Understanding The National Merit Scholarship: All You Need To Know

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Top students around the nation have received awards and scholarships via the National Merit Scholarship Program since its inception in 1955.


In this yearly contest, less than 1% of students are named National Merit Scholars.

What does it take to win this coveted prize, and how does one apply?

One of the most esteemed merit-based award programs is the National Merit Scholarship Program.


And each year, more than a million juniors in the high school compete for a National Merit Scholarship.

How does one qualify to be a National Merit Scholar? PSAT is the first step in the procedure. The National Merit Scholarship Program identifies the best junior PSAT scorers, and each state’s semifinalists are chosen from this group.


The National Merit Scholarship has a convoluted, state-specific grading system and a multi-step procedure. Our guide takes you step-by-step through the application procedure, the due date, and the scholarships offered by the National Merit Scholarship Program.

Understanding The National Merit Scholarship

How To Participate In The Contest

High school students who meet the prescribed enrolment and participation standards take the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®) during the appropriate period in the high school program, often as a junior. Each year, the PSAT/NMSQT serves as the qualifying test for tournament participation. The PSAT/NMSQT from 2021 is one example of a qualifying exam for a 2023 scholarship program. The PSAT/NMSQT 2022 is the qualifying examination for the 2024 scholarship competition.


Secondary schools sign up for the test collectively, rather than individually, for each student. Students interested in taking the PSAT/NMSQT in the fall are encouraged to schedule an appointment with their guidance counsellor as soon as school begins.

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National Merit Scholarship Requirements

We must prioritize our responsibilities. The National Merit Scholarship Program is a countrywide competition for high school seniors to receive scholarships for their college education. Management is handled by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC).

Students who score well on the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT) may be considered for the National Merit Scholarship Program. The official title of this exam is the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT). Skip the PSAT 10 as it isn’t accepted for National Merit Scholarship consideration, and take the real PSAT/NMSQT instead.

After obtaining their PSAT scores, high scorers may be recognized by the NMSC as Commended Students, Semifinalists, or (after completing an additional application) Finalists. The Finalists are narrowed down to around 7,500 students who will each get a prize.

To be eligible, one must fulfil the following three requirements:

  • Students must take the PSAT in the assigned school year but no later than the third year to participate in the high school program. Students must be U.S. citizens, or permanent residents enrolled in a high school in the U.S., the District of Columbia, or a country outside of the United States and be a junior in high school at the time of the exam’s administration (typically in the fall).

The NMSC will use the PSAT/first NMSQT’s few questions to determine a candidate’s eligibility for the program.

You can learn more from the video below:

Getting A National Merit Scholarship

If you do well on the PSAT/NMSQT, you may advance to the semifinals or finals and be recognized as a National Merit Scholar. Specifically, keep in mind the following steps in the process:

Get A Perfect Score On The PSAT!

The most important thing is to do well on the PSAT/NMSQT in junior year. To qualify for the National Merit Scholarship, most students need to score in the top 1 percentile on standardized tests within their respective states.

As a result, the qualifying score will change depending on your location and the average PSAT performance of students in your state.

In September of your last year of high school, you would find out whether your score was good enough to advance you to the semifinals.

You may have just advanced to the semifinals or received an honourable mention.

It would help if you highlighted these accomplishments in your college application.

The National Merit Program acknowledges less than five per cent of test takers.

Superior College Application Essays

Suppose you’ve made it to the semifinals of the National Merit Scholarship Program, congratulations! Finalist applications are now being accepted. Due to the low number of grants awarded to finalists, this scholarship application is crucial. Under “National Merit Semifinalists,” you may get further information on this.

How to Ace the SAT

National Merit Semifinalists often score very high, not just on the SAT but also on the PSAT. Send in your scholarship application with official College Board SAT scores.

To prove their PSAT/NMSQT success, NMSC and College Board advise students to get an SAT score “high enough to authenticate your PSAT/NMSQT. If you score well on the PSAT, you should continue to study for the SAT in the hopes of becoming a Finalist.

Scholarship For National Merit

The number of winners fluctuates according to the state’s share of the nation’s graduating high school seniors. A committee chooses the winners made up of high school counsellors and college admissions experts. State-specific qualifying standards also differ; more populous states generally demand that students achieve greater standards. Approximately 1,500 candidates who do not qualify as Finalists earn Special Scholarships from business sponsors.

Merit Scholarship winners must inform the National Merit Scholarship Corporation of their intentions to enrol in a full-time undergraduate study for a degree at a recognized college or university. National Merit Scholars at these institutions may be recognized for their accomplishments without the benefit of a scholarship by being named Honorary Merit Scholars.

Types Of Merit Scholarship Awards

NMSC tells around 7,250 Finalists that they have been chosen to earn a Merit Scholarship award starting in March and continuing through mid-June. Awards for merit scholarships come in three varieties:

1. $2500 National Merit Scholarships

These single-payment scholarships, which are given based on state representation, are up for grabs among all Finalists. Without considering the family’s financial situation, the college preference, or the major and career goals, winners are chosen by a committee of college admission officials and high school counsellors.

2. Prizes For Merit Scholarships Provided By Businesses

Corporate sponsors name their rewards for inhabitants of a town where a corporation does business, those children of their workers or members, or Finalists with career ambitions the sponsor wants to support. These scholarships might be one-time grants or renewable for four years of undergraduate education.

3. Rewards For Merit Scholarships Given By Colleges

Finalists who have been accepted and notified NMSC by the required deadlines that the sponsor college or university is their first choice are picked by each sponsor institution’s administrators to receive their awards. These rewards are renewable for four undergraduate years.

Around 400 individual sponsors and NMSC’s own finances contribute to funding merit scholarship awards. Corporate entities, corporate foundations, trade groups, and schools and universities are examples of sponsor organizations.

4. Unique Scholarships

Approximately 800 participants in the National Merit Program who are great students but have not been designated Finalists are given Special Scholarships each year from businesses and professional associations. Students must fulfil the sponsor’s requirements and the National Merit Scholarship Program’s admission standards to qualify for a Special Scholarship.

They must also turn in an admission form to the sponsoring company. NMSC then contacts a group of applicants with strong test scores through their high schools. These students submit specific scholarship applications together with representatives from their schools. The expert team at NMSC selects recipients of the sponsor’s Special Scholarships by assessing information on applicants’ aptitudes, competencies, and achievements. These scholarships might be one-time grants or renewable for four years of undergraduate education.


Although various merit scholarships are offered to students in their pursuit of further education, the National Merit Scholarship is among the most prestigious awards they may win. Aside from receiving a National Merit Scholarship, participating in the National Merit program provides various benefits. Obtaining the title of Commended Student or Semifinalist, which may enable you to apply for Special Scholarships, is an excellent indicator of your academic excellence to include in your application.


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