Administrative Error Disqualifies PSAT Scores
by Titania Nguyen on Friday, February 22nd, 2013
Last Thursday, February 14th, Ms. Bonenfant, the Academic Dean, made an announcement to the junior class. Many were expecting a D.C. statement; instead, she announced that, for the 2012 PSAT, taken in October, Milton Academy ordered the Wednesday edition of the tests, but gave them on Saturday. This error caused the results of everyone who took the exam this year to be invalidated for the National Merit Scholarship, a program that awards scholarships and titled recognition based on PSAT scores. Although the administration knew almost immediately after the test (and although some students had noticed the error), the administration waited until the College Board confirmed the error to announce it to Class II. The administration took the appropriate steps to rectify the situation: any student who still wishes to be eligible for the National Merit Scholarship can now get a form from Ms. Bonenfant that will signal the student’s desire to replace his or her PSAT score with an SAT score for consideration for the National Merit Scholarship. However, this mistake simply should not have happened at a school as college-focused as Milton. With scholarship money and prestigious titles on the line, the National Merit Scholarship is incredibly important for many Milton students. The school should learn from this mistake so that it does not happen again.
The PSAT does not count for an official test score, and is mainly used for three purposes: practicing test-taking skills, gauging what a student might score in the SAT, and competing for National Merit Scholarship; in fact, the test is called the PSAT/NMSQT, or the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Students who qualify—and many at Milton do—are eligible for all sorts of scholarship money. Many students, with the rising cost of college, rely on various scholarships to attend college and avoid loans. The NMSQT offers many scholarships such as $2,500 ones applicable anywhere, sponsored scholarships from different companies, and stipends towards a specific college. Milton has heightened the hurdle for students who want a shot at those scholarships by making it more difficult for these students to even enter the competition, especially those students who score lower on the SATs than on the PSATs. .
In addition, the title of “National Merit Scholarship Semi-Finalist” or “Finalist” is incredibly helpful for students applying to college. As one of the most prestigious scholarship programs in the country, the award can significantly add to college applications. Many winners of the National Merit Scholarship have gone on to become notable figures, including Bill Gates, Elena Kagan, and Susan Rice. Many Milton students might have missed out on the chance to be a part of that esteemed group who deserve to be there, simply because of a mistake that wasn’t their own.
This mistake was frustrating, but not a travesty. The administration does not deserve to be condemned, but it should be more careful in the future to not let this happen again. When sending the letter to The College Board, the administration also should have immediately notified students that their scores might be canceled. In any case, this issue was well dealt with, but should not have happened at a college-preparatory school. The National Merit Scholarship is quite important to many students, so perhaps this can be a learning point, and a further motivator for the next big test—the SATs.
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