According to Wikipedia, The National Merit Scholarship Program is a United States academic scholarship competition for recognition and university scholarships administered by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC), a privately funded, not-for-profit organization based in Evanston, Illinois.
The program began in 1955. NEARLY 4.3 MILLION high school students took the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test or the PSAT 10 in the 2016-2017 school year, according to College Board.
Prospective college students enter the National Merit Scholarship Program, conducted by the nonprofit National Merit Scholarship Corp., by taking the PSAT/NMSQT. But only 7,500 are selected as Merit Scholarship winners. While earning the title of National Merit Scholar and an accompanying scholarship prize is a rare honor, it’s not impossible.
Here are steps you can take to win National Merit Scholarship money as well as additional scholarship opportunities
1. Score within the top 1 percent of students on the PSAT
To be eligible for National Merit Scholarships, you must take the PSAT/NMSQT in October of your junior year – if completing high school in four years – and be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, among other requirements.
You also have to get a top score on the test. Around 16,000 high scorers, representing less than 1 percent of the nation’s high school graduating seniors, will qualify as semifinalists. The scholarship organization looks at scores on a state-by-state basis, so students across the country have a fair shot at winning.
2. Use PSAT Score to Build SAT Game Plan
You might wonder what scores you need to make the top percentile, but the cutoff changes each year. For more insight, you can call NMSC at 847-866-5100 to learn the previous year’s cutoff in your state.
But achieving a top score on the PSAT is only the tip of the iceberg for winning a National Merit Scholarship.
3. Put together an outstanding application.
Taking the PSAT is the first step toward winning a scholarship. You should receive your score about two months later, but you will have to wait almost a full year before learning the next steps.
In September of your senior year, you will find out if you qualified as a semifinalist. If you’re named a semifinalist, you will go on to apply for finalist status. The process is similar to applying to college. You will need to submit your academic record; a recommendation, typically from your school principal; and an essay.
Only a small percentage of students earn finalist status and win a scholarship, so make sure to put time and thought into your application materials. You’ll need an outstanding application to make it to the final round.
Score highly on the SAT.
Along with putting together an exceptional application, you’ll also need to take the SAT and send your scores to the scholarship organization.
Students who applied for the 2018 program had to submit their SAT scores by Dec. 31, 2017. So you typically have to take the SAT at least a month before to fulfill this requirement.
The scholarship organization doesn’t ask for specific numbers, but it does say your SAT score should be high enough to confirm your PSAT/NMSQT performance.
Review the list of corporate and college sponsors.
If your sights are set on the National Merit $2,500 Scholarship, you don’t have to do anything else. All finalists are considered for this award.
But you might have to take extra steps to be considered for corporate- or college-sponsored merit scholarships.
Corporate sponsors look for children of employees, residents of an eligible community or students planning to major or work in certain fields. College-sponsored scholarships usually go to students who inform NMSC of their first-choice school and their plan to enroll there.
Make sure to peruse the list of participating corporate sponsors and colleges along with their eligibility requirements so you don’t miss out on potential scholarship money.