college essays

My son recently took the PSAT and has started receiving both email and snail mail from a few schools. Just how important is the PSAT to colleges and universities?

The answer to your question depends upon which hat an admission officer is wearing: the “recruiter” hat or the “gatekeeper” hat. Let’s start with the recruiter hat first.

No matter how selective a college or university might seem, its admission officers are still charged with drumming up applications. The more applications a school receives → the more popular and selective the school looks → the more students will want to apply → the more applications a school receives. It’s a vicious cycle, I know.

Colleges and universities often purchase names from the College Board based upon a set of PSAT parameters they deem desirable. If a student happens to fall within those parameters, he  just might end up getting a letter from a school asking him to fall in love with them and submit an application down the road. In that sense, the PSAT is very important to colleges and universities — it’s a recruitment tool.

How is the PSAT used in college admissions decisions?

But what about the college admissions process itself? Just how important are PSAT scores then? When it’s time to make an admissions decision, a student’s PSAT score won’t have much of an impact. The PSAT predicts how one might score on the actual SAT, and if a school requires the SAT and has the student’s SAT score on hand, there’s absolutely no need for a student’s predicted score when it’s the actual score they want. In that sense, the PSAT is not a factor when reviewing your applications to colleges and universities.

So there you have it: the PSAT is an important source of prospective applications for colleges, but a student’s PSAT score won’t have an impact on an admissions decision.



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Written by Zaragoza Guerra
Zaragoza Guerra is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions experts. Zaragoza previously worked as a senior admissions officer at MIT, Caltech, and The Boston Conservatory.