The PSAT/NMSQT test is offered by high schools around the country in October. It is an important test for college-bound high school juniors. If your junior is not already signed up, understand why this test is beneficial and get them signed up soon.
Why Your Junior Should Take the PSAT
- Test Prep – The PSAT format is the same as the SAT test. If your student is planning to take the SAT, the PSAT will serve as an initial practice test. With the scores, your student will receive feedback on how to prepare for the SAT. Even if your student is planning to take the ACT instead of the SAT, the experience will be helpful to prepare for a multi-hour test. It will also help in determining which test your student is better suited for. Since the ACT and SAT currently are set up differently, to test somewhat different skill sets, some students will do better on one test vs. the other. As the Princeton Review indicates, it’s all about getting a high score, so a student should stick with the test that gives them the potential to achieve the highest score. Most colleges will accept both tests. For students looking to get into very competitive schools that take either test, I recommend having a high school junior take the PSAT in October, followed by the ACT in either October or December (if your student hasn’t taken it previously). Then analyze the results from both tests to see which one makes more sense to focus on going forward.
- Scholarships – The NMSQT component of the PSAT is the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. The test is used to select candidates for the National Merit Scholarship Program. It is a very competitive program and is based on the highest PSAT scores state by state. That means each state has its own cutoff score for eligibility. You can read more about the National Merit Scholarship Program here: National Merit Scholarship Program. There is also the National Achievement Scholarship Program to recognize outstanding African American students and the National Hispanic Recognition Program. Through the National Merit Scholarship Program, students may be eligible for scholarships directly from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, scholarships sponsored by colleges and universities, and scholarships sponsored by corporations. The student guide for the National Merit Scholarship Program lists out all corporations and colleges currently offering scholarships through the program. However, it does not indicate scholarship amounts for each. My Full Scholarship List includes schools that offer full-tuition and full-ride scholarships for finalists and semi-finalists in the national merit programs.
- Information – Taking the PSAT will open up several avenues of information for your student. With the test results, your student will receive feedback on strengths and weaknesses and ways to prepare for college. Your student will also receive feedback on suitable majors and careers and a list of colleges to consider. Taking the test puts your student into a data bank that will make them accessible to schools around the country – meaning your student will get information from lots of colleges! This used to mean stacks of college brochures in the mail, but has now turned into tons of emails in your students inbox.
To find out all the details on the PSAT test, visit the College Board’s official PSAT site. Even if your student’s school is not offering the test, the site will help you find a nearby school that is. The test is typically offered both during the school day and on a Saturday, so you should be able to find one that is doable. And finally, the test costs only $14 so it is definitely worth the price for all of the benefits.