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Hit the Scholarship Jackpot

September 1, 2008

Scoring in the top 1% on the PSAT test can be hugely beneficial to high school juniors. In addition to qualifying for the $2500 scholarship that the College Board awards to National Merit Scholars, these high scorers can expect (a) higher acceptance rates at the nation’s elite colleges and (b) lucrative scholarship offers, ranging as high as full tuition, room and board.

How can your child get on this gravy train?

  1. Take the PSAT as a sophomore, both as a practice test and to see if his scores are within striking distance of the top 1%. The cutoff scores vary from state to state and year to year. A score above 217 to 220 will likely make the cut in Texas.
  2. If a sophomore’s PSAT test scores are between 185 and 220+, a test prep program may help raise scores enough to qualify. For example, Knowsys’ test prep clients in Coppell have racked up an average 301 point increase on the SAT, which is  approximately a 30 point PSAT increase.
  3. When taking the PSAT as a junior, make sure to put “undecided” as the college choice. Why? Because some colleges only offer scholarships to those students who list them as 1st choice. It’s better to wait and designate a first choice college later, when you (a) might actually know and (b) have had time to research which colleges on your short list offer National Merit Scholarships.
  4. If you get the coveted letter from the College Board announcing you are a semi-finalist, absolutely fill out the form they send. If you don’t, you will not make finalist status. (Believe it or not, every year, up to 1000 students blow this step.) Designate your college choices on this form, making sure that whatever colleges you list will give National Merit Scholarships.
  5. Keep grades up. Poor grades can disqualify an applicant.

Note to immigrants: Only U.S. citizens or those who have applied for permanent residency qualify, so be sure to apply. Sadly, every year, CHS has 1 or 2 students disqualified because they are not U.S. citizens.

Good luck!

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