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How to Help Parents … Before They Make the Wrong Moves

Just days before the most recent Nov. 1 early application deadline, a friend, an independent educational consultant, emailed me.  One of her clients had asked a friend to review an essay for her son, who was working with my friend.

She wondered if I knew the outside reader; I did not. She also wondered if the outside reader was qualified; she was not.

I read the essay. And while I did not know this particular parent, I knew the essay was beautiful; the essay was done. The outside reader was not necessary.

  • The client’s friend was not a high school counselor.
  • She never worked in admissions.
  • She was not a teacher.
  • AND she was not a member of NACAC, a state affiliate, IECA or HECA.

She was a mom whose daughter had been admitted to this student’s first-choice school.

Sadly, this happens sometimes. But why?

My friend, the IEC, is a well-respected, sought after professional with decades of experience both inside a high school counseling office and as an independent educational consultant.

In this case, her client got scared and panicked. She was worried and was certain this mom – the mom who knew NOTHING about college admissions – knew something that might help her improve a college essay that was already done.

Her client was wrong. The friend wrote all over the essay, changed words and suggested the student add clichés. This review was simply not helpful. Just gibberish. The only thing the feedback did was confuse the young writer and make him doubt himself. That’s never good!

Has this ever happened to you?

We know parents sometimes take their kids’ essays and share them with the immediate world? Yeah, we know it’s a super bad idea.

But what can we do about it? How can you help control the process to avoid this?

When we started Wow, we did everything we could to tell parents to go away, trust us, and leave the essay guidance to the pros. But that was the wrong message.

Parents just want to help. They want to be part of the process.

So we fine-tuned the message and gave them a job to do, rather than telling them to go away.

We wrote a book just for parents like my friend’s client. It’s called How to Write an Effective College Application Essay, the Inside Scoop for Parents.

In the book, we explain what the essay is and how it fits into this crazy admissions industry. We also give advice on how to help their children with the essay, as well as guidance for how and when to step away.

We’d like you to have a copy. It’s our gift to you. Click here to get your e-Book and find out how you can also get a copy for every parent in your school or consulting practice.

What are your biggest college essay challenges? Email me:

About the Author

Kim Lifton is President of Wow Writing Workshop, a strategic communication company staffed by experts who understand the writing process inside and out. Since 2009, Wow has been leading the college admission industry with our unique approach to communicating any message effectively. The Wow Method is used to train professionals and teach students how to write college application essays, and grad school personal statements that get results.If it involves words, Wow can help.

Some key questions your students can ask when on a College Visit

Basic Questions to Ask on College Visits

  1. Why differentiates this school from other colleges?
  2. Are you happy being a student (teacher) at this school?
  3. What are this school’s strengths?
  4. If you had to say, what’s your biggest complaint about this college?
  5. What is one area where this school could improve?
  6. How accessible are the professors, financial aid officers, student services employees, etc.?
  7. What’s the average financial aid package look like?
  8. What do the four-, five-, and six-year graduation rates look like?
  9. How many freshmen return here for their sophomore year?

Academic Questions to Ask During a College Visit

  1. Which majors are the most popular here, and why?
  2. How many courses/hours does the average full-time student take each semester?
  3. What programs or departments have the strongest reputations?
  4. What teaching style do most professors here use?
  5. Are most classes led by professors or teaching assistants?
  6. Is accessing first-choice classes a challenge?
  7. Do classes tend to be discussion-based or lecture-based?
  8. How much time should students expect to dedicate to studying and assignments outside of the classroom?
  9. Are collaborative or group projects common requirements?
  10. Do students have access to tutoring programs, writing centers, computer labs, or other learning-oriented resources?
  11. What’s the average number of students in a classroom at a time for introductory courses? What about advanced classes?
  12. Is studying abroad an available or popular option?
  13. Are there opportunities for undergraduate research?
  14. Is the Disability Services office helpful? What resources do they make available to qualifying students?

