Though it may be tempting, the PSAT should not be flippantly labeled as futile or absentmindedly shrugged off.
On October 13, every freshman, sophomore and junior needs to put forth his or her best effort.
For freshman, the PSAT is crucial practice for years to come when the score will actually count. Also, in the spring, every freshman receives a score sheet showing how his or her overall score compared with that of juniors and sophomores throughout the country. The PSAT must be taken seriously in order for these results to accurately represent each student’s mental aptitude.
For sophomores, the PSAT provides additional practice while determining which sophomores will be invited to attend the PSAT blitz junior year. This year, 150 juniors were invited to attend the PSAT blitz, a free program designed to increase juniors’ performance on the PSAT. Students who choose to participate in this program are required first to take an on-campus PSAT pre-test on one of two Saturdays in September. Then, a week or two later, students miss either their morning classes one day and their afternoon classes the next, or vice versa. During this time, they get specific help on what they missed on the PSAT pre-test, and learn helpful tricks for both the Math, Critical Reading, and Writing sections of the test. On the following Saturday, students have the option of taking a PSAT post-test, an additional practice test offered to help students apply their newly learned skills.
For juniors, their scores determine whether or not they enter the National Merit Scholarship Competition. Even if they don’t become a National Merit Finalist, the highest level of recognition, they are still eligible for Special Scholarships which are reserved for Commended students and Semifinalists. The 2010 student guide PSAT booklet approximates that out of the 1,500,000 U.S. juniors taking the PSAT, 34,000 will be commended and 16,000 will become semifinalists. Commended students will receive a letter in early September 2011 stating that they will not advance in the competition. However, they will be eligible for the Special Scholarships. The 16,000 semifinalists are the top-scoring students of each state. Each semifinalist is required to fill out an application, write an essay, and fulfill multiple other requirements, to become a Finalist. From the 16,000 Semifinalists, there will be 15,000 Finalists, from which the National Merit Scholarship recipients will then be chosen. These winners, approximately 8,400, will win a National Merit Scholarship which consists of either a $2500 National Merit Scholarship, a corporate-sponsored scholarship, or a college-sponsored scholarship. In total, between the Special Scholarships and the National Merit Scholarships, the National Merit Scholarship Program will award $48 million to students nationwide.
Our district bestows upon us the gift of taking the PSAT for free during school, and not on a Saturday with a fee. This is a privilege, and we should take full advantage of it.
View the PSAT as a challenge, a fun way to apply the myriad of vocabulary words from English and the bevy of formulas from Math. Anticipate comparing your score with your peers, and on PSAT day, show up with one goal: to do your best.