The PSAT and College Admissions: Does it Count? | College Made Simple

The warm up for the SAT may not matter when it comes to admissions, but it does offer some potential rewards for those who score highly.

The old adage is — you’ve got to walk before you run.

And by that same accord, you’ve got to take the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) before you can take the REAL SAT.

But when your student sits down in their junior year to take the PSAT, does what they’re doing actually count for anything?

The answer, as it is with many things college admissions related… is yes and no.

Let’s start with the NO part first.

The PSAT is at its core a practice test. Its purpose is to prepare students for the kind of questions they’ll encounter when they take the SAT in their senior year.

The test covers three areas, critical reading skills, math problem solving skills and writing skills. The three sections are scored individually and then added up to give the student their total score.

These scores can of course be very helpful in helping a student determine what areas they need to work on and improve before SAT time comes rolling around.

However, a student’s PSAT score is absolutely NOT looked at by colleges when considering admission. Schools don’t ask for or even have access to a student’s PSAT scores. The test is strictly used for practice and will not serve as any kind of criteria for acceptance.

Now onto the YES part…

The PSAT can actually be worth something to you and your child beyond the practice experience they receive.

PSAT scores are actually used to award many scholarships. And that includes the approximately 8,200 National Merit Scholarships handed out each year.

You’re automatically entered into consideration for these National Merit awards when you take the test. So it pays to try to score as high as possible.

Here’s the rub however… National Merit Scholarships are extremely difficult to qualify for. We’re talking the cream of the crop here… so don’t get your hopes too high that your student will receive one.

However, if your student’s scores are good enough to qualify to be “commended” or a “finalist”, this piece of info looks fantastic on a college application. Getting that far in the competition for a National Merit award is a surefire way to make your child’s application stand out from the rest.

Plus, finalists and even those “commended” are often times honored with different corporate scholarships for advancing so far… and many colleges also award their own merit scholarships based off such a distinction.

Being able to attach the label of National Merit Finalist to your application is invaluable when competing against other students for admission to college.

So as you can see, while the PSAT doesn’t technically affect your chances for admission one way or another, it can prove to be very important thanks both to the practice it provides for the real SAT and the opportunity to win grants based off your student’s scores.

The PSAT certainly isn’t a make or break piece of the college admissions process. Approach it as you should – as a chance to learn your child’s testing strengths and weaknesses. Anything else you receive beyond that is a very happy, very useful bonus.

To your successful college search,

Scott Weingold



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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News,, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.