Dr. Christine Johns

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UCS juniors have powerful tool in PSAT

Utica Community Schools students and their parents have an important opportunity available to them during their junior year of high school.

The opportunity comes in the form of an optional test called the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®).

While the test is required as part of our district’s college readiness assessment process during the sophomore year, the test is available as a choice for families during the junior year in mid-October.

For parents and students looking at a busy high school life, the question is why would it be important to take an optional assessment?

The answer is that the test opens doors for our graduates. A strong performance on this assessment provides opportunities for possible scholarships and provides weighted consideration by university admission officers.

The Preliminary SAT – or PSAT – is the instrument used to determine overall academic performance by the National Merit Corporation.

Students who finish in the top one percent of all high school students during their junior year are identified as achievement or national merit semi-finalists by the non-profit group.
For scholarship purposes, the semi-finalist status qualifies students to compete for 8,000 scholarships worth about $35 million annually awarded by the National Merit Corporation.
But beyond the scholarship opportunities, merit recognition also can mean that a student is favored in the competitive college application process. Many colleges provide additional scholarships as recognition of the merit honors.

Because our students are administered the test as sophomores through our college readiness process, Utica Community Schools has a strong track record of students being named semi-finalists for those who choose the opportunity as a junior. The 10th-grade assessment can be a strong indicator of student success in the merit program and is available by contacting your school principal or counselor.

This year alone we have six merit and achievement semi-finalists. To put in context, UCS students are half of the Macomb County semi-finalists and among approximately 600 in Michigan.

But we know that there are many more students who would have an opportunity to help address the rising costs of college tuition. It is for this reason that our high school staffs are now creating greater awareness with junior-year parents and students about the benefits of the exam.

I encourage all families to take advantage of this opportunity when it is presented to them. This community is justifiably proud of the advantages that our diplomas present UCS graduates. A strong performance on the PSAT by our juniors will only add to the choices that are available to UCS graduates when they consider their important post-secondary options.