The PSAT (like all standardized tests) isn’t required for homeschoolers in Kansas or Missouri, but taking it can benefit your family in a number of ways.
Every year our community has a great opportunity to take the PSAT (make sure you register this year before Sept. 18!), so we thought we’d highlight four ways this test can benefit your children, especially if they’re high school juniors.
1) The PSAT qualifies juniors for National Merit scholarships.
If your high school junior ranks in the top percentile when taking the PSAT, it’s more than just a great feeling! It could qualify them to be a National Merit Scholar, which can mean a full-ride college scholarship.
Many universities will offer attractive financial aid packages that either reduce or pay off all tuition costs for National Merit Scholars.
Sometimes other costs such as room and board are taken into consideration. One homeschooled National Merit Scholar actually received a free laptop from her college of choice!
Even if your student doesn’t become a National Merit Scholar, it’s still worth it to take the test. Semifinalists and commended students can still receive partial scholarships to their higher education.
NOTE: While high school sophomores can also take the PSAT, their scores won’t qualify them for any National Merit Scholarships. They must be high school juniors for their scores to count.
Here’s how one homeschool dad, Russ McGuire, explained it on our Facebook page:
“If you have a rising junior who tests well, I strongly strongly encourage you to sign up for the PSAT. Our son had multiple full-ride scholarship offers because of his success on the PSAT (which is the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship competition).”
2) The PSAT gives firsthand practice for taking the SAT.
The SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) is one of two standardized tests widely accepted for college admission. (The other test is the ACT, originally called American College Testing.)
As such, it makes sense for your homeschool student to become familiar with the SAT’s format and scoring methods so that they’ll be ready to take the test when the time comes.
This reason is probably most applicable to high school sophomores, because the PSAT often occurs later in the school year than earlier opportunities to take the SAT. It’s not uncommon for high school juniors to take their SAT first, then the PSAT.
If that turns out to be the case for your homeschool student, take heart! Because the SAT is designed to be harder, taking the PSAT afterward can help you get a better score (and maybe place a little higher in the competition for those National Merit Scholarships).
3) The PSAT provides a national snapshot of your child’s performance.
After you take the test with other MPE students, scores will be mailed directly to you, with a copy of the actual test returned to you in January. You’ll be able to see how your homeschool student ranks compared to the national average, based on their percentile score.
If your child places above the national average, congratulations! Homeschoolers typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public school students on standardized academic achievement tests (see this and other helpful information in our post debunking homeschool myths).
Even if your student places below the national average, that’s not always a huge cause for concern.
It may just mean they don’t perform well in a typical test-taking environment. Perhaps you have a struggling learner who could develop and submit a portfolio for further vocational training. Others can take community college courses or apprenticeships to demonstrate their readiness for higher education.
In such cases, the PSAT can provide a good benchmark for you to adjust your teaching strategies accordingly.
4) The PSAT can help build community!
(One of the perks of taking the test through MPE is that homeschoolers get to take the test together, rather than applying individually to a school.)
Granted, I don’t remember the actual test-taking with any fondness. But I remember seeing old friends, and making new ones, in the few minutes before the test began, during the test break, and after the test as we discussed questions and compared notes.
It was also fun for me to get a fresh perspective and reminder of how homeschooling didn’t have to be like “traditional” school. The PSAT required set timers, proctors and other such qualifications, but most days our homeschool didn’t look anything like that!
Do you have a high-school homeschool student who would benefit from taking the PSAT? Sign up today for our testing opportunity on Oct. 14 (registrations must be received by Sept. 18).
We have updated this blog post, originally published in August 2014, for timeliness and detail.