Fall has yet to officially begin, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t too early to start thinking about the PSAT. For those of you who did not take the PSAT in high school, the PSAT is a Preliminary SAT. It gives your child a chance to practice for the SAT in a real testing situation. In addition, it will help give your student an idea of what type of SAT score he will get, so that he can start looking into appropriate colleges.
The practice your child gets is important, but equally important, is that the PSAT score is used to enter your student in the National Merit Scholarship Program. The National Merit Scholarship is not a particularly large scholarship, but it looks very good on student transcripts and can open the door for other scholarships. The one thing that I learned the hard way, is that if your child is trying for a National Merit Scholarship, make sure that he takes the PSAT in his junior year. I took it during my sophomore year and did not retake it during my junior year, so was not eligible for the National Merit Scholarship Program, despite having scores that probably would have earned a scholarship.
The PSAT is the only standardized test used for the college application process that your child will have to register for and take at a school. All other tests can be registered for online and are administered in a variety of locations, usually on the weekends. On the other hand, the PSAT is often administered during school hours. On top of that, the PSAT is administered once, and only once, a year. So if your child is sick, he will either have to forgo the PSAT altogether or do the best he can while ill.
This year, school’s will have the option to administer the test on Wednesday, October 17th, or Saturday, October 20th. To register for the test, you will need to speak with a principal or counselor at a local high school. I have heard that private schools are often easier to work with than public schools. My children have tested at the local public school. In order for us to register, we had to go to the student store during the school’s lunch hour. It felt awkward, but we lived to tell the tale. When the test date arrived, they had to find the appropriate classroom, once again, a bit awkward. I do wish that the PSAT was administered through a test center, like the SAT, ACT, AP tests, etc. Look here to find a school near you that is administering the test.
One VERY IMPORTANT note is that your child must enter your state’s homeschool code on the test where it asks for the school code. The test administrator will tell the students what the school code is, but it will be the code for the school, not for homeschoolers. If your child enters the school’s code instead of the homeschool code, his test scores will be sent to the school instead of to your home. In addition, have your child make sure that no “helpful” test administrator erases his code and enters the school’s code instead (they honestly believe that your child entered the wrong code and are trying to help your child). Officially, they should not be doing that, but I have heard of it happening to several people.
If your child would like to start being contacted by colleges, be sure he checks “yes” for the Student Search Service. I highly recommend this service as your child will receive information from schools that he might not have considered before. Plus, it is kind of nice to see all of the flyers and not just rely on reading about schools in the various college list books.
Finally, be sure to double check all of this information and more at the College Board’s official PSAT homeschool page (you can ignore their advice to call the local school during June before the test is administered – the school personnel are frantically trying to finish up the current school year and are equally frantic the first two weeks of the school year – I have found that calling during these two time periods just results in having a conversation with an annoyed person who hasn’t even begun to think about the PSAT).
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