The PSAT is the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship. Unfortunately, National Merit is only awarded to students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. That’s why taking the PSAT as an international student may not seem obvious. After all, why does the PSAT matter if you aren’t going to get National Merit?
Even if you are not a U.S. citizen, it turns out that it might still be a good idea to take the PSAT. Here’s why:
1. Get courted by universities
When you take the PSAT as an international student, you can opt-in to the Student Search Service. This is a free program that lets you look up colleges and scholarship opportunities.
It also gives certain colleges and scholarships information about you. That means that you can expect to be courted by universities. As a non-U.S. citizen, this can be a great way to learn about schools in the United States. If you’re on the fence about attending college in the U.S. or another country, this can help you to learn more about options in the U.S. and make an informed decision.
2. Discover your weaknesses
Taking the PSAT is a great way to predict how you will do on the SAT — and start paying more attention to those areas where you are weak.
“PSAT scores can give students a good indication of how they might score on the SAT if they were to take the test with no additional practice or preparation.”
— Dan Edmonds, Forbes Magazine
You normally take the PSAT as a sophomore or a junior in high school. That means that you will have one or two years after taking it before you need to take the real SAT and apply to colleges. If you find that there is a section where you score particularly poorly, you will have plenty of time to search out tutoring. In fact, you will even have time to take additional high school courses to help increase your score.
3. Decrease test anxiety
High school exams do not have the same format or rules as standardized tests. If you wait until you are a senior to start taking college entrance exams, you might experience test anxiety — especially if you are not acustomed to taking timed tests or tests in English.
The key to mastering standardized tests — whether it is the SAT, the ACT or the TOEFL — lies at least partly in your ability to conquer any anxiety. Take the PSAT your junior year or earlier. That way, you can start to get used to U.S. standardized test formats. Ultimately, this will improve your chances of performing your best on the exams that really matter.
Maija Wallace is a freelance writer for college admissions blogs. Her website is located at www.travelinglang.us
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