Why the PSAT is Useless for International Students


The PSAT logo. Photo courtesy CollegeBoard

May Tran ‘19

Every year, Peddie signs its students up for the PSAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). The PSAT not only allows high school students to experience a simpler version of the real SAT, but also to determine, by score, if they qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program, an academic scholarship competition for national recognition and university scholarships.

When I first heard of the PSAT as a new sophomore last year, I welcomed the opportunity to practice for the SAT under real test conditions. I was told that the PSAT would not be used when it came time to apply for colleges and that I should not stress about it. Only this year, as a junior, did I find out the PSAT was also a test for university scholarships. However, international students like me are not eligible for the scholarships or the program.

Although I initially found the exclusion unfair, I understand the reason for it. If the program and scholarship qualifications were opened to include international students, the sample size of those participating in the program would increase. The applicant pool for scholarships would dramatically increase, and it would become increasingly difficult to qualify for National Merit; the number of qualified international students could outnumber American students.

Obtaining an education is highly recommended in order to achieve success. As such, it is logical for Peddie to sign all sophomores and juniors up for the PSATs and enter us in the competition in case some students are able to gain high scores and receive scholarships. What I don’t understand is why the PSAT is mandatory, especially for international students, who will not reap the benefits it provides if they perform well on the test.

It is true that the PSAT can be good practice for the SAT, but what about the students who choose to take the ACT? It should be the students’ choice whether or not they want to take the PSAT.

In addition, why does Peddie only allow sophomores and juniors to take the test? It may be a bit early for freshmen to consider university and standardized testing, but they should be given the opportunity to begin preparing early if they want it. There are also some seniors that take the SAT later in the year after the PSATs are over; they may also benefit from the practice the PSAT gives. I understand why the school may not want to allow all students to take the PSAT; it requires more time, money, and space to host the test. Yet all students should still be given the opportunity to take it if they want to, and they should not be forced to take it if they do not want to.

The PSAT is essentially useless to some students, and making it mandatory is a waste of time and money. The student could have spent that time on more productive activities, such as preparing for the ACTs, and the school could have spent that money on projects that can better Peddie.