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National Merit Scholarship And Eligibility 2022/2023

National Merit Scholarship: When it comes to college admission, words like “national,” “merit,” and “scholarship” seem very appealing. Even better when you find you’ve already qualified for this reward by taking the PSAT in the fall of your junior year!

National Merit Scholarship

But surely it can’t be that simple. After all, according to the College Board, over 4.5 million high school juniors took the PSAT last year, yet only 7,500 were chosen for the National Merit Scholarship. That amounts to less than a fifth of one percent.

National Merit Scholarship: How to Enter the Competition

High school students who satisfy the official program admission and participation requirements enter the National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®) during their junior year.

The PSAT/NMSQT for each year is the qualifying test for entrance into that year’s competition. For example, the 2020 PSAT/NMSQT is the qualifying exam for entrance into the scholarship competition for 2022.

Individual student registers for high school rather than the test. Students who are interested should meet with their counselor at the start of the school year to make plans to take the PSAT/NMSQT at the school in the autumn.

Please keep in mind that the PSAT 10 and PSAT 8/9 will not be considered for admission to the National Merit Scholarship Program. The PSAT/NMSQT is the official entrance exam for the National Merit Scholarship Program.

National Merit Scholarship Eligibility

There are three major factors in eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship:

1. First, students must take the PSAT/NMSQT during their senior year of high school and no later than their third year in grades 9 through 12. This usually indicates that students should take the exam in the fall of their junior year.

2. Second, students must be enrolled full-time in high school (traditional or homeschooled), be in excellent academic standing, and expect to accept admission to college in the autumn after high school graduation.

3 Finally, eligible students must either be U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the United States attending high school in the United States, the District of Columbia, or a U.S. commonwealth or territory or be U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the United States attending high school overseas.

The NMSC will decide students’ eligibility for the program based on a few factual questions at the beginning of the PSAT/NMSQT.

When to Take the PSAT/NMSQT

1. Students who want to complete four years of high school (grades 9 through 12) before enrolling full-time in college must take the PSAT/NMSQT in their third year (grade 11, junior year).

They will enter the competition, which will conclude when prizes are presented in the spring of their fourth high school year (grade 12, senior year), the same year they will graduate from high school and begin college.

Although some schools encourage sophomores to take the PSAT/NMSQT for counseling purposes, these students must retake the exam as juniors to be eligible for the National Merit Scholarship Program if they are studying in grades 9 through 12.

2. Students who plan to leave high school a year (or more) early to attend college full-time can normally apply for the National Merit Scholarship Program if they take the PSAT/NMSQT before they graduate. Such students must take the PSAT/NMSQT in either their next-to-last or final year of high school.

  • Those who take the PSAT/NMSQT in their senior year of high school will be eligible for rewards that will be given out when they complete their last year of high school.
  • Those who take the PSAT/NMSQT in their senior year of high school will be eligible for rewards when they begin their first year of college.

3. To be eligible for the National Merit Scholarship Program, students who are dual enrolled in high school and college must take the PSAT/NMSQT in their third year of high school (grade 11, junior year).

The high school assesses if a student is dual enrolled and validates the student’s enrollment status.

4. The request should include the student’s name, the name, and location of the high school, the year the student started high school, the year the student will graduate high school, and a brief description of the student’s educational pattern.

To establish the expected degree of recognition, NMSC will utilize the student’s Selection Index score from the PSAT/NMSQT taken in the student’s third year of grades 9 through 12.

To be recognized in the fifth (final) year of high school, the student must retake the PSAT/NMSQT in the fourth year and acquire a qualifying Selection Index score equal to or higher than the level earned on the third-year exam.

A student’s degree of recognition cannot exceed the level attained on the qualifying exam completed during the student’s third year in grades 9 through 12, the year in which all other competitors are evaluated.


How to Become A National Merit Scholar

While the PSAT/NMSQT is the first step in earning a National Merit Scholarship commendation or becoming a semifinalist or finalist, it is not the ultimate step.

There are a few stages to the process that must be considered:

1. Get a Great PSAT Score!

The most important thing, of course, is to ace the PSAT/NMSQT as a junior. Most students must have a test score in the top 1% in their state to be eligible for the National Merit Scholarship.

That implies the cutoff will differ based on where you live and how well others in your state performed on the PSAT.

If you scored high enough to be a semifinalist, you’ll find out in September of your senior year.

At this point, you might be called a Commended Student or a Semifinalist. Both are outstanding indicators that you should include in your college application.

The National Merit Scholarship Program recognizes less than 5% of exam takers.

