“In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love,” wrote Alfred, Lord Tennyson (stop groaning -- you came here to learn something). Obviously, old Alfred did not hang out with today’s high schoolers, because their spring thoughts are focused on the SATs, and “love” is definitely not the emotion they’re feeling. It’s more like...panic.

If you’re a student who is taking a spring or early summer SAT, and you’re freaking out about it, let us ease your mind:

Your score doesn’t matter.

Wait, how can this be? The score is all there is! Isn’t your score vital to your college applications, and thus to your future? Isn’t it the most important thing in the world, and doesn’t it determine whether you’ll go to Harvard and later become president while performing brain surgery on babies in space, or if instead you’ll become a lowly hole-digger?

Well, maybe (actually, of course not; let’s not get crazy), but this score, from your spring SAT, really doesn’t have any effect at all on your future, because (if you’re doing it right) you’re going to take the test again, and perhaps again after that (and maybe even one more time!), and in all likelihood, your scores will increase each time. Given that most colleges don’t even see SAT scores unless you choose to send them, what importance does your lowest score have?

None.

Take the long view and understand that your early-in-the-year SAT is best viewed as a warmup, a run-through, an experiment, even. A way to run the gauntlet in protective armor and to get concrete feedback on the efficacy of your studying methods. Realize – and internalize – that the downside of even the worst-case scenario is modest; you’ll be disappointed and your annoying parents will wring their hands and compare you to the cousin with the 1550, but it will have no effect on your college applications, and that’s what matters here. Keep your eye on the ball, and don’t let unwarranted stress knock you off your path.