The First Scholarship Step
Most parents and high schoolers want scholarships, but they do not know how or where to begin finding them. It’s not their fault. Most schools treat the topic as an after-thought, so if they don’t tell them, how would parents and students know better? So, I’d like to shed some light on the most important first step; it’s called the Junior PSAT. Most are familiar with the test, but few realize its significance until it’s too late. Case in point…
As I was speaking to a family about test scores, I quickly realized their senior never sat for the junior PSAT. At first, I thought it was an error. Did she forget? Was she sick that day? Then, I was told the unfathomable., “I didn’t take the test because we were given an option, and I didn’t want the hassle. Plus, I skipped the small test fee.”
Needless to say, I was dumbfounded. As a private college counselor, I use numerous sources to identify good scholarships. The junior PSAT is a very critical component because it can generate tremendous scholarship opportunities in the ballpark of tens of thousands of dollars if not more. More often than not, very well meaning dedicated parents are unaware of the significance of the test because they were never informed.
What is it?
The PSAT is known as the PSAT/NMSQT which stands for the Preliminary Scholastic Achievement Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Often, the name is shortened and only referred to as the PSAT. While it is helpful to refer to the shorter name, it often skirts the most critical element of the test…it generates scholarships hence the NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test).
The PSAT is a test administered in the sophomore year and junior year. Neither the sophomore PSAT nor the junior PSAT are used for college admission. Instead, the sophomore PSAT is truly a practice SAT. The junior PSAT, albeit a practice test for the SAT, is also used to determine if a student qualifies for the National Merit.
Yes. The College Board administers and manages both the SAT I, SAT II also known as SAT subject tests and the PSAT/NMSQT. Hence, the College Board oversees the registration and test distribution. However, the National Merit Organization reviews the national scores and determines if a student qualifies as National Merit Student…this means $$$. Money in the form of the National Merit Scholarship worth $2,500 and institutional scholarships…a/k/a money from a university which could translate into a full ride worth up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Which Students Qualify?
All students qualify to take the Junior PSAT. While some schools schedule every student and pay the fee on behalf of their students, some schools allow each student to elect participation and then charge the students a fee. Needless to say, take the exam. Prepare for the exam. It can create tremendous scholarship opportunities.
How does a Student Qualify?
A student qualifies according to an index score. An index score is the total of the sub-scores in math, reading and writing. The process begins in October of a student’s Junior year, he will take the PSAT. If he receives a high index score (240 is the highest), he may be entered into the competition for the National Merit Scholarships.
During September of his senior year, he will receive a letter of commendation or qualification as a semifinalist in recognition for his high PSAT index score. Then, the student must take his SAT by December of his senior year. The semifinalists who meet requirements will advance to finalist standing. Finally, in March of his senior year, scholarship winners are notified. Many universities are very interested in these students and offer tremendous scholarship awards to attract them.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact Nadine at (713)447-0064 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Nadine Underbrink, M.Ed.
Nadine Underbrink, M.Ed.