Campus Life College Visit Questions

  1. What does an average day for a first-year student look like here?
  2. What do students do when they aren’t in class?
  3. What are weekends like on campus?
  4. Is there a vibrant social scene?
  5. Where do students go to hang out?
  6. Is there something about the local community that sets it apart?
  7. What student organizations or clubs are the most popular?
  8. Are there a lot of fraternities or sororities?
  9. If a student was looking for a great place to study, where on-campus should they go besides their dorm room or the library?
  10. What facilities (gyms, libraries, theaters, labs, etc.) are available to students?
  11. Is the WiFi on campus fast? Are there dead spots on campus? Does it go down a lot?
  12. Are sports a big part of this school’s culture?

Residence Life Questions to Ask When Touring a College

  1. What is the dorm environment like? How many students are there per room? Are the bathrooms private or shared? Are there kitchens, laundry rooms, or lounges?
  2. Are dorms separated by shared interest, academic year, or another criterion?
  3. Do most students get along with their initially assigned roommate or are changes frequently requested?
  4. If I need a room switch, is that possible? Who do I contact?
  5. How’s the cafeteria or on-campus food?
  6. Do the dining halls accommodate special dietary requirements?
  7. Are there any local restaurants that students love?
  8. Can you get around easily without a car? What are the available transportation options?

Student Body Questions for a College Visit

  1. What makes this student body unique?
  2. Is this a diverse campus? Are there international students?
  3. Are students generally friendly?
  4. What percentage of the students live in the dorms?
  5. Does this school have a lot of cliques?
  6. Does it ever feel too crowded here?
  7. Have there been any student protests on campus recently? What issue was the focus?

Work and Career Questions to Ask on a College Tour

  1. Can you find internships here? Where do you go to learn more about them?
  2. Are work-study options available?
  3. Is the Career Services office helpful?
  4. Are there leadership opportunities on campus?
  5. Does the school help students get involved in the community? What opportunities are available?
  6. Can students find summer jobs through the college or in the local community with ease?
  7. Is the alumni association active and visible on campus?

These questions were provided by The Scholarship System. Check them out at :

How to Help Your Students Prepare to Move off to College

The truth is that moving can be incredibly stressful. One study revealed that over 58% of Americans find moving more stressful than planning for a wedding! Many of your students will be leaving their homes for the first times to go out on their own. This can cause a great deal of anxiety.

For Sale by Owner put together a great guide to help kids prepare for a move. Many of these tips can be adapted to help high schoolers who are planning the big move to College in another city or even state.

Provide Reassurance

One primary way you can help support your students with moving away from home to College is to provide sincere reassurance. Award-winning author and psychoanalyst Dr. Laurie Hollman says “Don’t only talk to them in preparation, but listen closely to their perceptions, fears, hopes, and anticipations,”. “Sometimes, just feeling listened to… helps all [on its own].” In other words, being supportive and understanding can go a long way in helping your student cope with heading off to college.

  • Be positive but be realistic.
  • Listen to them with your full attention.
  • Let them talk without interjecting.

Visit The School

Another way to ease the transition of moving is to visit the school. Spend a weekend to get comfortable with the area can help put them at ease. If an in-person visit is out of reach, photos or virtual walkthroughs of the school can also help them envision themselves living there and ease their anxiety.

  • In-person visits to the school prior to them attending are preferable.
  • Virtual visits are an option too through photos, videos and Google Maps street view.
  • Help your student envision themselves living there.

Tips That Can Ease Their Anxiety

Let Them Plan How Their Dorm Room Will Be Set Up

Get them excited about their new room by encouraging them to start planning it out.

Don’t Have the Parent Do Everything for Them – Get Them Involved In Packing

Getting them involved in packing what they want to take will create excitement.

* Encourage them to start a journal to document their college experience

* Inspire them to join extracurricular activities

* Discuss and plan for trips home (Thanksgiving, Christmas Break, Spring Break, etc.)

