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Articles / Applying to College / Should he put his "Commended" Status on his applications?

Should he put his "Commended" Status on his applications?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Sept. 21, 2010

Question: My son had a near-perfect PSAT score in 10th grade, but when he took the test again as a junior--the year that counts for National Merit--he was ill, and he only made Commended status. Now, as a senior, he has SAT's of 2370, top grades, and 5's on many AP exams. Should he put his "Commended" Status on his applications? Should his counselor discuss his 10th grade PSAT's in the recommendation? He is applying to the most competitive colleges. Given that my son's credentials are generally better than most of his peers who have achieved semi-finalist status, will he be at a disadvantage with respect to them at the schools to which they are all applying?

National Merit results are a bigger deal for students and, especially, for parents than they are for the lion's share of colleges that most National Merit winners hope to attend. You may have already noticed that, while some colleges give big bucks to NM finalists, many of the hyper-competitive ones don't even participate.

It's certainly understandable that your son was disappointed that his sophomore PSAT's bested his junior scores due to his illness. Lousy timing! And, unfortunately, this will keep him out of the running for scholarship money at some schools that he might otherwise tack onto his list. But, I suspect that, at many of his target colleges, it won't make a lick of difference. The omission of NM status on your son's application is a non-issue. My advice would be to not even mention it, although it certainly won't be a liability if he were to include his "Commended" status under "Honors and Awards" or if his counselor should happen to comment on his higher 10th grade PSAT result in the recommendation.

But, trust me, the elite colleges will not be looking for your son's NM status on his application, and if he is turned away from any of his top-choice colleges, it won't be because of this.

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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