PSAT scores are being released this week for sophomores and juniors, leaving many parents wondering, “What does that mean for my teenager?”
Although the PSAT isn’t actually used for direct admissions to colleges (schools look at SAT or ACT scores to determine eligibility), there’s no denying that it’s a valuable tool to help with getting in.
Once your teen’s high school releases the PSAT score reports to you, look it over and then read on to learn how the exam can help with college admissions.
Learn whether your teen’s PSAT score can strengthen the college application indirectly.
While it’s the SAT and ACT scores that colleges are interested in as a general rule, there’s a caveat: If your teen’s PSAT score is in the top 1% for students in your state, it’s going to look really nice on applications.
Juniors who have high enough PSAT scores can be in the running for the National Merit Scholarship. (Sophomores are not eligible for this.)
Here’s how that breaks down:
- Each year, 1.6 million juniors take the PSAT exam.
- The National Merit Scholarship Corporation recognizes 50,000 top-scoring students as “commended scholars” from that group.
- Of those, about 34,000 are recognized as “commitment scholars.”
- The top 16,000 students will then be recognized as National Merit semifinalists.
- Those who complete an application will be notified at the beginning of their senior year about whether or not they made the cut as finalists – about 15,000 of them.
- About half of the finalists will receive the National Merit Scholarship.
Fun fact – the scholarship that these finalists receive is a disappointing $2,500. Womp, womp.
BUT…the big money comes from the fact that colleges look at semifinalists and finalists as extremely desirable students for admissions. Many schools will lure these students to their campuses with large scholarship offers. Some schools will even offer students a 4-year full ride scholarship to attend!
Pretty sweet deal.
And although a very small number of students will ever win scholarships as finalists, the students who are recognized at all do earn significant bragging rights. Listing these accolades on applications strengthen admissions chances at any college.
Use PSAT score results to know whether your teen should take the SAT or ACT.
PSAT scores don’t count for much for college admissions. (That is, unless your teen’s scoring extremely high – see above.)
But PSAT scores are helpful for understanding which exam – the SAT or the ACT – your teen should take during junior year.
Both the SAT and ACT are accepted by every college in the U.S. for admissions and are weighted equally, so your teen can take one or both of them. It doesn’t matter which.
My advice? Choose the exam your teen performs best on and concentrate only on that one. It’s the most logical way to ensure your teen isn’t splitting focus and performing optimally on one exam.
So, how will you do that? Follow these steps:
- Download a free ACT and SAT practice exam.
- Follow the instructions for your teen to take and score the ACT practice exam.
- Use the comparison chart to compare the ACT results to your teen’s PSAT results. (Your junior’s overall PSAT score is an excellent indicator of how your teen would perform on the SAT exam.)
- After you determine which is a stronger exam for your teen, dedicate time to preparing for that test.
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