What Your Kid’s ACT Score Won’t Tell You

Grant to Solomon my son a whole heart that he may keep your commandments . . . (1 Chron. 29:19)

 As I write this the third week of the school year is drawing to a close.

Three weeks ago Marnie and I entered a new phase of life when we left our son at college. We returned home and the very next day our daughter started her senior year. The clock is ticking. Of course, the clock is always ticking. Right now, however, the ticking is especially loud. In less than a year my wife and I will enter that season of life commonly referred to as the ‘empty-nest.’

But let’s not rush things. We’ve still got one at home and we’re repeating the drama and agony and excitement of getting into college. Very little has changed since we did this with our son last year.

Being Smart and Being Wise

As you might imagine, the energy and focus of the senior year is on how to get in to the number-one-choice school. There’s a mild anxiety (at times acute anxiety) among seniors about grades, AP classes, strength of schedule, test scores, crafting a killer essay to go with the application, and of course financial aid forms. Sometimes the parents share that anxiety, all the while trying hard to let the student “own the process.”

The standardized tests for college admissions will assign a score to the students’ proficiency with math and language skills. While the value of such tests is debated, they remain a big part of the admissions picture. Test scores are a factor when it comes to getting into a school. But there’s something about each and every student that will never show up on a test or on a transcript.

We give so much attention to getting admitted to college, we just might fail to ask and address whether our child, once admitted, is capable of navigating college. Getting into a school places all the emphasis on smarts. But actually thriving and doing well at a school requires wisdom.

There’s a big difference between being smart and being wise. You can have a Ph.D. in linguistics and still be careless and harsh with your words. Knowing how to live well requires more than mere knowledge. Living well requires wisdom. And nothing in the ACT can measure wisdom.

Praying at the Depths

In our series of reflections on ‘Big Prayers’ we turn our attention this week to praying for our children. That certainly isn’t limited to praying for children who are applying for college, or even younger children who are still in school. Parents pray for their adult children, grandparents pray for grandchildren. The question were’ asking is about what and how we should pray for our children, no matter their age.

The scripture text that will guide our thinking is David’s prayer for his son Solomon recorded in 1 Chronicles 29:19. In a brief prayer David asks God (a) to grant to Solomon a whole heart (b) that Solomon might live according to God’s commandments, and (c) build the temple. At the risk of oversimplifying, David prays for his son’s

  • Identity – that he would know who he is and to whom he belongs.
  • Way of life – that he would live his life according to God’s design and instruction
  • Vocation – that he would do a significant and meaningful work.

If our prayers for our children are dominated by the grades they make, the scores they earn, or the schools they attend, we pray surface prayers. If the highest aim of their lives is their income or career or resume, we fail to pursue the deepest and most enduring blessings they can know. Such concerns are not off-limits in prayer, but they can never be the limit of our praying.

Plainly stated, our best praying for our children happens when we seek from God what we could never provide for them on our own. We’ll be thinking about what that looks like this week.

What are you praying for you children today?


Keep us faithful, O God, in praying for our children. Not merely for their safety or their success, but for your purposes to be accomplished in their lives. In the manner of your Son Jesus, may they grow in wisdom, in stature and strength, and in their relationship with you and with others. Accomplish in their lives what we could never bring about if left to ourselves, we ask in Jesus’s name. Amen.

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