LINK for Counselors Spring 2020 issue – Editorial Line-Up

The Spring 2020 issue will be published in February. We have a great line-up of articles scheduled for you. Here is a summary of those articles:

* Embrace the Change: A Foundation for Early Growth and Transition for High School Seniors – Authored by a Counselor at the Woodlynde School in PA
* 10 Tips to Make Your Job Easier – Authored by a former “Counselor of the Year” in MD
* So, What are Your Students Planning on Studying in College? – Authored by an Independent Counselor who formerly worked in Admissions at Penn, Princeton and JHU
* 5 Things Counselors Need to Do to Prepare Students for College – Authored by a Nationally Certified Life Coach who has 5 years experience teaching in High School
* Creating a College Bound Culture: A Critical Step in College Prep. – Authored by a Counselor at Trinity Episcopal School in Richmond, VA
* Interview with Sweety Patel and her Counseling team, a High School Counselor in NJ
* Lowering the Stakes to Help Students Write Better College Essays
* Character Counts: Here’s How to Help Your Students Choose a Topic that Demonstrates It Effectively in College Application Essays
* What Can You Do to Help Your Students?
* ROTC Scholarship Programs
* STEM Drift – Authored by a former “Counselor of the Year” in Montgomery County, MD
* To Join or not to Join?
* Careers to Consider – Sports Management
* The ACT One Section at a Time
* Choose a Future Proof Major – Authored by a NY High School Counselor
* Scholarship Watch – List of 10 National Scholarships available to students
* The Flip Side: Flipped Classroom Learning – Authored by a former “Counselor of the Year” in MD

Things to think about in the new year

New Year’s is a time for resolutions and reorganization. As you speak with the parents of your students, now is the time to help them understand and start implementing the college timeline for their children.

There is no need for them to be intimidated, with proper planning and execution, there is plenty of time to research and visit colleges and complete the applications.

If parents anticipate that their child will be applying to any of the more selective colleges and universities, the earlier they initiate the process, the better.

College preparation in high school varies widely; private schools tend to start earlier and offer families much more direct contact. According to research conducted by the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA – public school students in the United States, on average, receive a total of  38 minutes of personal college counseling with their counselor over four years and 6 out of 10 students reported receiving no college counseling whatsoever. Nationally the current student to counselor ratios are 476 to one and in California they are 1016 to one; which might explain the burgeoning college consultant market.

The two most important factors for any college application are the rigor of a student’s coursework, i.e., just how competitive are the classes and a student’s performance in the classes chosen.

So, this means that course selection for all four years is critical; especially if a student has lofty goals of  attending a selective college or university. It means that families need to plan and prioritize their course selection and try to determine which courses they’ll take each year. It is important to understand the point values in your school system for different courses: standard college prep, honors, AP (Advanced Placement) and IB (International Baccalaureate). You should advise them where necessary about doubling up in foreign language, math or science courses so that their child is prepared to take the most advanced courses that interest them.

It is also important to check on course expectations at each of the colleges on their list. In the Princeton Review, Best 385 Colleges ( this information is published on the right side of every college description and it is frequently a surprise to many families. It is not shocking that the more selective schools have more rigid requirements. As an example, Emory, Colgate, Rice, Bucknell, Davidson and most of the ivies recommend four years (of the same) foreign language. That means that even if they don’t like Spanish 3 as a junior, they will still probably need to enroll in Spanish 4 as a senior if those schools are on their target list.  Look closely because some colleges, like the University of South Carolina, have particular requirements such as a “Visual/Performing Arts” class. That means it must be on the transcript, so they can take it in their senior year.

Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to:;

The Role of the Essay in Your Students College Application

There is very little way around it. For most colleges, you will be required to submit an essay with your application. Many students dread this part of the college application process and find writing their college essay to be a stressful and time-consuming task. The writing process, including choosing a topic, will be easier if you start with a full understanding of how the college essay is used by college admissions officers.

The essay is a key element of your application package and should be viewed as an opportunity to tell the college admissions officer about who you are, your beliefs and motivations and the essence of your character. You are not merely another high school student. You are you and there isn’t any other part of the application where you can tell your unique story. The essay places your grades, letters of recommendation, standardized test scores and list of extracurricular activities in context. It adds a voice to your application. It adds YOUR voice.

