Why the PSAT Matters—Even in a Test-Optional Admissions World
While fewer students are submitting SAT scores for college admission, experts say practice exams such as the PSAT still hold value.
US News recently discussed what the PSAT symbolizes and why it plays an important role in the beginning of a student’s college journey.
NATIONAL MERIT SCHOLARSHIP
One of the biggest benefits of the PSAT is it gives students an opportunity to earn substantial scholarship money. The National Merit Scholarship Corp. uses PSAT scores to determine which students can qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program. Winning students are awarded up to $2500 in scholarship money, and semifinalists and finalists are eligible for college- and corporate-sponsored merit scholarships.
So, while many colleges have gone test-optional in admissions, experts say it may still be a good idea to take the PSAT, especially if you’re intent on earning scholarship money.
PREPARATION FOR THE SAT
The PSAT can also serve as practice for the SAT, if you plan on submitting test scores for college admissions. Experts say the PSAT provides a snapshot of where you are academically and can give an idea of whether or not you’re on track.
“If your score is modest, it signals to you that you’ve got some work to do to be ready for college, and you should do that work,” Ginger Fay, global director of partnerships of Georgia-based Applerouth Tutoring Services, says. “It’s not meant to signal to you that you’re not college material.”
Since the PSAT isn’t designed to test for college-readiness, experts say the exam is more helpful in determining the start of a student’s college journey.
“It’s a good barometer of where you are,” Jolyn Brand, founder of Brand College Consulting, says. “So if a kid is performing a lot lower than they expected or might be hoping, at least they can kind of reset their expectations and not apply to Harvard, and can start looking at schools that are reasonable given their SAT range.”
If you’re intent on taking the SAT, taking the PSAT might be a wise idea as it provides valuable exposure to the testing environment, experts say.
“The timing is so essential,” Sara Williams, a school counselor at Briggs High School in Columbus, Ohio, says. “That’s another great part of any practice test. That’s the biggest thing I hear in feedback from students – it gives them that true testing environment feeling.”
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