-taker you want her to be. Let her know that she can succeed and you’re going to help her get the tools to do so
Let her take charge
Empower your child to be self-reliant, let her know you believe in her. Anxiety is totally normal and controllable.
Ask questions. Discuss different outcomes and how you will respond to them. What are they afraid of? Disappointing you? Living up to older sibling? Retaking the test? Discuss what happens when failure occurs and when success occurs. You will love them no matter what
Encourage them to no end
Always, always, always encourage your kid to think positively, and celebrate their success and effort throughout the journey. Reward small goals. SAT is a win-win. Nobody fails. Successful people have gone to all sorts of different schools. Let them know you’re proud of what she’s done. Not what she scores. Build confidence everyday.