PSAT: Why It Matters For High School Junior?

By A Plus Program on 14 March 17 Blog

Parents, let’s face it: College is outrageously expensive. According to the college board, the average cost of obtaining a four-year degree can run anywhere from $98,440 up to $197,280. This number covers everything from tuition, to room and board, to books and miscellaneous expenses. And while there are always loan options to help you cover the immediate cost of college, those high-interest rates, and monthly payments often push graduates into financial hardship.

psatHowever, there is an alternative option to help cover the cost of college that is seldom thought about until it is too late: Scholarships. Unlike student loans, scholarships can help cover the cost of college without requiring a repayment plan. If it helps, think of scholarships as if they are coupons for college: The more coupons you have, the cheaper the overall cost.

Despite the necessity of scholarships for many people, there is not always enough money to go around. Thus, in order to receive as much scholarship aide as possible, it is critical for students to have top grades and test scores, as well as a strong writing ability and a willingness to search and apply for every grant and scholarship within their reach. Even if your student isn’t going to attend a top school, each institution has scholarship money available that they can vie for; and the stronger their overall application package, the more money your student is likely to receive.

One of the goals of the A+ Program is to prepare students for college and everything that college means. That is why we are offering a new test prep course, aimed at helping students achieve high scores on their PSAT exam.

What is the PSAT?

The PSAT is a national exam that every student will take their sophomore year of high school. Like other high stakes exams, this exam tests your student’s critical reading, math problem-solving, and writing skills. However, unlike other high stakes exams, this test cannot be re-taken if you are unhappy with your score. That is why preparing for taking the PSAT is critical: You only have one chance to do it well.

PSAT stands for “Preliminary SAT”, because it tests skills that can similarly be found on the SAT exam, but it is taken (just once) before the SAT itself.  However, it is unique from the SAT, as it is also known as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, or NMSQT, because student test scores are sent to college, universities, and other scholarship organizations. Based on your student’s score on the PSAT/NMSQT, your student may receive financial aid in the form of a national merit scholarship.

What is the National Merit Scholarship?

meritThe national merit scholarship is a string of different types of scholarships offered to exceptional students who show academic promise. To qualify for the national merit scholarship, a student must:

  1. Take the PSAT/NMSQT
  2. Be enrolled in High School
  3. Be a U.S. Citizen 

Every student who meets the above criteria qualifies for the national merit scholarship, but that doesn’t mean that every student who does, will receive the scholarship. Receiving a national merit scholarship is a multi-tiered process, and to even enter that process, a student has to score within the top percent of the scoring index, which includes scores from every student taking the PSAT across the United States. The PSAT is only offered once, to students in Grade 10, and the score it takes to qualify one year may not be the score it takes to qualify the next.

Who Will Win the National Merit Scholarship?

While the qualifying score for the NMSQT can very different year to year, the process to receiving a national merit scholarship after taking the PSAT is still the same:

  1. Commended students are students who score in the top percentage of students across the country.
  2. After being named a commended student, semi-finalists for the scholarship are selected on a state by state basis: Only the top scorers in each state become semi-finalists.
  3. Having met the basic qualifying criteria, semi-finalists can then apply for the national merit scholarship by submitting their transcripts and other materials.
  4. Finalists are selected from the top tier of the semi-finalists pool based on the materials they provided.
  5. National merit scholarships are awarded to only the finalist students with the strongest academic history and overall application package.

The journey to becoming a national merit scholar starts with a single exam: the PSAT. Let A+ help you start that journey by preparing you with everything you need to know to do well on the PSAT with our PSAT Test Prep Course. Enroll now to begin your journey towards earning the college scholarship that everyone wants, but few can rightfully earn.