West Shore students will be a part of the approximately 3.5 million students worldwide who will be taking the PSAT on Wednesday. For thousands of students, the PSAT provides an opportunity to earn scholarships and reputable titles for college admittance as well as a better understanding of where they are in relation to their readiness for the SAT and ACT.
“[The PSAT] gives students an idea of where they stand in relation to those college admittance tests, particularly the SAT,” school Testing Coordinator Mike Drake said. “The district started an initiative a few years ago where they pay for the tenth-graders to get the PSAT and they get an SAT when they’re in eleventh grade. West Shore goes a step further because the PTA pays for all the eleventh-graders to get the PSAT again.”
The PSAT not only allows all students to know their standings, but it also gives those with the highest scores an opportunity to be rewarded for their efforts.
“The National Merit is a scholarship competition that is done when students are in eleventh grade; all eleventh-graders world-wide that take the PSAT in the fall,” Drake said. “College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, they then farm out the top 50 thousand scores, and at the end of junior year, they let those students and those schools know ‘hey these students are all in the competition.’ Then from there, it goes through the summer and up until Labor Day when we’re notified of those [who became semifinalists].”
Students in the semifinalist position with the top scores are then named the program’s finalists. With scholarship opportunities, finalists also gain an upper hand when it comes to college admittance.
“When you are a national merit finalist, that goes a long way towards moving your application to the top,” Assistant Principal Glenn Webb said. “It separates you from your peers.”
Colleges look for high academic status, commitment and leadership in applicants, making the title “National Merit finalist” an advantage, especially for students staying in state.
“[T]he state of Florida passed a law about five to six years ago, that if you’re a National Merit finalist and you stay in the state of Florida in the school system, that you won’t pay for any tuition or anything up through your bachelor’s degree,” Drake said. “[However, it’s] not such a big deal with Ivy League schools; [they] don’t really care if you’re a national merit finalist or not. They’re more looking at your academic record, SAT scores, ACT scores and your application as a whole.”
By Olivia Thompson