If you're a parent wondering if you should convince your young scholar to take the PSAT, well, it's really a no brainer. The National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, otherwise known as the PSAT, is an excellent way to prepare for the SAT's, because the questions are very similar and in some cases identical. And there are no consequences for not doing well on it. The results of the PSAT won't be entered into high school transcripts, nor will they be considered as a criteria for college admissions. So there's no penalty or downside to taking the test, but there are very positive benefits if your child takes it and does well.

shutterstock_116061451High school students usually take the PSAT in either their sophomore, junior, or senior year in school, depending on when they and their guidance counselor, and of course their parents, feel they're ready for it. The guidance counselor will guide the student on the best ways to prepare for the test, and also on the process for signing up and completing it, which can be somewhat overwhelming.

As an added benefit to taking the test, it will also be the student's first exposure to bureaucracy and red tape. That alone is a good reason to have your student take the test.

They won't be alone. Each year, according to the Department of Education, over 3.5 million students take the PSAT. For college bound students, although it's not officially a prerequisite, from a realistic and practical point of view it is.

It's not an easy test to take and achieve high scores on, but neither are the SAT's. Every year only a relatively small fraction of the students taking the test score high enough to achieve special recognition. An even smaller number will receive letters of commendation which will all but guarantee scholarship monies.

And then there are those small few, those scoring in the top 1% of test takers, who will be honored as National Merit Semifinalists. In addition to a possible $2,500 scholarship award from the National Merit Corporation, the governing body that oversees the tests, most colleges will be knocking each other out of the way in their attempt to offer your child scholarship opportunities.

There's really no downside to your student taking the PSAT. It's excellent practice for the all important SAT's, and if they don't do well, it won't be held against them. On the other hand, superior performance will reap great future benefits.

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