The PSAT - Why bother?

March 23, 2015


     The PSAT is the Practice SAT test and you will normally see it like this; PSAT/NMSQT.   It is normally administered in a student’s Junior year, but can also be taken by Freshmen and Sophomores.  In fact, about the same number of sophomores  and juniors take this test.   It is given only once a year in October and about 3.5 million students take this test annually.    It provides two main functions;  it tells the student how well they are prepared to do on the SAT test, and it is also a National Merit Scholarship competition.


     A lot of homeschoolers bypass the whole testing insanity that most high schoolers are subjected to, and with good reasons.   To do well on these tests can take a large amount of time to learn test taking skills, re-learning grammar and math skills, and keeping up with what is in many cases an already full schedule.   While there is the rare student that can do well on these tests without studying much, no one should really count on that.   Also, if a student is planning on being a transfer student, which many homeschooling students plan on, the tests are completely unnecessary.   And there are a number of colleges that no longer base their acceptance criteria on scores from these tests.   So why bother?


     Perhaps  your most important consideration is that plans change.    Who you are and what you are thinking about college can shift over time.  While today you may be thinking you will never go to college, or will be a transfer student, or will only go to schools that don’t care about the test, this can shift.   Taking the PSAT doesn’t force you into taking the SAT or ACT tests, it just gives you experience with the test. 


    Taking the test can open doors for you; doing well on the test means that many colleges will start to send information about their college to you.   You can indicate if you would like to make limited information about yourself available on The College Board.   

        1.  If you do poorly, no one really knows.  But if you do well, colleges will send information about their college to you.  

        2.  You may be introduced to a college that you would never have found before.  

        3.  College application fee waivers will start to come to you!   Applying to college can get expensive!   With an application fee of $70 for every UC you apply to, and the average application fee being around $50, this can quickly become an expensive endeavor!   But many colleges will waive their fees for students that look like they will be a good fit depending on their pSAT score.     


      Alternatively, taking the PSAT may help you realize that you don’t want to spend the necessary time to do well on this type of test.   Either way, knowledge is power, and taking this test can help you determine your next steps.


     A free college education or a scholarship for doing well?   Sign me up!   Many people don’t realize that the PSAT is also a Merit Scholarship Competition.   Taking the PSAT in your Jr Year is the only way to enter into these specific scholarships, and the very best scores may earn a full 4 year scholarship to select colleges.  Entering into this scholarship competition is a multi-step journey that includes taking the SAT, having your “school principle” endorse you, and more.   But a free 4 year college education may be at the end of the road!


     Signing up is easy, but don’t wait until the last minute!   To register, you will need to contact your local high schools and let them know you want to take the test.   The test occurs in October, but start calling as soon as school starts up in August to find out what the sign up process is for your local school.   Students that go to the school get preference for taking this test, so you may need to make several calls.   There is a small fee for taking the test, and it will take up your whole morning.  But this may prove to be a very small investment in a long and expensive journey.    To find out more, search through the website for The College Board.  And good luck!

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