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I think I've made up my mind on this but thought I'd tap into the wisdom of this group. My son is 11th grade so he is "supposed" to take the PSAT this fall. I've had this on my radar since we started homeschooling so many years ago. However, I'm now thinking it may just not be worth it. He has already taken the SAT twice (once in Dec 2019 and then in Aug 2020) He did OK in December and pretty well in August. Well enough that if he didn't take it again, I'd be fine with that. The odds are very good that he wouldn't be one of the top scores on the PSAT...based on what I've seen on what comes out of this area. He did well enough on the SAT but I don't think he'd blow it out of the water for the PSAT. When I look at the NMSQT...the scholarship money doesn't seem to be worth the stress and anxiety this test seems to cause. Is it more of a prestige thing? Am I making a huge mistake by not signing him up? I see they are offering another opportunity in January, so I'm not worried about missing registration. I just don't know if it's worth it. 

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You are right: the actual National Merit scholarship is small -- a one-time award of $2500 to each of the 15,000 NM Finalist students.

However... What makes the PSAT-NMSQT worthwhile is that many colleges offer large-size, renewable (4-year) scholarships to NM Finalists -- often full-tuition, or even full-ride (all expenses paid) scholarships. There are also some corporation scholarships for Finalists. Those scholarships are only available to students who are NM Finalists, and to be a NM Finalist, you have to have scored high (usually 99% in your state) on the PSAT-NMSQT in 11th grade. Here and here are lists of colleges that award big scholarships to NM Finalists.

There are also some special scholarships for Hispanic and African American students that are awarded from high scores on the PSAT-NMSQT (97-99% scores), through companion programs to the PSAT-NMSQT.

If your DS is very unlikely to score high enough to reach NM Finalist level, and if there is little chance of attending any of those schools offering special scholarships to NM Finalists, and if DS is already comfortable taking the SAT (so, NOT needing the PSAT as practice for the SAT), then I could certainly see skipping the PSAT in the year of the pandemic. 

In normal years, I would note that it couldn't hurt to take it, just in case he scores high, and the extra test-taking practice can be helpful for some students. And this test is under $20 and signed up for directly with a school -- no big rigamarole through online registration... But, not a normal year, and it doesn't sound like any of the other aspects come in to play for your family, so it will likely be fine, whatever you decide.

All the BEST! Warmly, Lori D.

Edited by Lori D.
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... and note that both lists Lori linked to are out of date and/or incorrect for some of those colleges, so best to check the websites of any colleges your son is interested in if he does want to go for NMF.

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1 hour ago, RootAnn said:

... and note that both lists Lori linked to are out of date and/or incorrect for some of those colleges, so best to check the websites of any colleges your son is interested in if he does want to go for NMF.

Wow, the second link is to a Feb. 2019 article -- amazing that is out of date already!

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2 hours ago, Lori D. said:

Wow, the second link is to a Feb. 2019 article -- amazing that is out of date already!

The NMF offers are evaluated yearly & sometimes changes are made (both for better & for worse). With COVID, that is magnified.

The U my dd#1 attends actually has a TBD on their NMF package for this year's seniors. Most scholarship packages were just updated within the last two or three months.

Florida colleges are worth a look since certain of them started giving full cost of attendance to out of state NMFs. For the 15,000 kids who make it each year, being able to attend a handful of certain colleges completely free is no small matter. Note that many of the NMFs apply to Ivys or little Ivys and those schools don't really care about National Merit status. Honestly, most schools don't care too much since if your scores are that good, they're likely considering you for their top scholarships anyway.

@ShepCarlin, I'll echo Lori. If his scores wouldn't get him in the NM ballpark or if he's shooting for specific schools that don't offer the big bucks, I'd skip it. 

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You may find it harder to find a school this year. I know the private school DD did it at last year is 100% virtual still. I’m guessing they will have their juniors come in to take it, but I’m not sure they would be welcoming of extra kids like they were last year. 

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My boys would only be taking the PSAT 10 this year, and they took the PSAT 8/9 last year, but we are going to pass - especially since we just dealt with taking a stressful SAT2 in August LOL. 

Our county schools are all virtual, but they are going on with the PSATs for 10th and 11th graders who want to take it.  I have 2 slots for my 10th graders if I want them.  It would be a much harder decision if they were 11th graders.  I just wanted to post my experience because a few posters mentionted trouble finding a test site.  Not a problem in my big county.

