You might say to yourself “The PSAT is just a practice SAT, so I don’t need to worry about it, right? It’s the SAT that really matters, isn’t it?” or “I don’t even want to take the SAT—I’m preparing for the ACT.”
The PSAT is not just a practice SAT and you absolutely should be taking it seriously. In fact, the PSAT opens many doors to you that you may not have otherwise been aware of. Below is a list of reasons why you need to take the PSAT seriously.
1. The PSAT helps prepare you for the SAT/ACT.
Preparing for the PSAT will kickstart your prep for the SAT and ACT. This reason might seem the most obvious, but it’s true. The PSAT is a shortened version of the SAT, so it will give you an idea of what will be on the SAT and what your strengths and weaknesses are. Why is this important? These are not normal tests that you're used to taking in school. They are longer, more time-intensive, and they cover a lot more content at multiple levels of difficulty. In addition to preparing for the content, it is important for you to learn about these aspects of the test. More preparation over a longer period of time leads to higher score improvements.
2. Doing well on the PSAT can equal thousands of dollars and scholarship opportunities!
For many students, the PSAT can end up being even more important than the actual SAT/ACT. The PSAT is the only way to qualify for the prestigious National Merit Scholarship Program. You can become a National Merit Semi-Finalist by outscoring other students in your state. Many colleges will offer scholarships to students who qualify as semi-finalists, even if they don't qualify as finalists! Other scholarship opportunities that might be available to you based on your PSAT scores include the National Achievement Scholarship Program and the National Hispanic Recognition Program, along with many others. Not preparing for the PSAT means you might be leaving free money on the table.
Here's an example: Baylor University provides a full scholarship to National Merit finalists if they select Baylor as their 1st choice.
3. Taking the PSAT puts you on colleges’ radar.
When you take the PSAT, you can indicate which colleges you’re interested in as well as your academic and personal interests, which will put you on colleges’ radar. The College Board’s Student Search Program allows over a thousand colleges to identify prospective students based on factors such as intended major, GPA, and state residency. Scoring well on the PSAT can lead to being recruited by colleges and learn about colleges you may not have otherwise considered. Some colleges may even offer you scholarships based on your PSAT scores.
4. Your PSAT score will be used to identify your target university list.
The process of sitting down with your high school counselor to start the college application process is exciting, but it can be stressful. Your counselor will help you create a list of safety, target and reach schools. This list will largely be based on your current GPA and how you scored on the PSAT. It is important for your PSAT score to be as realistic as possible, which can only be achieved through preparation. You don't want to end up with a target list that doesn't accurately reflect your potential.
5. Not preparing for the PSAT has no benefits.
Think back to any test you have ever taken; whether it was a final exam in school, or your driver's test. Did you walk in to it unprepared? Probably not. The PSAT that you take in your Junior year is almost 3 hours long. It is a big time commitment, and there are no retakes. Your score counts and has potential ramifications regarding your future without you even realizing it. So take control of your PSAT score and walk in to the test prepared.
Most students underestimate the importance of taking the PSAT. Now that you’ve read this, you won’t be one of them.