11th Grade Year: All College-Bound Students Should Take the PSAT in the Fall
Honors students need to take the PSAT as juniors to try to qualify for National Merit Awards. In addition to the scholarships given to Award Finalists, students may qualify for other merit scholarships and special scholarships given out to National Merit Semifinalists and Commended Students.
In my experience, students who are commended or become semifinalists receive a lot of interest from colleges who want them to attend. The colleges vigorously recruit these students because it brings prestige to the college that they choose to attend.
Other awards given to students who score high on the PSAT the fall of their junior year include the National Achievement Award, given to African-American students, and the National Hispanic Achievement Award, given to Hispanic students.
11th Grade Year: All college-bound juniors should consider taking the SAT and ACT in the Spring.
Taking the SAT and ACT during the junior year is important because if the student can get a good score, he or she can focus on taking college visits and finishing applications during the summer and early part of the fall of the senior year. Having a good score by the spring of the junior year will open doors and give the student more choices and more time to find the right fit.
In addition, if the student does not get the score up to what they need, they have an opportunity to work on it in the late spring or summer before their senior year and then take the test during the fall of their senior year.
I strongly advise against postponing the SAT and ACT to the senior year — in other words, not taking either test at all until the student is a senior. It may take a few months to address any weaknesses the student may have. It is best to work on these deficiencies prior to the student’s senior year, if possible.