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Scholarship opportunities, ACT, SAT, PSAT - Oh my!! Can someone sort this out for me

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I hear different things from different people and I of course know that this is the place I might get this sorted out. One Mom told me a college told her all scholarship and admissions are based upon the PSAT. Others say all on the SAT and ACT.


I was told a few years ago not to take the SAT until Junior year because all scores are included. Now, as I understand it, that is no longer the case.


With a rising 9th grader, I just need someone to help me with a timeline and suggestions for these. Great anxiety going on here:001_unsure:

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It all depends.....colleges vary widely in how they use scores and how they award merit aid.


There are colleges out there that offer scholarships based exclusively on SAT scores. There are also colleges out there that reject many kids with perfect SAT scores. (Duke brags about this.) Many merit scholarships are awarded on a combination of things -- essays, scores, strength of application (including extracurriculars), and even interviews.


A high score on the PSAT can result in a student then qualifying as a National Merit finalist -- and there are some colleges that offer up to full rides to finalists. Other colleges offer nothing to finalists. It all depends on the college.


The more "elite" the school, the less scholarship money is awarded solely on the basis of scores. But high scores will certainly help open doors.


When to take the tests -- now that you can request that the College Board "hide" certain SAT test scores, I guess it doesn't matter when you take the SAT for the first time. My kids took the SAT for the first time in January of their junior year. Many kids don't take the SAT until spring of their junior year.


The only PSAT score that "counts" is the one taken during fall of junior year, so having your child take the PSAT freshman and sophomore years is a good way to practice taking the test with no repercussions whatsoever.


The good news is that you have a year or two before testing season begins!

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If you really are concerned about testing, you might sign your child up to receive the SAT question of the day by email. It's an easy low-key way to begin to familiarize your child with the sorts of questions that he will see on the SAT and PSAT.


Just continue to give your child a great education, with lots of reading, writing, and math!

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is have your child sit for the SSAT. These scores are usually taken 6-8th grade and are mainly used for kids who are trying to get into high end private high schools.


My dd took it at the end of 7th grade, it does have the 5 paragraph essay and she had just taken a co-op class on how to do the essay. She scored well and felt good about it.


We are not going to do it this year as it is expensive. We do IOWA ever year just to have them used to being tested. I like it as over the years it has provided a measuring tool of where we are weak. You can patterns over the years and help break them vs a just once in a while test which may or may be not be a fluke.:)


We just used it for hs purposes - usually it is offered at a private school- just google the last one is in June. You just show up at the school after you ahve signed up and paid.



Edited by rockala
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My ds took both the ACT and SAT. Some smaller liberal arts colleges offered him scholarships based on the combination of his test scores (they used the highest result of the ACT of SAT) and GPA.


Could you share when he took these? Spring of junior year for both?

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PSAT is primarily for the National Merit Scholarships. SAT and ACT scores are used by most colleges as part of determining admissions and some scholarships. Some require the ACT, some the SAT, some will take either.

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With all three of mine, this is what we have done and it seems to work well. They aren't too young or too low in math to get discouraged by them, but they're far enough along to go ahead and begin to get a feel for what the tests are like.

Start by the spring of sophomore year to take ACT, SAT. That's my advice. And have them take the PSAT one year -10th - as practice run, before the 11th grade one that counts. For ALL of these, I cannot stress enough - HAVE YOUR STUDENT PRACTICE AND STRATEGIZE AND LEARN EXTENSIVELY all about the various tests by using the test prep guides.


That said, I've found, after schooling three - the best prep for these is a rigorous schedule of academics with no fudging. Meaning, have your student tackle the great books, even books that "threaten" him. It's good for the brain.

If you need math tutoring help, get it. It's worth it. And for goodness sake, don't switch math methods for the simple reason that "he doesn't like" what you're using. Really evaluate what "isn't liked." Could be just what he needs.


Be "brutal" when grading writing. It'll pay off. Teach your kids that the first draft of something is simply that, only a draft, there will be MANY more revisions.

This is how they learn good writing and that it takes TIME and it takes thinking to write well. And they will push themselves to learn to think better in order to write better with fewer tedious revisions as time goes on.


I recommend using College Board's real SATs book for lots of tests to practice, but for learning more about strategies, etc. and how the tests are put together, Princeton's Cracking the ACT/SAT have served us well, as well as Barron's, also there is the Real ACT's book, which is good.

Don't let your student "take a break" from reading during the summer - or ever! And see to it that he's reading difficult literature. This is HOW to ace that critical reading.




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Kids usually take the pre-SAT/ACT as sophomores, for practice. These are like the real tests, but somewhat shorter and include the simpler problems from those tests.


Kids take the PSAT to qualify for National Merit scholarships as juniors.


Kids can take the SAT/ACT for practice any time while they are in middle school if they want. Some programs, such as Duke TIPS, use this to qualify kids for gifted programming. Those tests taken prior to entering ninth grade do not show up.


Some colleges now will average the best sub-test scores from multiple tests taken of the SAT/ACT, so that students can have what some call a "super score" to be considered for purposes of admission. However, I don't know if these same schools will also use those super scores for purposes of scholarship consideration. That may vary.


We just visited a school that is very well endowed and they offer many scholarships to incoming freshmen that range from $1000 to $19,000 per year for the entire four years of their residence as undergrads. More than 90% of their student body receives some form of scholarship money. They base these awards on a combination of students' grades, types of classes attempted, outside work, volunteer work, leadership, SAT/ACT scores, etc., etc. They look at the "whole package" as they told us. They do not compare the students incoming at the same time to each other regarding awards, however, I am told (which seems sort of incomprehensible to me). They do not take into consideration parents' income, either, we're told. The financial aid people tell us they award scholarships need blind and that they, the financial people award aid scholarship blind.


Every school is completely different, however, so you just have to pick some that are of most interest and read up on what guidelines they use. The better endowed the school, the more liberal the yearly scholarships will be.

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