Paying for college can be a daunting task, so many seek out scholarships to help cover the cost of tuition. For high school seniors looking to get into college, there are two types of scholarships. There are need-based financial aid and award-based financial aid. The National Merit Scholarship is offered by taking the PSAT/NMSQT and falls into the latter type of financial aid. In this blog post, you’ll learn how to earn a National Merit Scholarship and what you need to consider while applying.
Taking the PSAT/NMSQT
There are multiple steps a student has to go through to be eligible to earn a National Merit Scholarship.
- First, in the fall of junior year, students should take the PSAT/NMSQT and aim to get a score within the top 1% of their state. In our next blog about the PSAT, we will highlight best practices to achieve such a thing.
- The National Merit Scholarship Corporation will select 16,000 semifinalists from a pool of 50,000 students with the best PSAT scores. Students are eligible to become semifinalists if their score meets the standards of the Selection Index Score. This index is double the sum of the Reading, Writing, and Math test scores. This index varies by state, but the average index score needed is around 218.
- Of the semifinalists, 15,000 become finalists. From there, only 8,200 win anything. A total of 7,500 students will win the $2,500 scholarship.
Becoming a National Merit Scholar
- The winning students are known as scholars, earning $2,500 in scholarship money. Additionally, their high school principals are notified and presented with a Certificate of Merit to present to the student.
Other Merit Scholarship Awards
There are two other types of National Merit Scholarships:
- An additional 1,500 students that meet eligibility criteria established by corporate sponsors can earn special scholarships. Such recipients do not need to be finalists, but in essence, are sponsored by corporations who put money into the National Merit Scholarship.
- Another type of special scholarship is college-sponsored, meaning that winners who have chosen to go to a sponsor college as their first choice will be given money as an incentive and reward for choosing a college that supports the NMSC.
Things to Keep In Mind Before Applying
- Since it is an honor to become a National Merit Scholar, many prestigious schools like the Ivy Leagues will not offer a National Merit Scholarship because getting into one of those schools is an equally big honor.
- However, 68 schools and universities award finalists or even semifinalists money.
- Students need to be in their third year of high school and have US citizenship for National Merit Scholarship eligibility. The student needs to be progressing towards graduating, no matter how they receive their education.
Is it Worth Applying for the National Merit Scholarship?
Applying for the National Merit Scholarship may feel like a headache because of the one-and-a-half-year gap between taking the PSAT/NMSQT and receiving the scholarship. The high scores required for eligibility make it even more frustrating.
However, there are a few big reasons why students should consider applying for the National Merit Scholarship. A student should take the PSAT/NMSQT to prepare for the SAT they should take in the spring. They can receive a very prestigious honor to use on their resume, and they can save quite a bit of money for college with a scholarship that is available for everyone in the United States.
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