To better understand the role of the essay, let’s step, for a moment, into the admissions officer’s shoes. Imagine this:

You are an admissions officer at a selective college. It is January and you only have a few months to review thousands of applications that are supposed to assist you in choosing next year’s freshmen class. How are you going to do it? You could focus solely on grades and standardized test scores. These data points are certainly important for identifying the outliers, but most of the applicants fall in the middle of the curve. Their grades and test scores prove that they can be academically successful at your school but don’t otherwise differentiate one student from another. There isn’t enough space at your college to accept all academically qualified students and besides, your job is not to fill lecture hall seats with robotic students who know how to churn out A’s. You are supposed to be using your professional judgment to build a freshmen class that is intellectually curious, socially conscious and academically and professionally motivated. You want to accept students who have diverse opinions and beliefs, leadership skills, moral character and a broad range of interests. Your chosen class is expected to make a positive difference in the world and remarkable contributions to their respective fields. In your quest to find students who your college will one day be proud to count among its alumni, grades and standardized test scores are not going to be enough.

Perhaps the students’ extra-curricular achievements can help you decide? Each application contains a list and brief description of the student’s activities throughout high school. This list will give you a snapshot of the student’s interests and how they spend their time. It will help you understand what they do, but not why they do these activities or what they have learned from the experience. You can use the list to make inferences about the student but without additional context, they will be mere educated guesses. For example, you might assume that the vice president of the senior class is a budding leader when, in fact, she is a popular student who ran for the office unopposed. Most importantly, a list of activities says very little about a student’s character.

You are going to need more information to fill in the blanks between the academic statistics and the activities resume in order to get a full picture of the actual person behind the application. You will find this information in a well-written, thoughtful essay. The most helpful essay is one in which the student tells a story about herself that allows you to understand what kind of person she is and what qualities she will bring to campus if admitted.

In addition to understanding how the admissions officer will use your essay, it is important to realize that the essay is the one part of your application that is still completely within your control. Your grades for the first three years of high school are set. Maybe you can retake your SATs but is your score likely to change drastically? Can you control what your math teacher writes about you in his letter of recommendation? No. Your essay is yours for the making. Here’s your chance to shine. Don’t leave it until the last minute. Embrace it and let it tell your unique story.

Picture of Michelle McAnaney, Founder and President of The College Spy.

Michelle McAnaney is the founder of The College Spy, a full service independent educational consulting firm that assists students and families across the US and internationally with the college selection and application process. Prior to founding The College Spy, Michelle was a guidance counselor and educator for more than 15 years, including serving as the Director of Guidance at two high schools, an adjunct college professor and a GED tutor. Michelle holds a master’s degree in school counseling and a bachelor’s degree in human development. She recently completed UC Irvine’s certificate program in educational consulting and is a MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) Certified Practitioner and a NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) Master Practitioner. Michelle visits over 40 colleges each year so that she has first-hand knowledge of the colleges and universities her clients will be considering. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Your Student’s Been Deferred. Now What?

Just after Christmas, we got a call from a student inquiring about an additional essay required by the University of Michigan for deferred students. He wanted help writing it.

The student was “postponed” by the Ross School of Business. He wondered if he should call the admissions office, submit additional information beyond the additional essay, or email the admissions rep for his school.

Last year, we would have told him to contact his school’s admissions rep to find out what to do. But UM changed the rules this year. And they added an essay requirement. They also gave instructions; the directions – in an email to every deferred applicant – were crystal clear.

“This form serves as your singular expression of continued interest in the University of Michigan. This form must be submitted prior to Feb. 1st. Please note: Given the high volume of applicants to the University of Michigan, this form is the only expression of continued interest that will be considered. Therefore, additional information/communications sent outside of this form will not be added to your application.”

Our advice: Please remind your students to read the instructions provided by the college before doing anything!

In all of our years working with students applying to college, we have found that most of the information students need to communicate with them comes directly from the colleges.

Tulane gives good instructions about what to do if …Jeff Schiffman, Director for Admission at Tulane, gives specific advice in a blog he penned last year for deferred students.

Highlights from Schiffman’s message:

  1. Read the blog; it offers insight and instructions.
  2. Fill out the continued interest form.
  3. Do email your rep and state you are still interested in Tulane.
  4. Do not call the admissions office and ask why you were deferred.

Some schools, like Cornell, just want a simple check in stating the student is still interested.

