Juniors Take The PSAT/NMSQT


Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The PSAT/NMSQT, or the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, will open up new opportunities for both Portola High and its students.

Jenny Won, Business Team

The PSAT was administered to juniors at Portola High on Oct. 10.  As this was Portola’s first year with juniors, the exam was a new experience for students and teachers alike. While students had the day off on Oct. 8, teachers underwent a training to proctor the exam.

“Training was all about making sure that everything was done accurately,” chemistry teacher Brittney Kang said. “We needed to know where to pick up test packets, to keep them confidential, and what role we should play to guide our students in this.”

Among all the exams, APs and extracurriculars that fill a typical junior’s day, the PSAT may seem like a mere inconvenience. However, it plays a surprisingly large role in the path to college: the PSAT is the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship.

According to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, “Of the 1.6 million entrants, some 50,000 with the highest PSAT/NMSQT Selection Index scores qualify for recognition in the National Merit Scholarship Program.”

From these 50,000 students, about a third will advance to semi-finalist status, of which 15,000 will become finalists. Finalists are then eligible to receive a $2,500 scholarship directly from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

The National Merit Scholarship Program can also help third-party corporations, colleges or independent sponsors find desirable students. Not only does a scholarship lighten the weight of college tuition, but also any commendation from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation may provide a boost in applications.

“Since it’s a national distinction, it can serve to validate a student’s academic performance and accomplishments in high school,” counselor Ryan Itchon said.

In addition to opening new opportunities for students, the PSAT will help build the reputation of Portola High as a school.

“When colleges look at a student, they look at not only their grades but their test scores as well,” Kang said. “If students are consistently performing well on the PSAT and their grades are also high, it shows that the school has a trustworthy grading system.”

As IUSD is a typically high-performing district, principal John Pehrson is confident that Portola will follow in the footsteps of other Irvine high schools.

“The results will be one more measure to demonstrate how Portola is a place where all kinds of success indicators exist and that students can come here to decide to excel in several different areas,” Pehrson said.