National Merit Scholar Finalist? Now you can validate your score with the ACT!

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Remember mid October, when your school forces you to take the PSAT—possibly against your will? (Don’t worry Seniors: you’re done with the PSAT! This is just a means to torture your younger Junior and Sophomore friends.)


As unnecessary as this rite of high school passage may seem, there is a well-intentioned point. See, the purpose of the PSAT is twofold. It’s supposed to:

  1. Give you a good sense of how you’d perform on the SAT, possibly making you lean towards that test over the ACT when the time comes; and

  2. Give you the opportunity to participate in the National Merit Scholarship program, possibly bestowing you with honors or money or both! Helloooo college acceptance!

The issue many students had with it was that if they scored in the very tip top percentage of their state’s performance, and were in the running to become a National Merit Scholar Semi-Finalist / Finalist / Winner, in order to actually WIN the title and the scholarship money, they’d have to “validate” their PSAT scores with an actual SAT test. In other words, they’d have to take an official SAT on one of the published test dates and score in the same range as they did in their stellar PSAT to prove it wasn’t merely a fluke.

What this meant was that many top-performing students would have to take the SAT over the ACT in order to fulfill the requirement to become a National Merit Scholar. They couldn’t choose their test: the test would choose them. (And you KNOW that’s not how I advise choosing your tests for best results.)

Even worse, if a student really did perform better on the ACT, she would study for and take THAT test in order to lock in the top score she needed for her elite college wish-list...and then have to study for and sit down to take an SAT in addition—for no other reason than to validate her PSAT score and become a National Merit Scholar!

What a situation, where being a superb test taker eats up MORE of your time than LESS of it!

However, we have some breaking and amazing news for the class of 2020 and beyond (in other words, anyone who just took the October 2018 PSAT their Junior year and everyone after that). Drumroll please…

The National Merit Scholarship Program now allows you to “validate” your PSAT score WITH THE ACT!

In other words: you can choose which test (the SAT or the ACT) you want to take based on which one truly plays to your strengths better—and either one can now be used to validate a top PSAT score and help you land a National Merit Scholarship! Amazing!

This is a DOUBLE bonus for students who attend more “advantaged” high schools or live in wealthier zip-codes. If you’re equally able to score well on the SAT and the ACT—and you might be so high scoring that you make it above your state’s PSAT cut-off score for the National Merit Scholar contest—you can now take the ACT and not have to think twice!

  • Not only would this avoid the potentially adverse “Adversity Score” on the SAT for you, but…

  • You could now validate your PSAT with the ACT as well!

You could kill two test prep birds with one stone (or one sharpened No 2 pencil). No SAT needed!

I know my clients are all doing happy dances about this one! And if you still need help choosing the right test for you (or your son or daughter), schedule an Ace The Test: Game Plan™, and I’ll sort it out FOR you!