“I encourage deferred students to craft an email that lets the committee know of continued interest – I call it checking in,” said Shawn Felton, Cornell’s director of undergraduate admissions, told me. “It should not begin as a dirge. Avoid: ‘I am deeply disappointed that I was not offered admission during Early Decision…’”

Felton suggests students stay positive in their deferral letters, and share why they want to be a part of the Cornell community.

In the case of the University of Michigan, the instructions – that were emailed to every deferred student last month– were easy to follow. They wanted students who were still interested in the school to craft an additional essay.

The prompt:

In 250 words or less, describe how your personal educational goals connect to the University of Michigan’s mission and values.

We are helping our student answer the prompt as I write this blog; this is a new requirement for U-M this year. We helped him parse it, and now, he is wrapping it up with one of our coaches.

You can help your students answer this or other deferral prompts by making sure they understand what the prompt is asking, brainstorming ideas and reviewing the final essay to make sure the answer is effective.

What does UM want to know in this additional essay?

  1. Is the deferred student still interested in the school?
  2. What are the student’s personal educational goals?
  3. How do the student’s goals mesh with UM’s values and mission?

We’re pretty sure those students who are not interested will take a pass on an extra essay. By answering the question, UM will know a student is still interested.

What’s Next?

As you already know, deferred students are not alone. But while fellow seniors walk up and down the halls of your high school boasting about getting into their top choice colleges, it can be devastating for the student who heard no …. or equally disappointing …. maybe later. Postponed. Pended. Deferred.

The deferred student needs to hear from you and other adults in their lives that they are qualified, that they still have a shot at that school. Of course they need to apply to schools that they can get into, those safety schools.

It’s not news to you that being qualified no longer guarantees admissions to the more select schools. So when that happens, the students need a dose of encouragement from you, Mom and Dad, their teachers, coaches. If you can talk to them and help them understand that the application will be re-evaluated for the regular decision pool, they will know there’s still hope.

Find out how to inspire your students during our free webinar

We’re launching a new professional development program for counselors and consultants in January called The College Essay Experience, and we’d love to include you. 

All you have to do right now is sign up for the informational webinar. We’ll give you a taste of our process, and we’ll even do some writing. And there’s a giveaway – a free gift for everyone who signs up. You can join us live or listen to the recording

Learn more on January 15, 1-2 pm EasternSign up here, and then forget about it. In the meantime, enjoy your family and friends.

About the Author

Kim Lifton is President of Wow Writing Workshop, a strategic communication company staffed by experts who understand the writing process inside and out. Since 2009, Wow has been leading the industry with our unique approach to communicating any message effectively. The Wow Method helps business and nonprofit leaders create better blogs, manage social media, develop websites and create other communication materials. It also helps students write college application essays, grad school personal statements and resumes that get results. If it involves words, Wow can help.

4 Things to Do When Your Daughter Gets Rejected by Her First-Choice College

For weeks, your daughter has anxiously checked her account on College X’s portal. She refreshes her email several times each day and even treks out to the snail mailbox to see if her fate has been delivered there. She is hoping for an acceptance to her first-choice college, one that was chosen carefully after an exhausting college search. Your daughter has studied hard throughout high school. She has put her heart and soul into academics, skipped evenings out with friends to prepare for tests and gone into school early for extra help. She has taken difficult courses and achieved, even in subjects that aren’t her favorites. Her activities list is impressive. College X may be a bit of a reach, she deserves this.

The letter arrives. She was rejected. Now what?

