The often-ignored Preliminary SAT (PSAT) – Why is the PSAT important?

So, your child is in high school. For some parents, the concerns about the next step to college begin to enter your minds. When should you begin to think about college for your child? As early at the 9th grade! Here’s why? The ignored Preliminary SAT (PSAT) can open invisible doors not imagined or seen.

You may not have kids in high school, but don’t forget to bring this to your grand kids attention!

“What score do you need on the PSAT to qualify for National Merit distinction? The answer to this question depends on where you live. To achieve National Merit recognition, you need to match or exceed the cutoff score in your home state.” This article, source for the quote, summarizes the ins and outs of the PSAT very well The important info in the article are the very brief explanations of what and why, as well as links to important sites for more information.

[Note that you can get updated information each year by Googling “Predicted National Merit Scholarship Cutoffs.”]

The merit scholarships are from the Junior high school year PSAT cycle, called the PSAT/NMSQT. Should you take the PSAT as a Sophomore in 10th grade (PSAT 10) (or even earlier PSAT 8/9)? Yes! – it’s good practice to become familiar with the test and the testing environment. Having confidence when it counts as a Junior is important. Not to mention – having practiced and prepared, makes the SAT test and environment more familiar too.

Do You Qualify for the National Merit Scholarship? This article summarizes the timeline for the important testing cycle during the important Junior and Senior years.

How do you sign up for the PSAT? Here’s a great summary walking you through a 3 step process. with important dates from the College Board

The College Board administers the tests, while the National Merit Scholarship Corporation administers the National Merit Scholarship Program .

As a parent, I suggest you become familiar with the PSAT and NMSQT process while your child is in the 8th or 9th grade (or sooner if they’re already getting good school grades). Taking the PSAT early (even in the 9th grade) provides insights on subject areas for your child to strengthen, as well as insights on what their score is (which tends to improve with later tests, as well as through work on those areas that need work).

Here’s a great Wikipedia piece on the National Merit  Scholarship Program

Note that there is also a National Hispanic Recognition Program that uses the PSAT/NMSQT from their Junior Year, or the National Achievement Scholarship Program for African-Americans among other National Recognition Programs

It’s important you follow each step along the way

I could try to write a long article touching on everything above. However, my objective here is to bring this important milestone test to your attention and point you in the right direction so you can look into it on your own. Because, on your own is where you’ll learn the nuances applicable to your own child and what they need to do at each stage along the way … with your guidance that you, and your child, have gained looking into this important test (and the small changes that may come about in the future after I’ve written this).

Even though the college of interest your child may have doesn’t require the SAT, taking the PSAT/NMSQT and practice tests during earlier high school years (8th – 10th grades) may land your child a scholarship! Other applications processes do apply in order to qualify for the many different kinds administered through the various programs – so follow the steps carefully and research which program may apply to your child well before their Junior year by talking to high school counselors even before your child is in 9th grade (or the 9th grade at the latest).

How your perspective will change if qualification happens! Why? Colleges and Universities across the country will be sending unsolicited offers from them to your child for schools your child may not even know existed or would be on their radar. How do I know? Our youngest son landed a valuable full ride scholarship (not brag – simply saying that, had an outstanding school counselor not have mentioned it to us, we’d have never known) and got 8 unsolicited admission offers, including their Honors Programs, from schools outside the State we lived in. He chose the University of Arizona Tucson (Bear Down, Wildcats!).

Photo by Caleb Woods on StockSnap.


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