Competitive Parents: Did She Just Say THAT?

Anonymous Mom

I had another one of those “WTF! I can’t believe people really say these things!” moments last week. I was at dinner with a friend who was talking about a soccer coach at a Division 3 school who was interested in her daughter playing for the team. The problem was that the average ACT score at that college was a 23 and “who wants their kid going to college with those kind of kids!”

Now I’m not saying that my friend’s daughter should choose a school that doesn’t meet her academic abilities or standards just for the chance to play soccer at the collegiate level.

What, frankly, pissed me off is the implication – no, the declaration – that college students with ACT scores in the low-to-mid 20s are lesser human beings.

Let me also say that this friend knows that I have a son with a learning disability. But she still said something that was completely insensitive and absolutely fucking stupid.

Other examples of things people actually said to me:

“My son wants to go to ABC University because he can play a sport there but he got a 33 on the ACT and the average score at that school is a 24. ANY IDIOT can get a 24!”

“My daughter got into the University of Illinois but the best school her nemesis throughout high school got into was only Indiana University … serves her right that she couldn’t do better.” (Hmmm, last time I checked, Indiana was a pretty respectable university and we’ll be celebrating in my house if my son gets accepted there. Again, this friend is well aware of my son’s academic struggles.)

So, with the next national ACT testing date coming up, let’s have a little math review. I promise to keep it brief and simple for those of you who may not have ACT or SAT scores or diplomas from institutions of higher learning that meet your collegiately-crazy-competitive friends’ standards.

The average ACT score at my son’s high school, is a 25.8 out of 36. That means that half (50%) of the students received a score of 26 or higher and half received a score of 25 or below. The average ACT score nationally is 20.9.  Again, half of all ACT test-takers in the U.S. got 21 or better while half scored 20 or below. Nationally, only 2 out of every 100 ACT test takers achieves a score of a 32 or higher (and, yes, I’ve heard parents complain about their child “only” getting a 30 or 31!)

Yet almost everyone in my geographic area and socioeconomic class seems to ASSUME that everyone they speak to has a child who scored 30 or higher on the ACT!

So, what do I think about a kid who got a 23 on his ACT? Well, I can speak from experience because that happens to be the score my son got. On his third try. And he and I were both ecstatic the day he found out his score. The improvement since his first try was a testament to his hard work, determination, and persistence. I’ll tell you a little about my son.

He’s a kid who:

  • Calls his grandparents regularly without me telling him to and spends quality time with them
  • Treats his girlfriend well
  • Is really good to his much younger little brother. I mean REALLY good. He plays Wii with him, will take him and his friends outside and play football or basketball with them for hours, takes him out to dinner and doesn’t ask me to pay him back. He makes a huge effort to be at his brother’s baseball and basketball games to cheer him on. If he can’t make it to a game, he texts me during the game for updates and calls or texts right after to talk to his brother and ask how he did and how his team did.
  • As a camper, was a really good friend and source of comfort to his very homesick friend and knew enough to get assistance from a counselor for his friend when it was needed.
  • As a counselor last summer, helped two campers in his cabin overcome their homesickness, helped another child deal with bedwetting issues, and made camp a fun experience for his entire cabin.
  • As an assistant coach for a travel basketball team, he comforted a player with a lot of anxiety issues and made it a good season for the kid. And I didn’t hear about this from my son, I heard about it from the kid’s dad who sought me out to tell me about it.
  • As a baseball player, was consistently praised by the coach – by several coaches – as an example of someone who was always focused, gave 100% effort, and cheered his teammates on.
  • As a 5th grader, when the teacher had every student in the class write a nice comment about every other kid in the class, received comments like “You’re the only one who ever passes the ball to me in gym- thanks!” and ”You are so nice when it comes to friendship.”
  • Has a really great group of friends.
  • Thanks me for making dinner and tells me that he loves me.
  • Has a really good grade point average, too, which is a testament to his work ethic, strong character and gritty determination. But it’s not the GPA I’m most proud of, it’s the rest of it.

So, in response to my friend’s question about who would want their kid going to school with kids who have an ACT score of 23: You’re asking the wrong question.

I want my children hanging out with people who are good people. I don’t give a damn about their ACT scores.

But I do know the kind of people I want to be around … and they’re not the kind of people who judge others based on test scores.




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