  1. Pat yourself on the back for encouraging your daughter to shoot for the moon. If your daughter took a risk in the application process by applying to a reach college where she was not a “slam dunk,” then you have likely raised a confident young woman who will learn from this experience and continue taking chances until she succeeds. Many female applicants are only encouraged to apply to colleges where admission is virtually assured because parents do not want their daughters to feel hurt by rejection. As a society, we tend to protect our daughters from the time they are young by teaching them to be cautious. We allow our sons to fall down and dust themselves off, but tell our daughters to be careful so they won’t experience disappointment. Your confident, smart, talented daughter took a chance with her college application. She may not have won this time but being the type of person willing to put her hat in the ring assures she will have the chance to win the next time.
  2. Realize that the rejection is not about your daughter personally or her ability to be a successful college student. In most cases, rejections are based on institutional need and a competitive applicant pool. Competitive colleges do not have enough space for all qualified applicants and must send rejection letters to top-notch students. Why did they reject your daughter and not someone else? It is impossible to know for sure. Perhaps it is because the college is trying to diversify geographically and your daughter is from a state where they have enough applicants. Maybe it is because she is a violinist but the orchestra just graduated a cellist and the college chose a student who filled that need over your daughter. If your daughter applied a different year when the mix of institutional needs was slightly different, she may have been accepted.
  3. Don’t overreact and don’t underreact. When your daughter was learning to walk, she fell down many times and looked to you as a model of how to react. Even though it was very hard to see your child wipe-out, you did your best to regulate your emotions. By doing so, you allowed your daughter to learn that falling is just part of the process of learning to walk and she could stand up and keep moving forward. In the same way that your daughter looked to you for how to react when she fell down as a toddler, she will look to you for how to react to this rejection. If you get upset, insist the college made an error, call the college, call the school counselor and generally make a big fuss, you will send a message to your daughter that College X is the only path that will allow her to move forward and have a successful and happy life. This is just not true. It is also important not to underreact or make light of the disappointment and hurt your daughter feels. As your daughter’s first choice, College X became a tangible goal that represented the reward she would reap for the effort she put into her studies. Additionally, it is important to remember that identity development is a significant task of adolescence. Between the time that your daughter chose College X as her favorite and she learned that she was not being offered a place in the freshmen class, she tried on the identity of being a College X student and even a College X alum. She did this in her imagination and each time she shared with a friend, family member or acquaintance that College X was her first choice. It is confusing and painful to be forced to let go of a preferred identity and choose a new one. While your daughter is processing this loss, make sure you empathize with her feelings. They are real and not trivial.
  4. Trust that your daughter will bounce back. The stress and anxiety that she feels by being rejected from College X is not necessarily a bad thing. Stress and anxiety can serve as motivators. After the initial disappointment and hurt of not being accepted to College X lessens, your talented and motivated daughter will naturally move into problem solving mode. She will discover that this rejection is also an opportunity to redirect and pursue another path forward. As she engages in the process of selecting a new “first choice,” she might want to visit additional colleges, add a few colleges to her list or plan a gap year experience. If College X remains her goal, your daughter might even plan how she will transfer into College X after she spends a year at another college. You should encourage this exploration.

Students do find a way to put a college rejection into perspective and move forward. Your daughter is the same successful, talented and confident young woman that applied to College X. She will take these attributes and skills to another college and find success and happiness.

Picture of Michelle McAnaney, Founder and President of The College Spy.

Michelle McAnaney is the founder of The College Spy, a full service independent educational consulting firm that assists students and families across the US and internationally with the college selection and application process. Prior to founding The College Spy, Michelle was a guidance counselor and educator for more than 15 years, including serving as the Director of Guidance at two high schools, an adjunct college professor and a GED tutor. Michelle holds a master’s degree in school counseling and a bachelor’s degree in human development. She recently completed UC Irvine’s certificate program in educational consulting and is a MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) Certified Practitioner and a NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) Master Practitioner. Michelle visits over 40 colleges each year so that she has first-hand knowledge of the colleges and universities her clients will be considering. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

The top 10 most read LINK for Counselors blog posts of 2019

We posted many blogs in 2019 in our E-newsletter that goes out bi-weekly during the school year. These are the top 10 based on click throughs to the blog post:

1. Summer internships for High School Students – January 9, 2019 e-newsletter

2.  The Truth About Extracurricular Activities and Highly Selective Colleges – May 15, 2019 e-newsletter

3.  The Ten Most Common College Application Mistakes – December 4, 2019 –e-newsletter

4.  6 Reasons Your Students Should Take a Dual Enrollment Course and 3 Reasons They Should Think Twice – December 4, 2019 e-newsletter

5.  7 Tips Your Student Can Use to Start the Year Off Right – September 11, 2019 e-newsletter

6.  College Admission Scandal: Symptom of a Larger Problem – April 3, 2019 e-newsletter

7.  The Baggage Activity – October 9, 2019 e-newsletter

8.  What Does an Admissions Officer Look for When He/She is Evaluating Students? – October 9, 2019 e-newsletter

9.  How to Help Students Respond to an Essay Prompt – May 29, 2019 e-newsletter

10. Admissions Officers Shares SAT Writing Tips for Your Students – March 20, 2019 e-newsletter

Interpreting the new PSAT scores

Results from the October PSAT have been released.

