Does taking PSAT matter for UC?

How much does a Merit Comment/Merit semi-finalist weighted in the award section of the UC, if the only other awards are doing volunteer related award like Presidential Volunteer Service Gold and Congressional Youth service Bronze? This is for someone who is not athletic, artistic, but is more a nerd interested in science and history and is wondering whether doing independent project, research, taking community classes, or enrichment course for career exploration will be better than or in addition to doing PSAT prep this summer ?

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My son was a national recognition scholar from his psat score and we put it on his apps as a national award. We figured it couldn’t hurt.

The UC’s use 13 areas of criteria in their application review and each campus determines how each area is weighted. It is a great academic accomplishment but it will not be evaluated in a vacuum. Definitely report it on the application.

What with the UCs having gone test blind, it is my opinion that National Merit is now the ONLY way that an applicant can tell the UCs that they have a very high standardized test score. I would say that if your child is close to commendation/semi-finalist level, it would be worth having them prep hard for the PSAT, in the hopes of being able to put this information in the awards section. If they’re far from it on a practice test, and resistant to prepping for the test, then don’t bother.


His PSAT practice test has been going down since freshman. He would take it to see where he was without any preparation. First was freshman fall and was 1450, then another one sophmore fall was 1410, and few weeks ago he tried it at a SAT prep company that has made a digital version of the PSAT to simulate the one this fall. He did not do well in the English part, and he blamed on the software glitch, like not being able to mark or hightlite text. He got 600 on the English and 790 on Math; his math has been consistent, would miss between 1-3 questions. Not sure why his reading score keep going down, even though he is taking honor English and write good essays and has vocabulary tests for English class. So he is trying to figure out whether to spend some time with a SAT prep tutor to really bump up his PSAT score by also studying for the SAT which he wants to take it late summer and November. He also wants to balance with other activities like residential college programs , enrichment course, or maybe even a part time job as a camp counselor/hellper. But I wonder if him doing all these actives (spending maybe 2-3 hours on SAT /PSAT prep during weekdays) will be too much? Seems like high school students can’t really have a break now if they want to go to a good UC college in STEM.

I wonder if maybe spending time doing an independent research project and submitting that to science fair will look better on UC app than spending 2-3 hours every day studying for PSAT/SAT for the fall?

I would not do any EC/research project etc… just to look good for college admissions. He should be doing what interests him not just for a college application.