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Articles / Preparing for College / My 11th Grader Did Well on the SAT. Does Anyone Care About His PSAT Scores Now?

Dec. 1, 2018

My 11th Grader Did Well on the SAT. Does Anyone Care About His PSAT Scores Now?

My 11th Grader Did Well on the SAT. Does Anyone Care About His PSAT Scores Now?
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Question: My 11th grader took the SAT in early November and we were pleasantly surprised with his scores. His test tutor said he was glad to see the scores but he's also eager to see the PSAT scores, which will be out this month. I'm confused -- why should we care how he did on the PSAT now that he has already done well on the SAT?

Colleges don't use the PSAT as part of the admissions process, and the college folks won't even see these scores at all unless your son's high school puts them on his transcript. Thus, “The Dean's" best guess is that your son's tutor is eager to see the results because high scores might make your son a contender for a National Merit scholarship.


Junior-year PSAT scores serve as the qualifying test for National Merit. While the PSAT scores alone don't determine who will ultimately end up as a National Merit finalist, they are the first step in the process. The cutoff scores that allow students to progress in the National Merit program vary significantly from state to state, and the exact numbers also vary from year to year. Here's the current list of estimates by state. With any luck, you live in Montana and not Massachusetts. ;-)

There are also some other lesser-known scholarships and programs that use PSAT scores to identify potential candidates. See the College Board site for more information.

You should ask the tutor directly about his interest in the PSAT scores. Maybe he expects a bonus if your son lands a major National Merit award!

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Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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