Your PSAT/NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test)  scores are ready online, you should have received an email with instructions on creating your College Board account, going to your online score report, and using your access code to view your scores. The PSAT score report is full of helpful information.

Think of PSAT/NMSQT and PSAT 10 score reports as roadmaps. They show what you’re doing well, and what you should work on to get ready for the SAT—and for college. Sign in to get your scores –  Be sure to watch the 2:35 video in the “Understanding Scores” tab – it’s a great explanation of the section scores and the total score. There is also a Sample PSAT/NMSQT Score Report

PSAT/NMSQT or PSAT 10 Score ReportedDetailsScore Range
Total scoreSum of the two section scores.320–1520
Section scores (2)Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and Math.160–760
Test scores (3)Reading, Writing and Language, and Math.8–38
Cross-test scores (2)Analysis in History/Social Studies and Analysis in Science. Based on selected questions in the Reading, Writing and Language, and Math Tests.8–38
Subscores (7)Reading and Writing and Language: Command of Evidence and Words in Context. Writing and Language: Expression of Ideas and Standard English Conventions. Math: Heart of Algebra, Problem Solving and Data Analysis, and Passport to Advanced Math.1–1

More information on the numbers

When you view your online score reports, you’ll get summaries of your performance on each test and content area. You can also filter results and drill down to see how you performed on easy, medium, and hard questions or on questions that measure different skills. Percentiles will show how you did compared to your peers.

Learn more about the PSAT/NMSQT and PSAT 10 score structure or get help understanding scores.

Here are some basic items to help you to interpret the new PSAT score report:

  • The total score range is now 320-1520. The old 200 – 800 scale has been replaced with a 160 – 760 scale. Some test prep centers are advising that students add 40 points to their tests to have a better sense of what their SAT score might be.
  • There are now two sections: 1) Math and 2) a combined Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, (EBRW).
  • There are test scores and cross-test scores with a range of 8-38 and sub-scores with a range of 1-15. If this isn’t confusing enough, there is a National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) Selection Index with a range of 48-228.
  • There are two types of percentiles: a Nationally Representative Sample (every other high school junior in the country) and a Test User (compared to other actual test-takers). The former will always be higher and the latter will always be more useful.
  • Remember, no college will ever see these scores.

Everything you need to know about the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT)

The following information is provided by College Board.

The National Merit® Scholarship Program is an annual academic competition among high school students for recognition and college scholarships. The program is conducted by National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC), a not-for-profit organization that operates without government assistance. The NMSC Selection Index.Reported on a scale ranging from 48 to 228, the Selection
Index score is calculated by doubling the sum of the Reading, Writing and Language, and Math Test scores. For example, a Reading score of 23, a Writing and Language score of 20, and
a Math score of 26.5 would result in a Selection Index score of 139 [2(23+20+26.5)].

How NMSC Uses the Selection Index
NMSC uses the Selection Index score to designate groups of students to receive recognition in the National Merit Scholarship Program. Entry to NMSC’s competition for scholarships to be offered in 2021 is determined by students’ responses to program entry questions on the 2019 PSAT/NMSQT answer sheet. Both the printed PSAT/NMSQT student score report and the online report show the student’s Selection Index, the student’s responses to entry items,and whether the student meets participation requirementsCurrently, about 1.6 million test takers meet requirements to enter NMSC’s competition each year. Almost all entrants are in their third year (grade 11, junior year) of high school.

Of the 1.6 million NMSC program entrants, about 50,000 will earn 2019 PSAT/NMSQT scores high enough to qualify them for recognition. These students will be notified of their
standing through their high schools in September 2020. Students who qualify to continue in the competition for scholarships to be offered in 2021 must then meet academic and other requirements specified by NMSC to be considered for awards

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