So, throughout the entire country, tenth graders and some ninth and eleventh graders took the PSAT this morning. If you have a senior, you’ve been through this. If you have a junior, you’ve been through this.
But if you have anyone younger, LISTEN UP.
There is a not so small program known as the National Merit Scholarship. What I found interesting, or maybe it is just me being obtuse and oblivious, and maybe most everyone already knew this but me, is that your student qualifies for the NMS program via their scores on the PSAT. Not only that, but the PSAT can give your child real information about their strengths and weaknesses on the SAT. This can come in handy when your child actually sits for the SAT. I have discovered over the course of the past year that experience with standardized testing is really an amazing thing. Its no secret that the more you take a test, the better you will (more than likely) get each time.
I give you two scenarios:
1. Lucy, last year, a junior, was taking the SAT for the first time. We started our college inquiry process very early (although not as early as some) by visiting schools, listening to their talks and taking notes at every school we went to. By the time Thanksgiving had hit, we’d visited four schools. I had enrolled Lucy in our high school’s SAT course, which consisted of four consecutive (actually, it was 5, the middle one was an SAT date, ironically, and the weekend that we drove through North Carolin and Virginia visiting schools) Saturdays, at four hours each morning from 8-12. When I tell you she wasn’t happy those first two weeks, that, my friends, is an understatement.
After our college visits (and seminars and note takings) however, Lucy didn’t complain one bit about dedicating her Saturday mornings. Why you ask? Because she was able to hear directly from the Admissions Counselors at the schools we toured as to the type of student they were looking for. This included their grades, their rigor and yes, their SAT scores.
Lucy was nervous. Never a super-duper standardized test taker (she is exceptional in the classroom, but freezes on those national tests), she had a REAL understanding of what she was expected to do. Life had become crystal clear all of a sudden. And for a sixteen-year old, it ain’t always pretty. She didn’t do so great on the test.
She took it again in the Spring and again two weeks ago, and when I picked her up after the grueling morning, our favorite Greek place in our future, her words were, “Eh, it wasn’t that bad. I knew what they were going to ask, and all the graphing in my Econ class really helped with some of the math,” (her least favorite section on the SAT). Hallelujah.
I am so proud of her, I could beam sunlight from my skin.
Now, scenario two.
2. At the same time Lucy was clutching her stomach over taking the SAT for the first time when it would matter, Candice asked me if I had ever gotten anything about the Duke TIP program. I had. Lucy had qualified for it in the 7th grade, as had Emma, the previous year. But I had dismissed it both times because all I saw was the price tag of the main program. $3800. No joke. I threw it away and never thought another thing about it. But because Candice made me, I researched it a little more. Turns out that expensive program is only available to students who do well enough on the SAT as a 7th or 8th grader (there’s a scale).
Yes, you read that right. Through the Duke TIP program, your 7th or 8th grader is eligible to sit for the SAT. The real one.
Why in the world would you subject your precious child to such a hard test? A test surely riddled with stuff they’ve never seen before and is a full 4 grades more advanced than they are? It might … hurt their self-esteem! *GASP*
Or … it might give them experience.
Think back, when you were applying for college and had to take the SAT, there was a whole ethereal mysticism about it. All you knew was that it was hard. You were going to have to go to some scary college auditorium to take it. ANNND? It would basically determine the rest of your life. That is freaky, freaky stuff. What if you’d already taken the test? What if you knew what the format was going to be? What if you knew how to pace yourself and what the proctor was going to tell you to do? Do you think that would help? Even just a little?
You bet it would.
I made Emma take the SAT after I saw what Lucy went through. She was one of two 8th graders in a sea of upperclassmen. She was exhausted, brain dead, zombie-like when she was done, but she did it and she survived. The worst part was knowing that I could have had Lucy take it way back when too, and knowing how standardized tests and Lucy are not simpatico, it would have helped. Whatever. What’s done was done.
Fast forward to today.
Emma took the PSAT this morning as a 9th grader. It won’t count, but it has given her what? That’s right, experience. Experience that will count in a BIG way next year or the year after when NMS becomes a possibility. I texted her after the test (our school is awesome in that they recognize the use of personal electronic devices as amazing learning tools) and asked her “what was your take?”
She answered, “Well, since I’d already taken the SAT, it was sort of easy. But I think I did the best on the math portion.”
Experience leads to confidence leads to better scores. Of course, I have no idea how she did. She could have tanked it for all I know, but even if she did, she got the experience and will learn from it and apply it next year when it really matters.
Like Candice said, “Music to my ears.”