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Why the College Admissions Scandal Makes Me Worried for Students With Anxiety

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I just wanted to cry.

Like many juniors across the United States, I took the PSATs. I had never liked standardized testing. Despite excelling in my classes, my anxiety always got the best of me during high-stakes testing. Right before I took the PSATs, I had a panic attack because I was so afraid of how I would do. Well, I didn’t do great. I got 1570 out of 2400, which was a far cry from my friends in my Advanced Placement and honors courses who all got 2200 or higher.

After I received this score, I came to the realization that I needed to re-apply for disability accommodations at the College Board. I wanted to apply to high-ranking North American university, and I knew my score was not good enough. I had a barrier to success on College Board administered exams, and that was my anxiety.

Last week, it was revealed that Felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin and other CEOs exploited disability accommodations to ensure their kids would test at a site where someone would later illicitly go in and corrected their scores.

This is a major slap in the face to students like me, whose mental health, chronic illness or disabilities get in the way for us receiving high scores on standardized testing exams. The process of receiving accommodations is not easy. In my situation, I had applied for extended time due to my severe anxiety before I had taken the PSATs, but despite a letter from my guidance counselor and a doctor, I was rejected. It’s already so hard to apply to receive accommodations. I’m afraid how Huffman, Loughlin and others’ abuse of the system will make it so much harder for people like me to receive extended time and other relevant accommodations.

When my application for disability was approved, I was able to receive some accommodations that helped me do better on College Board-authorized standardized tests — so, both the SATs and Advanced Placement exams. I was able to work in a classroom with less people and had 50-percent extended time, which allowed me to:

1. Not feel boxed in by the people around me.

2. Allow me to briefly practice cognitive behavioral therapy-based grounding exercises to help me feel less overwhelmed.

While it wasn’t as high as I had hoped, I was able to raise my score by a few hundred points — to 1820 out of 2400. I’m not a fan of standardized tests in general, but, as it is, I felt the pressure to improve my score in order to be a more competitive university applicant. I don’t think they’re representative of someone’s work ethic or knowledge of a particular subject, especially if you’re not the best test-taker.

Regardless, the process for receiving disability on accommodations on standardized tests like the SATs needs to be an easier process — not a more difficult one. Shame on anyone who takes advantage of disability policies that are made to help people like me succeed.

Getty Images photo via bernardbodo

Originally published: March 19, 2019
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