2. Write a Strong Application

Congratulations on being awarded a National Merit Semifinalist! It’s now time to apply to be a Finalist.

Because only a little number of semifinalists advance to finalist status and get the prize, this scholarship application is critical.

3. Score Well on the SAT

Your testing isn’t done yet; in addition to performing well on the PSAT, National Merit Finalists also perform well on the SAT. You must also provide authentic SAT results from the College Board as part of your scholarship application.

The NMSC and College Board provide no recommendations for SAT cutoff scores, merely that they be “high enough to validate your PSAT/NMSQT performance.”

As a result, if you perform well on the PSAT, you should continue preparing for the SAT, so that if you progress to Semifinalist status, you’ll be in an excellent position to apply to become a Finalist.

4. Scores Needed for National Merit Scholarships

The NMSC computes your total score after you have taken the PSAT. Every year, they create selection index scores to analyze PSAT scores.

Selection Process

National Merit Scholarship Below are the selection processes for the National Merit Scholarship:

1. Commended Students

The NMSC may recognize high PSAT/NMSQT scores from Commended Students in September of their senior year.

In general, the top 3%-4% of PSAT scoring, or around 35,000 kids, are designated as commended students.

This is an impressive achievement, but it implies that these children did not get high enough qualifying scores to be declared a semifinalist this cycle, as semifinalists often score in the top 1% of PSAT takers.

2. National Merit Semifinalists

Semifinalists are PSAT test takers who score in the top 1% of their class on the PSAT. The NMSC selects around 16,000 high school students as semifinalists each year.

Being named a National Merit Semifinalist is a noteworthy accomplishment to put on college applications, and many institutions and corporate sponsors award additional scholarships to these kids even if they do not advance to the finals.

At the same time, semifinalists are able to apply for scholarships to become National Merit Finalists. This application process is quite similar to that of a college application. Semifinalists must submit the following to the NMSC:

  • Transcripts from high school or other academic records
  • A referral letter (usually from your high school principal)
  • A personal essay, generally on an event or a challenge you’ve overcome.

Make sure to receive help and criticism on your documents, especially the essay, from a reliable source.

Being a semifinalist does not ensure that you will be a National Merit Finalist. You must submit a solid application that demonstrates to the NMSC why you are a fantastic all-around candidate for a merit scholarship, not just a bright student.


3. Finalists

The top semifinalists are designated National Merit Scholarship Finalists, and they are notified in February of their senior year. Their high schools are also notified, and principals are provided Merit Certificates to present to the Finalists.

4. Winner Selection

Finally, roughly 7,500 students are chosen as Scholars from among the remaining Finalists. National Merit Scholarship recipients are granted one of three categories of National Merit Scholarships from March until the conclusion of the school year.

Some are given directly by the NMSC, while corporations, foundations, professional associations, and colleges give others:

  • A $2,500 National Merit Scholarship. A group of college admissions professionals and high school counselors evaluates all Finalists. The state awards these one-time scholarships. Winners are chosen without regard for students’ financial circumstances, college preferences, intended field of study, or professional goals.
  • Merit Scholarships Sponsored by Corporations These rewards are offered to workers’ families, inhabitants of the community where a business works, or Finalists whose chosen major and/or profession are connected to the sponsor. Some scholarships are renewable for all four years of college, while others are one-time only.
  • Merit Scholarships Sponsored by Colleges Finally, representatives from each sponsor college choose finalists who have (1) been accepted for admission to that college and (2) told NMSC that the school is their top choice. These college-sponsored prizes can be renewed for a total of four years. The deadline for submitting a first choice is listed here.

5. Special Scholarships

In addition, about 1,000 National Merit program participants who do not advance to the Finalist level receive Special Scholarships from corporate and commercial groups. Students must satisfy the criteria of the sponsor and submit an initial admission form.

Then, through their high schools, NMSC approaches prospects to seek more thorough scholarship applications.

The NMSC then evaluates the candidates and awards them later in the school year. These prizes may be one-time or renewable for a period of up to four years.

The National Merit Scholarship is just one of several merit awards available to students throughout the college application process, but it is one of the most coveted.

In addition to the prestige of being a National Merit Scholarship recipient, there are a number of other advantages to enrolling in the National Merit program.

Obtaining the rank of Commended Student or Semifinalist is a strong signal of academic distinction to include in your application, and it may allow you to qualify for Special Scholarships.

This is a great opportunity. Ensure you make the best use of it. Also, do not keep this information to just yourself. Please share it with friends.

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