08/21/2014 12:09 pm ET Updated Oct 21, 2014

My Scores Are Too Small; My Nose Is Too Big

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I just got my SATs back: 680 math, which is terrible; 650 critical reading,which is even worse. I just don't see myself getting into any of the schools I'm interested in. My counselor at school says that I don't have a chance at Brown, that there is no point in even applying. My counselor at school said the same thing about all the colleges I like. What's the point of even spending the money on the application fees if I won't get in? I'm taking four AP classes, studying between four and five hours every night -- more on the weekends -- doing the best I can, but I just don't see anything good coming out of it long term. Yes, I have all A's, but I got a B in AP History last year; all the other kids have better grades and harder classes. I'm the leading scorer on the soccer team, but we lost in the finals of the state tournament last year. I guess I'm lucky that my grandparents put away money for college and I can afford to go anywhere, but I'm not sure what good the money will do because I just know I won't get in. As soon as I saw my scores, I knew I had failed and failed miserably.

Indeed, everything about me is completely and utterly wrong.


Every decent person who loves kids will take issue with each and every implication in the above paragraph. Let us with one voice affirm the following:

1. Her scores are fine. There are any number of wonderful colleges that would be happy to have a student with this profile: 1300 SATs; 3.8 unweighted GPA; soccer star; and full pay to boot.

2) Everyone wishes they had done better on the SAT.

3. Studying four or five hours a day is plenty.

4. Applications cost about $50 (The University of Florida is only $30; Tufts, outside Boston, is $70.) You wouldn't gamble $50,000 if you perceive that your odds are bad, but $50 isn't enough to get the family out of Chicken Kitchen at dinner time. There's no reason not to take a shot at one or two "reach" schools.

5. In Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls, Mary Pipher points out that the White Rock mineral water girl in 1954 was 5'4" and weighed 140 pounds. Forty years later, the girl in the advert was 5' 10" and 110 pounds. Simple arithmetic extrapolation to 2014, gives us a 6' 1" tall girl who weighs 95 pounds, basically a stick with boobs. No one looks like this. No one healthy anyway. At this rate, by 2044, the girl would be 6' 7' and weigh 65 pounds, so my argument may not be perfect. But you take my point.

6. "In all the years, I've been a therapist," Pipher goes on to say, "I've yet to meet one girl who likes her body... They have been culturally conditioned to hate their bodies, which are after all themselves." Isn't the metaphor for SATs, which the girls accept as a proxy for their minds, just as cogent? The girls look in the cognitive mirror and, no matter what they see, they are disappointed and dissatisfied. In all the years I've been counseling, I've never met a girl who liked her scores.

7. The science of understanding and treating girls who self-harm is still in its infancy. Even the best mental health professionals aren't in clear agreement on where eating disorders or cutting behaviors come from or how to help the girls who suffer with these life-threatening maladies. But wouldn't you guess that a girl who hates herself is more likely to harm herself?

My gentle advice this week for loving parents is simple: love your kids for who they are. Not for what they look like. Not for what they got on their SATs.

Because, really, how are you going to find clothes for a 6' 7" daughter who weighs 65 pounds?