Leah has been a loyal reader of PWNtheSAT.com for some time, and sent me this post the day after she took the November SAT. I like it! I think it touches on something many of you can relate to: the anxiety on the night before the SAT that you should be doing something even though that really great SAT tutor on the Internet told you that the best thing you can do for yourself is chill. At the very least, I figure a few of you might be consoled in these final hours leading up to the December test that you’re not the only one feeling “guilt from not feeling stressed and stress from not feeling guilt.” (I love that line.) But I’m writing too much. This was supposed to be a quick intro. Take it away, Leah.

It’s Friday (or Saturday) night. You’ve been prepping assiduously for the last few months. Tomorrow’s the big day, and you don’t know if you’re bored, excited, or scared. Probably all three. You’ve heard the test day tips time and time again. Wake up. Dress comfortably. Eat breakfast. Grab your pencils, calculator, ID, and ticket. Get out there and PWN that thing. Before you can get to the test itself, though, you still need to survive something equally, if not more, daunting: the night before, after you’ve eaten a nutritious dinner, packed what you need, and done everything else you can think of.

The thoughts eat you alive: What if my alarm doesn’t wake me? What if I do wake up but don’t remember all the obscure vocabulary words I felt the need to memorize? What if I do remember them and remember to do all I’ve learned but still don’t meet my goal score? Who will solace me when these what ifs inevitably become my reality? Remember, this is the night before. The odds are small that some comforting philosophical realization will find its way into your head in the mere hours you have left. You can’t beat them, whoever “they” are, but you can remember to control what you can control. For everything you can’t, there are distractions.

What happened to work for me, which is likely very different from what might happen to work for you, was finding some distraction at the intersection of having fun and prepping last minute. I knew that if I were to have pure fun I’d feel guilty and that if I were to study as though I hadn’t for the last few months I’d feel stressed. Watching SpongeBob left me feeling neither. I watched the episodes “Skill Crane” and “Band Geeks” and watched them critically, both easing and heightening my excitement. Were I to receive an essay prompt on the role of persistence in creating desired outcomes, which both episodes consider on an unexpectedly profound level, I would cite with ease not a pretentious novel but a children’s cartoon. If such an essay prompt never found my desk, that would be okay, too, because I had relaxed by watching a children’s cartoon.Of course, watching SpongeBob is not the only way to alleviate guilt from not feeling stressed and stress from not feeling guilt. There are other diversions completely unrelated to prep—though probably at least loosely related to fun—and these are yours and yours only. They could be anything from reading to talking to drawing to painting to I-don’t-know-what-else. You know you. Do what makes you you for a while, not what makes you a version of yourself that scores less than you’re capable of. And then go to sleep.

Leah scored a 2330 on the November SAT. She did indeed end up writing about SpongeBob in her essay.