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有钱孩子才知道的成功秘诀

更新时间:2017-4-13 11:17:03 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

How I Learned to Take the SAT Like a Rich Kid
有钱孩子才知道的成功秘诀

FLINT, Mich. — The summer before my junior year of high school, I boarded an airplane for the first time. Three hours later I was in picture-perfect New England, where I was soon to be surrounded by a diverse and extremely accomplished group of peers. I had been awarded a generous scholarship to attend the Phillips Exeter summer semester — five weeks of classes and sports, with some optional SAT prep mixed in.

密歇根州弗林特——升高三前的那个夏天,我第一次登上了一架飞机。三小时后,我到达了风景如画的新英格兰,很快加入了一群各不相同但都极其优秀的同龄人当中。我拿到了一项丰厚的奖学金,是去上菲利普埃克塞特学院(Phillips Exeter)的夏季学期——五周的课程和运动项目,还有一些可选的SAT备考课程。

I’m from Flint, Mich., and even though I recently transferred to a private Catholic high school in my city, top tier-education is new to my family. Neither of my parents went to college, and in Rust Belt regions like the middle of Michigan, education is falling behind the rest of the country. Stanford researchers found, for example, that sixth graders in our town are two to three grade levels behind the national average. They are almost five grade levels behind students in more prosperous counties 30 miles away.

我来自密歇根弗林特,尽管最近转校到了所在城市的一所私立天主教高中,但顶尖教育对我们家来说完全是陌生的。我父母都没上过大学,而且在像密歇根中部这样的铁锈地带,教育落后于这个国家的其他地方。比如斯坦福大学的研究人员就发现,我市的六年级学生比全国平均水平落后两三个年级。相比于30英里远的更繁荣城镇的学生,他们几乎落后了五个年级。

The friends I made at Phillips Exeter were from fancy-sounding towns and seemed to have it all. Most attended prestigious private or highly ranked public schools. They were impossibly sporty, charming and intelligent, with perfect smiles and impeccably curated Instagram profiles. The program we attended costs around $10,000, so they were clearly affluent, but they also came from diverse backgrounds. They had been on exotic vacations and had volunteered for the needy. They were truly interesting people.

我在菲利普埃克塞特学院结交的朋友来自条件优越的城镇,看上去似乎什么都不缺。他们上的大多是知名的私立学校,或排名较高的公立学校。他们极擅长运动,很有魅力,十分聪明,有完美的笑容和无可挑剔的Instagram履历。我们参加的这项课程费用大约为1万美元,所以他们显然家境都很好,只不过背景各不相同。他们去国外度过假,也曾做过志愿者,帮助需要帮助的人。他们确实是非常有趣的人。

So I didn’t understand why so many of them were enrolled in the optional SAT prep section of our summer program. Why would such impressive high achievers spend their summer nights storming through a massive SAT book? Many of them already took weekend SAT prep courses back home. Did they just think it was fun to time one another on practice sets?

所以我不明白为什么他们中有那么多人报名参加我们这个暑期项目中非强制性的SAT备考课程。为什么这些成绩如此优异的人还要在暑期的晚上拼命啃一本厚厚的SAT考试书?他们中许多人之前在家乡已经上过周末的SAT备考课程。仅仅是觉得在做题的时候给彼此计时很有趣吗?

Family and friends from home thought it was weird that I went to “school” during my summers, but the kids at Exeter saw summer academic programs as normal and enjoyable. I was happy to be around so many fellow nerds. Still, they approached studying for the SAT with a near-professional intensity that was alien to me.

我家乡的家人和朋友觉得我暑假还去上“学”很奇怪,但埃克塞特学院的孩子们却觉得上暑期课程很正常,而且很有乐趣。能跟这么多同为“书呆子”的人待在一起,我感到很高兴。不过,他们是以一种接近职业的强度为SAT考试学习,这对我来说很陌生。

I realized that they didn’t just want to score exceptionally well on the SAT. They were gunning for a score on the Preliminary SAT exams that would put them in the top percentile of students in the United States and make them National Merit Scholars in the fall.

我意识到他们不仅仅是想在SAT考试中取得佳绩。他们也是在争取在SAT预考(Preliminary SAT)中取得极好的成绩,以便跻身美国分数最高的学生行列,进而在秋季成为美国优秀学生奖学金获得者(National Merit Scholars)。

It was disconcerting. The majority of low- and middle-income 11th graders I know in Michigan didn’t even sit for the preliminary exams. Most took the SAT cold. Few were privy to the upper-middle-class secret I discovered that summer: To get into elite colleges, one must train for standardized tests with the intensity of an athlete.

