Each year Portland Public Schools pays for every sophomore to take the PSAT, but juniors also have the option to take it again with a cost of $20. “I decided to collect some data and emailed all of the junior students and parents from my three AP English Language courses to gauge interest in the PSAT,” English teacher Elisa Wong explained. “If I planned on asking for spots for juniors, I wanted to make sure that there was actual interest in the PSAT. The response was overwhelming.” This year Vice Principal Dennis Joule barricaded the English classrooms for sophomores and the health classrooms in the Gym building for the handful of juniors taking the test this year. “The challenge is getting all the other students engaged in something meaningful,” Joule said. The new campus has made this process a whole lot easier as the juniors had a quiet location to take the test, while the freshmen went to the College and Career Day, and the seniors completed resumes and other graduation requirements.
Sophomore classes take the PSAT to practice for the SAT. The experience and knowledge in knowing what future tests will be like is invaluable. However, when a student in their junior year of high school takes the PSAT, and scores highly enough, they are eligible for the National Merit Scholarship. Those who score in the top 1% of their state will qualify as semifinalists. About 15,000 of those students then move on to become National Merit finalists and earn $2,500 in scholarship money. The PSAT itself does not count towards college admissions, but the background knowledge that the test taker obtains may be helpful for their future SAT and ACT tests which are used in the college admissions process.
Nicholas Mundorff (11) recently took the PSAT in hopes of qualifying for the National Merit Scholarship. Outside of school, he took SAT prep courses to augment his chances for the scholarship money. “It was easier this year because I was more prepared for what was coming,” Mundorff said, addressing the effectiveness of sophomore year’s practice combined with practice outside of school. After the test many juniors just like Mundorff spent the rest of the day off around town, celebrating the completion of the test, but also anxious to hear how they did. For those that took the PSAT this fall, scores will be available in December.
With the move to new Franklin, the PSAT may have been a daunting task for the staff members, but the new campus facilitated a smooth day of testing. Future PSAT tests, and time spent explaining what it’s really about, are on the radar for students and staff. Joule describes the PSAT as “an opportunity,” something for one to take advantage of and not let slip by.