NEW YORK, June 15, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The PSAT prep test is a critical – but often overlooked - step for college students seeking financial aid. Over 1.4 million US high school students take the PSAT every year, yet only 8,400 are successful National Merit Scholarship finalists. At a time when high school sophomores and juniors are juggling pressure to get top grades and be involved in extracurricular activities, the preliminary SAT exam has never been more important. However, students and families that opt not to take the PSAT are leaving the opportunity for $2,500 or more in financial aid on the table. "It's worth your time and effort to prep for the PSAT," says Pam Proctor, Aristotle Circle expert and author of The College Hook: Packaging Yourself to win the College Admissions Game. "The PSAT that you will be taking in October of junior year serves as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). Scoring big on this test as a National Merit Semifinalist could set you up for significant merit money or for admission to top colleges such as Harvard, Princeton, Amherst, and Davidson, which are known for generous scholarships based on family need."
According to the National Merit Scholarship Corp., there is a 0.6% success rate for students trying to qualify for the available scholarship. This makes preparation for the test extremely important.
The PSAT scores required to qualify as a National Merit Scholarship finalist differ from state to state. For example, for the graduating class of 2011, the cutoff was 210 in Florida, 216 in PA and 223 in Massachusetts.
Visit the Aristotle blog for a complete list of the types of financial aid available for PSAT takers.
5 Things You Didn't Know About the PSAT
To Test or Not To Test - PSAT preparation is never a waste of time, even if you don't reach the contest's lowest recognition level: Commendation, you'll be preparing for the SAT. "Do yourself a favor: register with your guidance counselor for the PSAT and be sure to prep," says Proctor. "While your friends are playing video games, you could be on track to score big in a real-world competition and reap major benefits."
Go For The Gold - "Spending money for tutoring might seem extravagant, but the payoffs could be significant," explains Proctor. "But consider the case of one student who prepped hard with a tutor for his PSAT the summer before junior year and became a National Merit Semifinalist and later a Finalist. He won a $40,000-per-year merit scholarship to a big-city university at the top of his list, along with entree into its honors program and a slick new dorm."
Claim Your Culture - The National Merit Scholarship is available to US citizens or lawful permanent residents in high school. "There are special honors that could come your way if you are African American or Hispanic/Latino," Proctor mentions.
Merit Matters - Often a student with SAT merit designation is not notified until February of his or her senior year. Therefore a PSAT merit award is the distinction schools will look at. "A group of 7 students from the same high school applied to the same Ivy League early decision and the only two that were accepted were National Merit scholarship winners," points out Proctor.
Timing is Everything - In order to qualify for the scholarship, you must take the PSAT before your third year of high school. Therefore if you are on an accelerated program it is important to ensure you take the test in the correct semester. If in doubt, discuss the timing with your guidance counselor or college advisor.
About Aristotle Circle:
Aristotle Circle connects parents to experts with current insight and inside knowledge of admissions. The company offers services ranging from pre-K to graduate school. Aristotle Circle's network of more than 250 elite experts currently serves over 1000 clients in 30 states and 15 countries and includes top admissions professionals, guidance counselors, school administrators, financial aid advisors, and child development experts in their fields. Aristotle Circle's goal is to take the stress and frustration out of the process by giving students and families a clear path through school admissions. For more information, visit: http://www.aristotlecircle.com.
Press Contact: Renee Young
Renee Young Associates
SOURCE Aristotle Circle