Test Prep

My 11th Grader Did Well on the SAT. Does Anyone Care About His PSAT Scores Now?

iStock

Question: My 11th grader took the SAT in early November and we were pleasantly surprised with his scores. His test tutor said he was glad to see the scores but he's also eager to see the PSAT scores, which will be out this month. I'm confused -- why should we care how he did on the PSAT now that he has already done well on the SAT?

Colleges don’t use the PSAT as part of the admissions process, and the college folks won’t even see these scores at all unless your son’s high school puts them on his transcript. Thus, “The Dean’s” best guess is that your son’s tutor is eager to see the results because high scores might make your son a contender for a National Merit scholarship.


Junior-year PSAT scores serve as the qualifying test for National Merit. While the PSAT scores alone don’t determine who will ultimately end up as a National Merit finalist, they are the first step in the process. The cutoff scores that allow students to progress in the National Merit program vary significantly from state to state, and the exact numbers also vary from year to year. Here’s the current list of estimates by state. With any luck, you live in Montana and not Massachusetts. ;-)

There are also some other lesser-known scholarships and programs that use PSAT scores to identify potential candidates. See the College Board site for more information.

You should ask the tutor directly about his interest in the PSAT scores. Maybe he expects a bonus if your son lands a major National Merit award!

******

If you’d like to submit a question to College Confidential, please send it along here.