The school at which Jubil Austin teaches was incorrectly reported in last week's District Weekly. Austin teaches at Coolidge High School. (Published 11/5/87)

Anxiety crept up on Brooke Collins the night before she took the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) earlier this year, making her feel "nervous and shaky." She couldn't sleep well, either, as she worried about how she would do on the test.

She viewed the SAT as a guideline that would determine where -- and how -- she would enjoy her college years.

"I was thinking, 'This is it; this will determine whether I go to the college of my choice where I'll be happy, or if I'll be stuck in a mediocre college where I won't be happy,' " said Collins, a 17-year-old senior at Woodrow Wilson High School.

Collins, who plans to take the test again in November, may have placed too much significance on the SAT. Most colleges still use it as a yardstick during the admissions process, but it is not the only one used.

In fact, some colleges no longer use the SAT. Earlier this year, officials at Middlebury College in Vermont and at Union College in New York decided that students did not have to take the test in order to apply.

During the spring, students at Brown University asked administrators to make the test optional. But in a nonbinding, student-initiated referendum asking Brown officials to stop using the SAT as an admission requirement, the students' request was narrowly defeated. The students were protesting the SAT's alleged bias against women and minorities, who have averaged lower scores nationwide, according to test results and studies.

Fred Moreno, associate director of public affairs with the College Board, which sponsors the SAT, said the media "has blown the importance of the SAT out of proportion."

Grades and the student's course load during high school are other factors a college considers, he said.

"The kids think the SAT is the most important {factor}," Moreno said. "It is, but you can get a good score and not get in because of low grades."

Although the SAT is a useful tool in determining how well a student will perform academically, college administrators agree with Moreno that other factors in a high school student's background are taken into consideration.

"His high school performance, how well he's done, is probably a better indicator of how well he will do in college," said Barbara Bergman, the associate dean of admissions at Georgetown University.

In addition to looking at the student's grades and courses, the university will consider the applicant's essay and achievement test scores, Bergman said.

The SAT, she added, is useful because "it gives us that additional information that helps us round out the rest of what we know about that student's ability."

But high school students may be putting too much pressure on themselves before taking the test, she said.

"The pressure should come throughout the four years of high school, as opposed to one afternoon of taking the SAT," Bergman said.

Tom Rajala, director of admissions at American University, said the student's grade point average, essay, guidance counselor recommendation and SAT score are used to evaluate applications.

"The {SAT} score, by itself, isn't the deciding thing," he said. "I wouldn't be too surprised if {the students} thought it was the end-all to the process."

High school officials also agree that the SAT is important, but not as important as the students think.

"More and more colleges have learned that a good, solid performance through three or four years of high school is a better gauge to rely on," said Bob Thomason, director of college services at the Sidwell Friends School, a private, co-ed secondary institution in northwest Washington.

At Wilson High School, guidance counselor Georgia Arrington-Booker tells her students that a low test score won't mean "the kiss of death."

"Too much hype is placed on {the SAT}," Arrington-Booker said. "If we can get the kids to concentrate on their studies and put all of their time and effort on building a good secondary school record, on having some leadership experience and doing things in the community and stop all this preoccupation with the test, we will be better off."

One of her concerns about the SAT is the typical misconception that colleges do not look beyond the student's SAT score. "If a student does not think his score is high enough, he may not apply to certain schools -- even though he should anyway," she said.

"I see the SAT scores as restrictive," she added. "It really keeps the child from reaching."

Jay Zamoff, a senior at Wilson, doesn't think the test is fair, either.

"Anyone can have a bad day," said Zamoff, who took the test in the spring but plans to take it again in November. "The schools put too much emphasis on it. It's useful for the college to use it, especially when they have a lot of applicants. I don't know of a better way besides the SAT, but I wish there was one."

The D.C. Public School District gives help to students who want to go an extra step in studying for the test. Computers that offer sample tests are available at all the D.C. high schools, said John Swann, program developer in the Division of Staff Development with the D.C. Public School District.

Students may take the sample test before or after school. A SAT preparatory course is also available to students as a part of their elective curriculum, Swann said.

Swann also teaches a free SAT preparatory course at Coolidge High School on Mondays and Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the River Terrace Elementary School. The classes, which began in early October, will probably continue each week until near the end of the spring, he said.

During the 1986-87 school year, the average SAT verbal and mathematics scores in the District school system rose by nine points, to a total of 713.

Across the United States, the average scores remained unchanged -- at 906 -- for the third consecutive year.