“Homeschooled students can’t take the PSAT.” As a parent of a homeschooled student, you might have heard or read this statement from other parents, on blogs, etc. But is it true? Is there really no access to the PSAT for homeschoolers? Of course, homeschooled students can take the PSAT! And they should. We will explain the exam and, more importantly, the financial aid options you can get from PSAT scholarships.
Homeschoolers don’t necessarily have to take the PSAT. No student does. However, this doesn’t mean they shouldn’t take the exam. There are plenty of benefits! In fact, you should encourage your child to take the PSAT, especially if they are looking for college financial aid. Also, if you’re here because you’re interested in homeschooling but not sure how to begin, check out plenty of resources to figure out where to start.
If you’re already a homeschooler, this post will give you an overview of the PSAT and scholarship awards, so keep reading.
What is the PSAT, and what is it used for?
The PSAT (Preliminary SAT) or NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) is a standard college prep exam in the United States. The College Board only offers the PSAT in October every year, and high schoolers usually take it in the fall of their sophomore or junior year. The test is a precursor to the SAT and is excellent SAT practice for high school students. Just like the SAT, the PSAT will be going digital! Students will take the digital PSAT starting in fall 2023. Check out our post about the new digital SAT for more information.
Along with being used as SAT practice, the PSAT tests a student’s mathematical, reading, and writing skills. The PSAT/NMSQT scores also identify potential National Merit Scholarship recipients. The National Merit Scholarship is the most well-known and prestigious scholarship competition for high school students in the United States.
Next, we’ll get into the National Merit Scholarship and other options.
What scholarships are available for homeschoolers who take the PSAT?
Now that we have discussed the basics of PSAT/N,MSQT let’s talk about the financial aid available to homeschool students to score well in their PSAT/NMSQT exam.
When it comes to PSAT scholarships, there are a variety of programs that you can apply for. The most popular PSAT scholarship program is, of course, the National Merit Scholarship. But, along with this, there is a variety of other financial aid options as well. So let’s have a quick look at them:
- National Merit Scholarship: As we explained above, the National Merit Scholarship is one of the most popular scholarships for students who take the PSAT/NMSQT exam. Because of this, it also is very competitive. Out of 1.5 million high school students who attempt the PSAT every year, only around 15,000 earn this scholarship. It is awarded two years after the testing year. So, for example, if a student takes the test in the fall of 2023, they’d be awarded the scholarship in 2025 if all goes well.
- National Hispanic Recognition Program (NHRP) Scholarship: This scholarship is another popular PSAT financial aid option for Hispanic and Latino students. It is awarded to students who score 2.5% on the PSAT/NMSQT test in their respective regions.
- Other college and university-based scholarships: Apart from the abovementioned scholarships, different institutions offer several other college and university-based financial aid programs to students who get specific PSAT/NMSQT scores. You can look for PSAT/NMSQT scholarships on websites like Scholarships.com or Cappex.
What are the eligibility criteria for PSAT scholarships?
Different PSAT scholarships have different eligibility criteria. In this section, we will examine the eligibility requirements for the National Merit Scholarship. The National Merit Scholarship is a national-level academic competition with several strict eligibility criteria.
To make sure you know exactly what you need to apply, here are the requirements from the National Merit Scholarship program:
- Take the PSAT/NMSQT in the specified year of the high school program and no later than the third year in grades 9 through 12, regardless of grade classification or educational pattern.
- Be enrolled as a high school student (traditional or homeschooled), progressing normally toward graduation or completion of high school, and planning to accept college admission no later than the fall following high school completion.
- Attend high school in the United States, the District of Columbia, or U.S. commonwealth and territory, or meet the citizenship requirements for students attending high school outside the United States.
Additionally, a student’s scores will only be considered for the scholarship if they meet the score threshold. While the score requirements differ yearly and from state to state, the general threshold is usually 1400 and above out of 1520.
What is a good PSAT score for the National Merit Scholarship?
Overall PSAT score
The PSAT is scored between 320 and 1520, which means 1520 is a perfect PSAT score. The score is determined in the following manner:
- The College Board determines the candidate’s raw scores for each section (Math, Reading, Writing, and Language). The raw score is the number of questions the candidate has answered correctly. There is no penalty for wrong answers.
- The College Board has devised a unique equating process for determining the candidate’s test scores for each section. These scores range between 8 and 38.
- Finally, the test scores are converted into section scores by the College Board. The section scores range between 160 and 720. These include an individual Math score and a combined Reading and Writing score, also known as Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW).
Candidates can add their Math and EBRW section scores to determine their PSAT score out of 1520. A score of 1400 or above out of 1520 is considered a good score for most scholarships.
Selection Index score
While this is how the PSAT score is calculated, this score is not used to determine a candidate’s qualification for the National Merit Scholarship. For this, the Selection Index score is taken into consideration.
The Selection Index score is determined by adding the test score for each section and then doubling the sum. The Selection Index ranges between 48 and 228.
For the National Merit Scholarship, each U.S. state declares its own cutoff score every year. This cutoff score depends upon the Selection Index of the highest-scoring candidate in that state. This score is generally between 200-224. Students who meet or exceed their state’s cutoff score become a semifinalist. Here’s how the Selection Index Score is calculated:
Your child will receive individual test scores for each section, including Math, Language and Writing, and Reading.
For example, suppose they score 30 on Math, 35 on Writing and Language, and 31 on Reading. The sum of these scores would be 96.
Now, you must multiply the sum of their PSAT score by 2 to get the Selection Index Score. So, 96 * 2 will give you 192.
Unfortunately, with this score, your child would not qualify to become the Semifinalist for the National Merit Scholarship.
