The PSAT matters: How OLSD should treat the PSAT

Design by Carissa Long

Most juniors at the high school dread “PSAT day.” Every other grade gets to sleep in, go out to brunch with their friends and enjoy a nice half-day of school. But as a junior, one must wake up, go to school and sit through almost three hours of testing.

However, for a select few students, the PSAT opens them up to be a National Merit finalist. Being a National Merit Finalist brings amazing opportunities like getting scholarships, sometimes getting full tuition scholarships and getting noticed by prestigious colleges.

To qualify to be a National Merit Semifinalist, students must be in the top one percent of test scores in their state. According to Prep Scholar, for Ohio this usually means the student must have a selection index score of 219, which is the total of the subject scores multiplied by two.

The top one percent usually amounts to about 16,000 juniors throughout the country, and then 15,000 of those juniors advance to be a finalist.

Becoming a National Merit Finalist has dozens of very high hoops to jump through, but for students in Lewis Center, they have less of an opportunity to be named National Merit Finalist compared to other comparable districts in the area and state.

According to information gathered from The National Merit Scholarship Corporation in 2019, Mason, a high school in Cincinnati with 3,529 students, received 28 spots for students, while seven spots were shared among Olentangy Orange HS and Olentangy HS students. OOHS and OHS, combined, have 3,738 students, about 200 more students than Mason, and yet 21 fewer National Merit Finalists.

Therefore, students in Lewis Center have less of a chance to be a National Merit Finalist and thus fewer opportunities for scholarships. The lack of scholarship opportunities can hurt students at the high school.

Not only this consideration, but also some school districts in Ohio prepare students to take the PSAT. This preparation can allow more students to be contenders for the top one percent. Worthington is one of those schools.

According to a letter to parents at Thomas Worthington High School, the PSAT is mandatorily administered to all freshmen and sophomores. Then, as a junior, the test is optional. If a student’s score during freshman or sophomore year was close to qualifying to be a National Merit Scholar, they can elect to take it again during junior year, the only time the score counts for National Merit.

Being given the opportunity to take the PSAT over-and-over again allows for students to achieve better and higher scores. Students in the Lewis Center area are not given this same opportunity.

To help students achieve better PSAT scores and increase the chances at National Merit, Olentangy Local School District could implement the same plan as Worthington. While waking up early to take a test is not mine, nor most high schoolers favorite thing, most students, when presented with the information, might understand the helpful impact it could have on them.

According to Jeanette Kenney, the Assistant Director of Curriculum for OLSD, the main reason the PSAT is not administered to freshmen and sophomores is because the district tries to balance the amount of standardized testing done each year.

National Merit Scholarships and finalist opportunities through the PSAT are too important to treat lightly. The school district should be giving every student the same opportunity and possibility to achieve.


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