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Standardized testing organizations love acronyms and as students we’re forced to know each individual one’s advantages and disadvantages. One such exam with several advantages is the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. That’s a mouthful so it’s most often known as the PSAT/NMSQT. If the name is still too long then the term PSAT works quite fine as well.

The PSAT is an exam usually taken during Junior year. It allows students to potentially qualify for prestigious recognitions, potential scholarships, and to receive a good idea on how the actual SAT will be structured. If you take the exam you can potentially receive academic recognition. Even if you don’t win any of the awards you’ll have a very good idea on what to study for the SAT. All in all, nothing to lose.

So what type of recognitions can a young student like yourself potentially achieve? Quite a few actually.

PSAT Recognitions
National Hispanic Recognition Program: If you’re at least a quarter Hispanic you can mark that on your PSAT test sheet. By doing so it allows you to receive academic recognition as a minority student if your scores are high enough. Although it doesn’t qualify you for a direct scholarship from the College Board, it doesn’t mean you can’t add it on resumes, college applications, or scholarship applications.

The recognition will acknowledge that you’re a hardworking student. If you do your scholarship research properly there’s the high potential of receiving outside aid for that recognition. The only catch is that you have to take the exam in October in order to qualify and maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.5 during your senior year. The test scores to qualify depend on your state, region, and how many students are applying.

Not Hispanic? Other Scholarships available: The College Board is now uniting with other organizations to provide minority and/or low-income students with scholarship opportunities. This means that you can take the PSAT as early as your sophomore year in order to nominate yourself. Anyone who fits the category of minority and/or low-income can check this off their PSAT sheet. Remember, you must mark it off!

Once again, scores vary from year to year but don’t let that be a deterrent. As long as there’s a possibility you should always try. If you’re worried about the cost about the PSAT don’t worry. I’ll discuss price options for that later!

National Merit Scholarship Program: Exceptionally high test scores are often referred to this section of the PSAT exam. To qualify for this section you must be a US citizen or legal resident, be in your Junior year of high school, and have plans to enroll in college after graduation. Also, do remember to mark on your PSAT sheet that you want to be considered for this program. Students with very high scores receive scholarship money! Do mark it on your PSAT!

There are three main distinctions for this program that are very helpful when applying for financial aid. Students with Commended status don’t receive aid from the College Board but can use that recognition to apply to college and other scholarship programs. Since Commended students show much potential for success, organizations working with the College Board can sometimes contact these students with scholarship offers.

Second on the list is Semi-Finalist. These students have their scores based on the tests turned in from their individual state. They receive scholarship applications to turn into the College Board for the opportunity to receive aid for college.

Finalists students are the individuals whom the College Board attempts to award the most money. This status isn’t only limited to the College Board. Many colleges offer free-rides to Finalists or very generous scholarships that can cover most of the costs of attending it.

The PSAT is an exam worth trying. Some people who don’t take the PSAT often don’t because they are worried about the costs for the exam. PSAT tends to cost around $15 which can be quite inexpensive to some families and much to others.

Never let price be an issue. Go seek out your school counselor immediately if you think that will be a problem. The PSAT has fee waivers that help you with exam costs. If you’re worried about study techniques, check out the rest of the The Prospect for tips!

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the author

Erendira Jimenez is a second year student at Wichita State University. She's majoring in International Studies and is part of her school's honors college. Like all college students she has a love for pizza, Netflix, and college freebies.

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