Although all high school juniors can apply for the National Merit Scholarship, many students aren’t aware that the opportunity exists. So what is the National Merit Scholarship? In summary, the National Merit Scholarship is a competition that allows students who score highly on the PSAT (the practice SAT) to be considered for a $2,500 scholarship. In fact, the full name of the PSAT is really the PSAT/NMSQT – otherwise known as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.
Students entering their junior year this fall (2019) will qualify for the 2021 award upon entering college. So how does it work? Let’s break down the steps!
1. First, a strict requirement: the student must take the PSAT/NMSQT in their third year of high school (grade 11, junior year). This is important to note because the PSAT is also offered in prior grades, but only the 11th grade score will count towards the competition.
2. After the test, all scores are sent to the NMSC (National Merit Scholarship Corporation). The students with the highest scores become semifinalists. Although 1.6 million students will take the PSAT, only about 50,000 will receive recognition in the National Merit Scholarship Program.
3. As semifinalists, several requirements must be fulfilled. Besides having maintained a consistently high academic record, students are also required to complete an application, write an essay, and obtain an endorsement from a school official. Most importantly, semifinalists must all take the SAT and achieve a score that is consistent with their performance on the PSAT/NMSQT.
4. Roughly 15,000 students will fulfill these requirements and proceed to become finalists. Of these finalists, 2,500 will be selected to receive the National Merit Scholarship. This decision is based on several factors, including academic diligence, commitment to extracurricular activities, community involvement, and overall passion or drive.
5. These 2,500 winners will all receive a $2,500 scholarship. But that’s not all! Over 5,000 students will also receive awards from two other categories: corporate and college sponsored scholarships. Finally, over 1,000 special scholarships are also awarded. These awards range greatly in value, from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
We encourage all students to take the PSAT/NMSQT and join the competition! In 2020, the 8,600 awards given out will have a combined value of more than $41 million!
The National Merit Scholarship is an excellent way for high school students to start getting motivated towards the college pathway. If your student is going into 11th grade this year, make sure to research registration dates and locations for PSAT testing. Good luck!
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