这令我感到不安。我认识的中低收入阶层的密歇根11年级学生大多数甚至没参加过SAT预考。大多离参加SAT还远得很。他们几乎无人知晓我在那个夏天发现的中上阶层的秘密:为了进入精英大学,你必须像运动员那样为标准化考试进行高强度的训练。

If I lost the ZIP code lottery growing up in tap-water-crisis Flint, my new friends had won the neighborhood Powerball jackpot. They grew up in what the social scientist Charles Murray calls “Super ZIPs,” areas where almost everyone is wealthy, highly educated and connected.

如果说我是没能中“邮编彩票”而在有自来水危机的弗林特长大,我的新朋友们则是赢了社区的强力球头奖。他们生长在被社会学家查尔斯·默里(Charles Murray)称为“超级邮编”的地区,那里几乎都是有钱人、受过高等教育,且人脉深厚。

Don’t get me wrong. My newfound friends worked extremely hard, but they also seemed to have access to a formula for success that had been kept from the rest of us. It just wasn’t something our overworked guidance counselors could teach.

不要误会。我的新朋友们非常努力,但他们似乎也掌握着我们其他所有人都不知道的成功秘诀。那不是我们负担过重的指导老师能教给我们的东西。

As a result, all the drilling they did for an exam that is supposed to be an equalizer in ranking students according to raw test-taking skills was only widening the American achievement gap.

在按应试能力把学生进行分级时,这项考试本应发挥均衡作用,而这样一来,他们为考试做的所有练习只能加大美国学生的成绩差距。

I had opted out of Exeter’s SAT prep. So the following fall, when I posted a so-so SAT score, I went into Super-ZIP-kid mode.

我没有参加埃克塞特的SAT备考课程。所以接下来的秋天,在得到了一个一般的SAT分数之后,我便进入了“超级邮编儿童”模式。

I couldn’t afford a $3,000 40-hour prep course or tutor. But I could take out test prep books at the public library. There were very few checkout stamps on the book jackets, so I kept renewing them. I also took a $99 online program I heard about on NPR and Khan Academy’s free SAT section. On Saturdays, I commuted an hour each way to Ann Arbor for a free test-prep program at the University of Michigan.

我无法负担40小时3000美元的备考课程或导师。但是我可以在公共图书馆借到备考辅导书。书皮里没盖几个借书章,所以我不断续借。我还报了一个99美元的在线课程,是我从NPR电台知道的,另外还有可汗学院(Khan Academy)的免费SAT课程。每逢周六,我花一小时赶到安娜堡,到密歇根大学参加一个免费备考项目。

My post-prep score saw a solid pop, and that awarded me access to tens of thousands in automatic merit awards to local colleges. I was encouraged to throw my hat in the ring at some more selective universities.

备考后我的成绩有了稳步提升,令我有资格获得本地各个大学颁发的数万元优秀学生奖学金。我受到鼓励,准备大胆进入某些更倾向于择优录取的大学。

The bottom line is that students like me — from middle- to low-income families, who live in less prosperous areas of the country — tend to stumble upon opportunities by luck (if at all). My summer-school friends knew to compete for generous merit awards. They understood they had to transform themselves into perfect applicants for a competitive college and employment market that draws students from all over the world.

重要的是,像我这样的学生——来自这个国家较不繁荣地区的中低收入家庭——往往会不幸错失机会(如果真有机会的话)。我在暑期学校的朋友知道要为丰厚的优秀学生奖学金而争取。他们明白,在竞争激烈、吸引着来自世界各地学生的大学和就业市场上,他们必须将自己打造成一个完美的申请人。

This past month, I watched many of these friends dazzle their social media followers with acceptance letters from Northwestern, Harvard, Williams and Duke, as well as six-figure Presidential Scholarships to various public universities. Their success was hard-earned and I am proud of them. I only wish that more lower- and middle-income peers knew how to pursue such aggressive strategies.

在过去一个月里,我看到这些朋友当中的许多人都在社交媒体上贴出了西北大学、哈佛、威廉姆斯大学和杜克大学的录取通知书,以及获得向各种公立大学提供的六位数的总统奖学金,令他们的粉丝眼花缭乱。那是他们辛苦争取来的,我为他们感到骄傲。我只希望更多中低收入的同龄人知道如何采取这种积极的策略。

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