PSAT may pay off big for sophomores

Test is first step toward qualifying for the Michigan Merit Scholarship Program

Claire Decker, Guest Reporter

It’s no ordinary test, although many don’t realize it.

Sophomores have been prepping for the PreliminarySAT, and according to principal Tom Lietz, it’s not something they want to “blow off.”

“It’s an important test,” Lietz said, “and it can yield some impressive scholarships and opportunities.”

Doing well on the PSAT as a sophomore identifies students who should take the PSAT/NMSQT in the fall, as a junior, to become a semi-finalist for the Michigan Merit Scholarship Program.

Although PSAT/NMSQT Merit Scholar finalists earn $2,500 in scholarships, many schools give even more money, including full-rides.

In 2014, 17 Macomb County student qualified as semi-finalists. In neighboring Oakland County, that number was approximately 270, almost half of Michigan’s total.

Armed with this information, Lietz, who believes Macomb County students are just as smart as those in Oakland, launched a campaign to have more juniors taking the exam.

“Our job is to get kids to college,” Lietz said. “We are trying to do better with the way we communicate about it, but I don’t think a lot of kids realize the benefits of this exam.”

After qualifying as a semi-finalist, students advance to the next stage of the program by demonstrating a consistently high academic performance record. They must also be endorsed and recommended by an official of their high school, earn SAT scores that confirm their PSAT performance and write an essay.

This year, seniors Mary Keta and Paul Kent qualified. The pair met Michigan’s requirement to earn at least 219 from all of the test’s subscores.

“Some colleges offer full rides or scholarships for being semi-finalists,” Keta said. “It’s also good for resumes or on applications for other scholarships.”

Taking the PSAT and SAT is something that all students are required to take, but doing well can really pay off after graduation.

“I’m pleased that I made it as far as I did, and I couldn’t do it without the support of my family,” Kent said. “I have received scholarship offers from schools like Alabama.”

For information about preparing for the exam, visit the College Board‘s site to see what’s on the test and view sample questions.