Here is a list of the qualifying Selection Index Scores for National Merit Semifinalists by state from the PrepScholar website. While these are from the fall of 2021, they are still a good benchmark.
How to apply for PSAT scholarships as a homeschooler
After reading the above, you probably want your child to take the PSAT and apply for PSAT scholarships! If that’s the case, then here are the steps they must follow:
Step 1: The first step is to register for the PSAT/NMSQT through the high school in your local area. Check the College Board website for who to contact for registration. There is no individual registration for the PSAT like for the SAT. You have to go through the school.
Step 2: Your child has to take the PSAT/NMSQT no later than the third year of high school (regardless of grade classification or educational pattern). Remember that the PSAT 8/9 and the PSAT 10 scores do not qualify for the National Merit Scholarship program. Only the scores from the PSAT/NMSQT are eligible.
Also, if a student misses taking their PSAT/NMSQT in a specific year, they are not eligible to enter the scholarship competition for that year.
Step 3: Students must wait for their scores after taking the test. The PSAT/NMSQT scores are available online around mid-December. Ask your child to check if their scores meet the eligibility criteria for different scholarships.
Step 4: After ensuring that your child meets all the requirements for the scholarships of their choice, start collecting all the required documentation. Further, encourage your child to prepare for their scholarship essay.
Step 5: Fill out the scholarship form and attach all the required documents. Carefully review the application instructions and submit all the necessary materials before the deadline.
Step 6: After applying for the scholarship, watch for the result. If your child is accepted as a Semifinalist, there will be further steps, such as writing an essay and getting a letter of recommendation. Check out page 49 of the PSAT/NMSQT Student Guide for more information.
How can homeschoolers prepare for the PSAT?
Preparing for the PSAT/NMSQT involves good time management, a strong understanding of the subjects, and continuous practice. The PSAT also acts as an excellent SAT practice tool, so preparing for this test will help your child when they take the SAT.
As the parent of a homeschooler, there are several ways in which you can help your child prepare for the PSAT. Let’s have a look at some of them:
- Understand the test format: To ensure your child performs well in their PSAT/NMSQT exams, you should first help them understand the test format. Then, sit with them and explain the test structure, question format, and other essential aspects of the test.
- Use high-quality study materials: Ensure your homeschooled child can access top-notch study and PSAT preparation materials like books, mock tests, study guides, and other online resources. It will help them improve their test knowledge and be more confident.
- Prepare targeted study plans: Homeschooled students should have targeted study plans to keep them disciplined and motivated for the PSAT/NMSQT test. They can structure their study plan around their strengths and weaknesses to prepare for the test accordingly.
- Seek professional help: If your child needs additional guidance for their PSAT/NMSQT or is facing difficulties in a particular subject, consider hiring an experienced tutor. They will share their expertise with your child, answer questions, and prepare them for success. Also, get personalized online tutoring on Lessonpal to help your child get a great score on the PSAT!
What other scholarships are available to homeschoolers?
There are several other financial aid options based on PSAT scores that you can check out!
- The National Scholarship Service: It offers college advisory services to African-American juniors (for free).
- The Telluride Association: If you have an exceptionally talented or gifted junior, the Telluride Association can offer them financial support and grants. The organization provides monetary support to students who enroll in its 6-week humanities and social sciences summer program.
- Online PSAT scholarship search engines: Multiple online scholarship finder tools like Fastweb and Scholarships.com can help homeschoolers look for the PSAT scholarships they qualify for.
- Local organizations: Homeschooled students can also look for local organizations in their communities that might offer financial aid to local students. These include businesses, community groups, and religious institutions, among others.
Tips for homeschoolers to maximize their chances of getting a PSAT scholarship
Getting financial aid through a PSAT scholarship isn’t a cakewalk. Therefore, taking all the necessary steps to maximize their chances of receiving this financial assistance option is critical.
Here are some of our best tips:
- Start looking for PSAT/NMSQT scholarships early on: Your child will likely take the test during the fall of their sophomore or junior year. So, it’s wise to start looking for scholarship opportunities as early as possible. Numerous scholarships have early deadlines, so the sooner you start researching, the more time your child will have to prepare and apply for them.
- Encourage your child to participate in extracurricular activities: Many scholarship providers prefer students who are well-rounded and involved members of their community (along with being dedicated to their schoolwork). So, encourage your child to participate in extracurricular activities like sports teams, volunteer work, or summer internships to highlight their skills.
- Help your child develop their essays: Many PSAT scholarships require well-written and strong essays. You can help your child with their essay writing skills and help them write thoughtful, engaging, and compelling essays highlighting their personality and achievements.
- Search for homeschool-specific scholarships: Numerous PSAT scholarships are specifically for homeschooled kids. First, do a thorough online search using tools like Fastweb. Then, list all the potential scholarships they’re eligible for and suggest your child apply to each one.
- Check out the College Board scholarship partners: Another way to find financial aid is to check out the wide range of College Board scholarship partners. Don’t forget to take note of the deadlines each scholarship mentions.
The big picture
So, there you go! That’s everything you need to know about the PSAT and PSAT scholarships for homeschooled students. Overall, taking the PSAT can open doors to numerous opportunities for your child. It can help them prepare for the SAT and get other financial benefits later on, don’t forget about the federal student aid you can get from filling out the FAFSA, along with a wide range of available college scholarships.
Lessonpal’s experienced private PSAT tutors can help your child if they need more support with preparing for the test. There are also tutors in over 900 other academic subjects, extracurricular subjects, or in areas like the college admissions process. Find affordable options for your child on Lessonpal today!