W[\dropcap] someone says the acronym ‘SAT’, you’ll find that many high school students, particularly juniors and seniors, will shudder at the very sound. The growing importance of a score well above average (1504 according to the recent census from College Board in the state of California) has been heavily emphasized by school counselors, teachers, and parents. Even the old lady down the street has heard about the coveted, magical number 2400. It is without a doubt that the SAT has become an integral part of the application process towards higher education. In fact, getting into private colleges and the UC’s is impossible without taking the standardized test at least once.
In order to prepare and award freshman, sophomores, and juniors, the College Board crafted a smaller, much simpler test called the PSAT or Preliminary SAT. It is also known as the NMSQT, or National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Usually administered in October, the PSAT was given to the class of 2017 last year for free; but, before that the school charged a hefty fee of $20 to any students interested.
Not only does the PSAT prepare you for the rigorous, grueling three hour and 45 minute SAT, it presents students numerous scholarship opportunities. The recent October PSAT will give recognition to the most academically adept by providing thousands of dollars towards your college tuition should you score about a certain number, differing from state to state. There is also a National Hispanic Recognition Program that awards the hardworking juniors with a Hispanic or Latino background. It is within your best interests to check out the varying programs that College Board offers, especially if you are a minority.
Beginning in 1955, the National Merit Scholarship Programs seek out the top percentile of high school students through PSAT scores. If your PSAT score qualifies you into the program, you will be sent to the semifinals, where the highest scores of each state will move up to compete in the finals. Approximately 15,00 semifinalists will be eligible for one of three types of scholarships: the National Merit $2500 Scholarship, the Corporate-Sponsored Merit Scholarship Awards, or the College-Sponsored Merit Scholarship Awards. Before you dismiss the PSAT as just a test you can ‘wing’, keep in mind that the score to surpass in California is 223. From personal experience, I heavily encourage you to give the test your all or else you’ll fail to qualify by just a tiny margin of error.
In Villa Park High School, the two finalists we are proud to have are the pham-tastic Karen Pham and Jane Pham. Both are seniors that continue to take challenging courses in their final year of high school and are fueled by a drive to succeed well beyond that. Jane continues to study and prep for the SAT in order to earn a better score. When asked whether or not she enjoyed taking the PSAT, she pouted and replied, “Boo! I don’t like this question.” However, her attitude changed tremendously when she asked whether or not she was happy when she received the news of her qualification. “I was very happy [when I received the news.] And, well, I didn’t technically win, but I have a chance to get a scholarship.” One might ask where in the world does she get the drive to become successful? “Money. And because I feel like I have to.” To all future test-takers, she simply wishes the luck and kindly imparts them with once last piece of advice. “Study!”