PSAT NMSF in lieu of SAT this year?


I’m looking for any advice you all might have on this. Despite many efforts (4 to be exact), my daughter has still not managed to take the SAT. Her school here in CA is on remote learning and all the local schools who usually hold the SAT are no longer doing so. We were signed up for the August test at a school 4 hours away but they had a covid case the week before the SAT admin and shut down.

So my question is this. My daughter has already prepped twice (khan academy) for the SAT only to have the rug yanked from under her feet the week before. Can she/should she attempt to take the test one more time? She has a September date booked two hours away and that will hopefully go ahead but who knows. She will need to brush up on Khan again, probably 6-8 hours I’d say.

The rub is that she is also trying to fill our her common app, write her supplemental essays and keep up with her 5 ap classes at the same time. Prepping would take a significant chunk of time when she is already feeling quite swamped

She has usually been an excellent test taker. She made national merit semifinalist on the PSAT.

So I am wondering if being able to cite NMSF on the PSAT might stand – this year – in lieu of a SAT score…

She’s applying to the UCs as well as Scripps (match?) and Barnard (moonshot)


If Barnard’s your daughter’s top choice, I would highly, highly recommend that you apply ED, but only if ALL of the following are true:

  1. Your daughter LOVES Barnard and would 110% attend if admitted.
  2. She's confident she can present a well thought out and crafted application by the ED deadline, which is typically November 1st.
  3. Your family can afford Barnard if admitted (run the financial aid calculators if applicable.)

Hi Pikachu –

thank you for the advice. One and three are true, but two is questionable partly because if she has to take the time out to try for the SAT again, it will impact time spent on the ED application. She has definitely mentioned wanting to try for ED at Barnard

Now that you’ve made me think about this, maybe it’s a question for admissions at Barnard???

They’ll likely direct you to the Admissions website:

Does your daughter have other tests, such as AP exams or SAT Subject Tests? If so, that’s a good way to show academic strength, especially if in the subjects your daughter is interested in, if you’re unable to submit a SAT/ACT score.

She doesn’t have SAT subject tests. They were also cancelled.

She has 4 APS completed so far, with three 5s and one 4.

Those are great scores! Unfortunately, I applied during a more normal application cycle, so I don’t have much more advice. I will argue that applying ED is very helpful, even at schools like the Ivies that don’t consider demonstrated interest on paper as it usually means your application shows your “fit” more than that of the applicant applying right before the deadline, but it’s up to your daughter’s own judgement on when her application will be the strongest.

So I’m going to give you advice purely from the context of a parent who went through the admissions cycle last year applying to many (in hindsight too many) schools with a rigorous schedule. It’s incredibly stressful in a “normal” year. Those supplements add up! I have zero insight to the UC process as we’re not in state and my daughter didn’t apply to any. I just can’t fathom a kid who’s a NMSF from CA (where I know the score is higher than many states) with 3 5s and 1 4 on APs isn’t going to check the box for sufficient test scores at a private ie Barnard in a year where they’ve stated they’re test optional. I just can’t imagine that for THEM the decision would be different with a SAT score commiserate with her fine PSAT. Like I said, maybe it’s different for not quite as holistic publics. But if it was my kid, I’d bag the SAT and move on at this point to try and reduce some stress in an incredibly stressful time. Just my opinion.

@socowonder. I would put the PSAT score on the common app. I think there may be a place for it. If not, you could put it under extra info, or under honors like NMSF (score in parentheses)

There are a few schools that have said that they would accept the PSAT, like U Mich.

The good news is that you don’t need a confirming score for NMF this year because of COVID.

You probably don’t need to list PSAT score as colleges know that students who have achieved NMSF status have a high PSAT score, and this is ESPECIALLY true for CA residents w/one of the highest cutoffs. The Common Application will NOT allow you to list your PSAT score in the test scores section, so if you did want to report it, it would have to be associated with the honors or in the additional information section (selection index out of 228/score out of 1520.)

Thank you for this advice. I am really leaning that way, especially since the added stressors this cycle (like taking a test in mask two hours away in a different county and school district, and not being able to use the bathroom or eat during it; not being as prepped as she would like) might impact her score anyway.

Thank you for that information. I did a quick search and now have found that Swarthmore too (on her list) will take PSAT in lieu of SAT/ACT this year. I will write an enquire about how they wish applicants to report it.

thank you all so much!

I would have your D contact the schools (rather than you as a parent) as it would show she is taking ownership of her application process.

Yes, I will definitely have her do it. I mis-wrote :slight_smile:

Swarthmore has ED as well, and if they’ll accept the PSAT score, it’s certainly a school to consider with regards to applying ED.

Agreed. The school looks amazing and a great fit …


IMPORTANT NOTICE: Due to the global pandemic and the resulting lack of available test administrations, SAT and
ACT scores will not be required or considered for Finalist standing in the 2021 National Merit Scholarship Program.


One-Year SAT/ACT Test-Optional Policy For Spring and Fall 2021
Barnard recognizes the challenges that students are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and, in response, Barnard will adopt a one-year SAT and ACT test-optional admission policy for students applying for Fall 2021 first-year admission as well as Spring or Fall 2021 transfer admission. This decision was made in consultation with the President and the Board of Trustees and is not intended as an admissions policy shift, but rather as a temporary measure driven by the current circumstances. Students may apply without submitting standardized test scores from the SAT or ACT exam and no other materials will be requested in lieu of test scores. Applicants may still submit self-reported SAT or ACT scores for consideration if they are able to do so. As in previous years, the College does not evaluate SAT Subject Tests. Please know that Barnard reviews all applications holistically. We consider each applicant in the context of her school, community, and individual story. Barnard seeks students who are intellectually motivated, community-minded, and excited for academic exploration within the liberal arts.

Yes, I knew that Barnard and a host of others are test optional. The question is what that really means, especially for a student whose likely strong score would have been an important addition to her application.

That’s a different question than the start/title of this thread and has been covered extensively elsewhere. I suggest reading those threads and adding to the discussion as needed.

Thanks for the suggestion! :smile: :smile:

Well, it looks like it’s going to be PSAT or nothin’.

Just looked at College Board website and the site where my S21 was signed up to take the Sept 26th test has been cancelled.

Of course, our whole state is in flames, so even without the pandemic, this would have been difficult.

Sheesh. This sucks so badly.