When thinking about college admission, “National,” “Merit,” and “Scholarship” all sound very attractive. Even better when you understand that you have already applied for this award simply by taking the PSAT in the fall of your junior year!
However, it can’t be that simple. In spite of the fact that more than 4.5 million high school juniors took the PSAT last year, only 7,500 were chosen as finalists for the National Merit Scholarship, according to the College Board. That amounts to less than 5% of the total.
How does a high school student qualify for the National Merit Scholarship? What is the National Merit Scholarship in detail? What does the admissions process signify for your prospects at prestigious colleges? Are there advantages to gaining? Beyond the original scholarship offer, does National Merit recognition exist?
These questions will be answered below
Eligibility for National Merit Scholarships
Priorities come first. A national academic competition for high school students to win scholarships that will pay for their college education is called the National Merit Scholarship Program. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation oversees its administration (NMSC).
Students that perform well on the PSAT are eligible for the National Merit program. Actually, the test’s full name is the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, or PSAT/NMSQT for short. Make sure you take the actual PSAT/NMSQT and not a substitute exam like the PSAT 10 since it won’t count for the National Merit Scholarship.
High scorers may be named Commended Students, Semifinalists, or (after submitting an additional application) Finalists by the NMSC after receiving their PSAT results. About 7,500 students are chosen from the Finalists to receive scholarships.
Three main criteria must be met in order to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship:
One, in order to participate in the high school program, students must take the PSAT/NMSQT in the designated year and no later than the third year of grades 9 through 12. Typically, this means that junior year students should take the test in the fall.
In addition, applicants must be in good academic standing, enrolled full-time in high school (conventional or homeschooled), and intend to seek admission to a college the fall after graduating from high school.
Getting a National Merit Scholarship
The PSAT/NMSQT is the first step in the process of earning a National Merit Scholarship commendation and moving on to the semifinals or finals, but it’s not the last. The following stages of the procedure should be remembered:
Obtain a Top PSAT Score!
Of course, acing the PSAT/NMSQT as a junior is the most crucial thing. Most students must have test results that place them in the top 1% of students in their state to be eligible for the National Merit Scholarship. Accordingly, the score cutoff will vary depending on where you live and how well the PSAT scores of other students in your state were. If you passed, you’ll learn your results in September of your senior year.
Strong Application Writing
Congratulations if you are selected as a National Merit Semifinalist! The application process to be a Finalist is now open. This scholarship application is a vital step in the procedure because only a tiny number of semifinalists advance to finalist standing and get the grant. More details about this are provided below under “National Merit Semifinalists.”
Success on the SAT
Your testing isn’t finished yet; National Merit Finalists also achieve highly on the SAT in addition to performing well on the PSAT. Along with your scholarship application, you will also need to send in your authentic College Board SAT scores.
There is no suggested cutoff score for the SAT from the NMSC or College Board; they just state that it should be “high enough to affirm your PSAT/NMSQT results. Therefore, it’s crucial that you continue studying for the SAT if you do well on the PSAT so that, should you move to Semifinalist standing, you’ll be in a strong position to apply to become a Finalist.
Numbers need to qualify for National Merit Scholarships
The NMSC determines your final score after you take the PSAT. Each year, they compute selection index scores to assess PSAT results. The PSAT/NMSQT average cutoff score from last year is 218, but if you live in Wyoming or Iowa, you might qualify with a lower score, whereas if you live in Massachusetts, New Jersey, or DC, you will likely need a higher score. In general, your chances of becoming a Semifinalist are greatly improved by scoring 4-5 points above the average cutoff score for your state.
Even though there are several merit scholarships available for students to earn during the college application process, the National Merit Scholarship is one of the most coveted. Participating in the National Merit program has a number of additional advantages besides just the prestige of winning a National Merit Scholarship. A great signal of your academic success to include in your application is achieving the designation of Commended Student or Semifinalist, which may allow you to apply for Special Scholarships.
- Preparing for the PSAT/NMSQT is the greatest approach to put yourself in the race for the National Merit Scholarship. Do your best to stay ahead of the curve now rather than waiting until junior year. After that, if you do qualify to submit an application for finalist standing, don’t do it by yourself! Participants in the National Merit program are judged on a variety of factors beyond their academic performance, much like applicants to top universities. Make sure you have a reliable advisor by your side to help you with the application.