Portola High Offers PSAT with COVID-19 Safety Protocols


Nate Taylor

While the PSAT may appear less essential to college admissions, the NMSQT is an opportunity for students to get a head start in applying for scholarships if they score high enough within a certain percentage of Portola High school.

Ariana Wu and Ava Caleca

Portola High will host the PSAT/NMSQT, otherwise known as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, on Oct. 17. Because the test will not be held during a school day due to the hybrid learning model, students paid $18 to take the test. 

According to the counseling department, this year’s testing will look different in accordance with COVID-19 safety protocols. 

“We’re definitely taking into consideration COVID regulations, so I think it’s going to be around 15 students per classroom,” counselor Nicole Epres said. “There will be at least enough room to ensure students are 6 feet apart from one another, so the setting will be similar to that of classrooms now, still following CDC guidelines.”

Around 430 juniors took the PSAT last year. According to Epres, this year’s number is expected to be smaller since test scores have largely been dropped from the list of requirements for college applications. 

Students who score a 221, which is different from the actual full score given in a PSAT, in California are eligible to compete for a National Merit scholarship of up to $2,500, according to PrepScholar. 

“The cool thing about this test specifically is that it’s an 11th grade-based test that gives you more exposure to the SAT in preparation for the actual test if you were to take it,” Epres said. 

Some students, including junior Stella Jung, have opted out of taking the PSAT in light of the pandemic.

“I just thought [the test] was a big safety concern,” Jung said. “I honestly didn’t feel prepared to take such a big test, and I didn’t think it would be super beneficial to my college applications because I’d be taking the normal SAT anyways.” 

On the other hand, junior Kevin Lu is one of the students signed up for the test and believes the benefits and safety of the test outweigh concerns. 

“I know the PSAT helps with scholarships and ranking, and I’ve talked to some of my senior friends, and from what I’ve heard and read, it’s helpful in terms of putting something on your resume if you do well on it,” Lu said. “There are some inherent risks in going to school and taking the test, but through the hybrid model, I’ve become a little more confident with how the school is taking safety measures.”