Caught in a Bubble?: Test Culture at Latin vs. Public Schools

Affy Koungoulos

Staff Writer

Many Latin seniors would rather give you their first-born child than tell you about their ACT score. In a competitive environment like ours, this is not an entirely irrational response. However, our response often seems like an oddity, not the norm.

Over the past year and a half, any conversation I’ve had with friends who attend public school has inevitably turned to talk of college. With that comes the obligatory “What did you get on your ACT?” It makes heart rate increase, and my stomach sink in that special way usually reserved for when my math teacher passes back our tests. Then, I awkwardly explain that sharing test scores isn’t a thing we do at my school. Most people look at me weirdly, like I just admitted I was becoming an underwater basket weaver instead of going to college. For them, comparing ACT scores seems akin to comparing scores on a vocabulary quiz. I’ve also seen Vines of people showing off score reports, and students openly mentioning that they’d “kill for at least a 25” at the test centers I’ve been to.

Even at a school like Walter Payton, which is often compared to Latin in terms of academic rigor and general environment, there’s more transparency about test scores. Recently, an article about their girls’ volleyball team was published in a Lincoln Park paper. The main focus seemed to be about their impressive winning streak and how close all of the girls were, but there was a section about the seniors’ ACT scores and top college picks. I spoke to Maya Rodriguez, one of the seniors quoted, about how she felt about the reporter’s questions. She told me that he asked each of the girls individually, and she didn’t feel concerned or uncomfortable, but it seemed out of the ordinary. “I’m happy with the score I got; I just think that in general, it doesn’t have to be asked, only on a college application,” she said. The reporter also included the girls’ top college picks and potential majors they’d be interested in.

Though test scores may be a bit more personal, many Latin seniors I’ve spoken to keep their application list under wraps as well. This can be difficult, considering that college seems to be the only topic strangers and relatives alike will bring up as soon as they greet you. When I was recently at Build-A-Bear with a few friends, an employee casually asked all of us the college question while she was stuffing our bears. I used my standby response, something along the lines of “Oh, New York, maybe,” while one of my friends said she didn’t really know.  This answer felt inadequate to the woman, who quipped, “Shouldn’t you kind of know by now?” All of this neuroticism begs the question, “Why the secrecy?” At an environment like Latin, where it’s easy to feel competitive with peers about grades, test scores, and extracurricular involvements, no one wants to appear lesser in the eyes of others. Granted, ACT scores aren’t the end-all, be-all of our existences, but they sometimes feel that way. Personally, I’m thankful for it. Everyone has their own definition of a “good” score, and I’d rather they not judge me if mine doesn’t measure up. And honestly, why should it matter to strangers what my score was? They aren’t the ones admitting me to college. As for where I’m applying? I’d like to spare myself the looks certain people give you when they hear the name of a school they don’t consider prestigious enough. On the bright side, all of your curiosities will be satisfied on College Apparel Day. Until then, I guess we’ll just wait and see.]]>