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A lot to think about. I appreciate all the replies. He won't blow it out of the water. He has done well enough on the SAT so far...well enough for state schools and some private. Certainly not any of the Ivy League or really competitive schools-we were never planning on that route to begin with. I don't want to make it all about the test...especially since so many schools have now eliminated the SAT/ACT requirement (thanks COVID). I know the PSAT/NMSQT is different as it is your gateway into making National Merit Scholar....but he's just not NMS material. Great student, but not amazing. He's already scheduled to take the ACT in October as we found out he really prefers ACT over SAT. I'm also wondering what kind of hot mess it will be when PSAT occurs in October. The high schools in our county are still 100% virtual and won't be back in person until November. So I'm wondering how in the world they will do this...getting a bunch of 11th graders together for a one day test when they haven't all been together since March sounds like a chatty, squeally mess to me. Or maybe I'm just tired, cynical and ready for dinner and a glass of wine. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

I heard a homeschool consultant say that he only recommends PSAT/NMSQ for kids that are in the 10 % percentile on practice tests. His advice is if your kid isn't in that top bracket that it probably isn't worth the effort and the time would better be spent prepping for the SAT or ACT. 

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I would skip it if you don't feel like his current scores indicate that he has a good shot.

My current senior has a 99th percentile ACT and he wasn't close on NM. He wanted to take it and he actually studied but he was not close. I advised him to skip it but he wanted to at least give it a shot. All that to say there are very bright kids who just don't score that tippy top on that one particular test and it isn't worth it for the vast majority of students. 

My ds is very sharp and a confident test taker but I knew he wouldn't make it. It boils down to missing just a couple on the entire test and it was easy to determine from practice tests that it wasn't worth the trouble. 

 

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I guess it depends what your child's goals are.  PSAT was huge for us because of National Merit Scholarships.  My son was not a finalist but was commended and he got full tuition where he attends so yes, it paid greatly for us!  $26K a year!  I guess it depends on where your child is and how you think he will do.  I didn't stress with my second son because he wanted to go into military not college so I guess it is your kids goals.  🙂

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The PSAT/NMSQT is to be taken in October of the 11th grade and today is October 19th, so that is probably not a possibility for someone who isn't signed up already or doesn't have a connection at a school where they will give the PSAT/NMSQT.  Yes, that one for qualifying students (my DD qualified as a National Hispanic Scholar) has some outstanding benefits. I know there are several other programs but I am not familiar with their benefits.    My belief, based on the responses my DD received from universities, after taking the PSAT/NMSQT is that they certainly did pay a lot of attention to it.  If nothing else, it gives the students a chance to "bubble in" the information for the exam and experience the stress of taking the exam in a different environment, with other students, with their calculator, etc.  

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On 9/21/2020 at 2:59 PM, ShepCarlin said:

I think I've made up my mind on this but thought I'd tap into the wisdom of this group. My son is 11th grade so he is "supposed" to take the PSAT this fall. I've had this on my radar since we started homeschooling so many years ago. However, I'm now thinking it may just not be worth it. He has already taken the SAT twice (once in Dec 2019 and then in Aug 2020) He did OK in December and pretty well in August. Well enough that if he didn't take it again, I'd be fine with that. The odds are very good that he wouldn't be one of the top scores on the PSAT...based on what I've seen on what comes out of this area. He did well enough on the SAT but I don't think he'd blow it out of the water for the PSAT. When I look at the NMSQT...the scholarship money doesn't seem to be worth the stress and anxiety this test seems to cause. Is it more of a prestige thing? Am I making a huge mistake by not signing him up? I see they are offering another opportunity in January, so I'm not worried about missing registration. I just don't know if it's worth it. 

My oldest son did much better on the PSAT than the SAT. And his PSAT score allowed him scholarships. I think it is worth it to take it. You never know.

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  • 2 weeks later...

There's really no harm in taking the PSAT, except maybe the effort and the price of taking it. Other than that, it's all benefits especially if your child qualifies for a scholarship! See it as an investment and as a way to prepare for the actual SAT instead. There's actually an article from Exam Cave answering your question with a similar article title "Does the PSAT matter". You might wanna check that out if you need more input. Good luck!

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