The PSAT or National Merit test is going to be given at virtually every high school in the nation on October 15.
Juniors who score in the top one percent of their state and qualify as Finalists get full-ride scholarships to about half the schools in the SEC, plus many more. These schools have outstanding honors colleges. A student who was in roughly the 97.8th percentile of last year's test-takers was in the top one percent of Mississippians and thus earned Semifinalist honors. Usually a score in the 97.5th percentile is sufficient for Mississippians.
The test isn't just for juniors. In fact, the College Board reports that 54 percent of those taking the test are in 10th grade or below. Why? Practice!
How should a parent know whether their children have a chance to make National Merit Semifinalist? Simple. If they have scored well on other nationally normed tests then they should, with practice, score well on the PSAT.
My view is that any Duke TIP participant who scored a 21 or higher on the ACT in seventh grade ought to be a National Merit Semifinalist in Mississippi, provided they work at it. Part of that "work" is taking the PSAT as an eighth, ninth- and tenth-grader to get a snapshot of where they stand.
Don't expect the eighth- and ninth-grade scores to be anywhere near the cutoff level, either. The college board hasn't released the percentiles for these groups, but I'd guess that a score of 160 in eighth grade, 175 in ninth, and 190 in tenth will put students within striking range of the 203-210 that they will need to be Mississippi Semifinalists.
As I've said before, the PSAT is the most important test that really bright students will take in their entire lifetime. Yet it's not even on most people's radar.
If your 8-10th grade child has past test scores placing him in the top decile, call your school's guidance counselor today and make sure he is signed up to take the PSAT on October 15. A free-ride is a financial miracle; the honor of being a National Merit Finalist is priceless.
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