All students in grades 8-11 will be taking the PSAT on October 14; however for juniors, this test is more important for college acceptance (and scholarships) than most people realize.

Here are 6 reasons why your junior should take the PSAT seriously:

  1. The PSAT/NMSQT is actually the only variable used to qualify a student for a National Merit Scholarship. The other factors – i.e., enrolled in the appropriate grade – is used to determine eligibility.
  1. One of the most important variables for college ranking is the number of National Merit Finalists and Semi-Finalists accepted. Approximately 1.5 million students took the PSAT last year (and this year as well). Based on their scores, 50,000 were eligible for further consideration – 16,000 were selected as semifinalists and ultimately, 15,000 selected as finalists. Usually about half will receive a $2500 National Merit Scholarship – corporate and college scholarships also are offered. So clearly, even being a Commended scholar will provide students with a clear advantage for colleges wanting to further ensure their higher ranking.
  1. At present, there are over 50 colleges and universities that offer FULL tuition scholarships to NMS Finalists and partial tuition scholarships to NMS Semi-Finalists. (See more information here)
  1. Being a NMS Finalist or Semi-Finalist provides students with a higher advantage than even being valedictorian. Why? With over 36,000 public and private high schools in the country, there is no way to ‘standardize’ grades. And how many star high school athletes are there vs. NMS Finalists and Semi-Finalists? Even a NMS Commendation is a lot rarer!
  1. Not particularly brilliant students can score in the NMS range. The score on the PSAT/NMSQT is factored differently that the SAT and ACT. The college entrance exams are based on number right and incorrect answers. The PSAT score is based on how students did compared to others who took the exam in their same state.
  1. It’s easier to become a NMS Finalist or Semi-Finalist than to get in an Ivy-League school. Only .04 students are accepted into an Ivy-League college, compared to a student who only needs to do better than 94% of their (state) peers. This means the student has a 10 times better chance of receiving a National Merit Commendation than going to an Ivy-League college or university.

To my juniors who I am presently working with: Hopefully, reading this will further motivate you to complete your assignments and practice exams for our next session!

For juniors who have not done any preparation: Come to our PSAT Prep Workshop on October 11th.  Experience a sample questions and passages from the PSAT you will take on October 14 and learn the core strategies of our more protracted course. 

For sophomores: You are also welcome to attend the PSAT Prep Workshop.

For grades 8-9: Don’t worry! Just look at the PSAT as a practice run.

Resource for this post: Joel Peterson, Huffington Post, The Surprising Power of the PSAT, 9.10.15.

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