Taking a break from the FAFSA… The PSAT is coming this week. I highly recommend that all sophomores and juniors take it. Why? Because standardized tests are quite possibly the best source of merit aid around, so the more practice you get, the more prepared you are likely to be when the real tests come around.

If you took the PSAT as a sophomore, you should still take it as a junior. Not only do you get one more practice test, but the National Merit Scholarship will only use junior year PSAT scores. (Here are predicted cutoff scores for National Merit.) The best news is, PSAT scores are basically only used for National Merit consideration. Other than that, they’re just anonymous practice for the SAT. (Remember that many schools require students to submit all SAT scores, even if they superscore. But no one asks for PSAT scores.)

One other suggestion for students before taking the PSAT: Set up an email address for college correspondence. The volume of email you will get from colleges post-PSAT will overwhelm your normal email inbox. Students who don’t check email regularly but need their email address for something important like teacher communications will quickly burn out from deleting college emails.