Lack of  PSAT access at BHS deprives students of opportunities

Berkeley High School will not offer the PSAT this year. The PSAT is a practice version of the SAT, usually taken by juniors, that allows students to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship as well as assess their abilities in preparation for the SAT. BHS Vice President Harrison Blatt said the PSAT will not be offered this year because there were “challenges in recruiting staff to work the weekend.” In the future, BHS should resume offering the PSAT because it provides valuable practice for the SAT and easy, automatic access to the National Merit Scholarship application process. 

Although many colleges in the U.S. are test blind or test-optional, a high SAT score can still help students stand out. High SAT scores are always impressive to colleges and can be especially useful if a student’s grades are lacking, as a high SAT score can demonstrate their academic abilities. When students take the PSAT, they gain valuable exposure to a real test environment and the standardized test format, encouraging them to take the SAT and helping them earn a higher score. Wendy Morrison, a college counselor working in Berkeley, said, “The PSAT is an opportunity for kids who might not have the resources on how to navigate this whole college application world. If this test hadn’t been presented to them as an option by their high school, they might not have considered trying it. But if it’s conveniently offered, they might give it a shot, and then it could benefit them.”

Another benefit of the PSAT is that it provides access to the National Merit Scholarship, which can be a huge boost a student’s college application and, depending on the college, can mean a significant amount of scholarship money. “It’s a very nice distinction in terms of college admissions to be a national merit semifinalist or finalist.  . . . It kind of heightens (the college’s) awareness of you as an applicant,” said Morrison. Additionally, some colleges offer full rides to selected semi finalists and finalists, and other schools offer to pay half of tuition. 

In 2024, the College Board will roll out a new digital version of the SAT. The PSAT would have allowed students to practice the new digital format. “I think it’s unfortunate (the PSAT is not being offered) because I think it would have been a great practice test for the new digital SAT that will premiere officially in March of 2024,” said Morrison. There are some resources online, such as Khan Academy’s SAT Practice, that allows students to practice the digital version of the SAT for free. However, this still places an extra burden on students to find these resources and then practice on their own time. There is also still a way for students to apply to the National Merit Scholarship Program without taking the PSAT. According to the BHS Etree, students who could not take the PSAT due to an extenuating circumstance can write to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation to ask about alternate ways of applying to the National Merit Scholarship Program. Although it may be possible to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship without taking the PSAT, it is definitely an added hassle for students. They must reach out to the College Board and explain why they couldn’t take the PSAT. Students might feel uncomfortable doing this, and it may prevent them from applying for the National Merit Scholarship Program.

By not offering the PSAT, BHS deprives students of an easy opportunity to practice for the SAT and denies them a straightforward way to apply for the National Merit Scholarship. The PSAT is incredibly beneficial to students; therefore, it is BHS’s responsibility to offer it in the future.