“Mark My Words” – Predictions in the land of Higher Education

 SAT test bubblesBy Mark Greenstein, Founder and Lead Instructor at Ivy Bound / Rising Stars
Feverish study for the PSAT is NOT worthwhile this fall.  This year’s PSAT does not align with the SAT until March!  Time spent studying for the PSAT thus takes away from studying for the ACT or current SAT (in use through January).  Even a “perfect” PSAT is useless for college admissions recognition if it’s not backed up by a high SAT or ACT.  Few, if any, competitive colleges consider PSAT scores.
If interested in the financial side, AT MOST a great PSAT score gets you $2,500 from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.  Some higher awards exist from outside groups, but you need to be a member of that group (minority, or employee).
By contrast if you concentrate on the SAT, you are in line for $50,000+ in merit-based money.  You need not be a member of a group, and these scholarships are NOT need-based.  They are available from colleges that view the high scorer who will attend as a talented asset.
Ivy Bound now tracks the awards its scholarship-seeking students receive.  Our scholarship-seeking students averaged $64,500 in 2014.  And the merit money received for 2015 is coming in even higher (results not yet complete).
Because it’s a vastly different test, PSAT study right now dilutes from SAT study.  We’d rather see our ambitious juniors do almost anything OTHER than PSAT prep.  More expectations about the SAT are at http://www.ivybound.net/blog/ along with a podcast at http://www.ivybound.net/sat-articles/when-to-take-the-sat/#more-3514  (3 minutes).
For ambitious Sophomores, the current PSAT is nearly worthless.  National Merit Scholarships are only based on Junior year scores.   For sophomores, the PSAT is at best a crude practice SAT.  But better simulations of the SAT are available already, from College Board.com and through test prep firms.  Studying for the SAT and taking the SAT this fall makes sense – most colleges will accept two-years-old SAT scores.  Studying for the PSAT has minimal utility, and negative utility if it comes at the expense of good extracurricular activities, academics, SAT prep, or sleep.
We predict that students who study for the PSAT at the expense of SAT or ACT will rue the trade-off.

Mark Greenstein has led Ivy Bound Test Prep  since 2001.  He writes and lectures on Education issues, and otherwise guides students to better grades and test scores.  He is reachable at msg@ivybound.net Tel (860) 666-5550

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