The National Merit Scholarship is a competitive academic scholarship administered by the national merit scholarship corporation that recognizes and rewards academically exceptional US high school students. High school students who are outside the United States can qualify for the national merit scholarship if they are citizens of the US or a legal US resident.
High school students and their guardians should follow the national merit scholarship qualifications closely as most high school students will take the PSAT/NMSQT (preliminary SAT/National merit scholarship qualifying test) at a specified time during their high school junior year.
The national merit scholarship is highly competitive as over 1.5 million highschool students take the national merit scholarship qualifying test each year. The qualifying test is structured in such a way that each year’s qualifying test is for entry into the scholarship program of a particular year. For example highschool juniors who take the 2022 PSAT/NMSQT will qualify for entry into the selection process of the national merit scholarship to be awarded in 2024.
The PSAT/NMSQT (preliminary SAT/National merit scholarship qualifying test) is the only accepted route into the national merit scholarship program and registration is done not by individual students but by the students’ high school.
Interested students who wish to enter the national merit scholarship program should seek advice from their counselor at the beginning of their school year so as to make arrangements to partake in the PSAT/NMSQT (preliminary SAT/National merit scholarship qualifying test) at their school in the fall.
Requirements for the National Merit Scholarship
To be eligible for the National Merit Scholarship Program, students must:
- The student must take the PSAT/NMSQT in the designated year of their high school program and not later than grade 11, regardless of grade level or type of schooling.
- Students must be enrolled in high school (traditional or homeschooled), and are progressing towards high school graduation, and plan to accept college admissions by the fall of their high school graduation year.
- To qualify, you must exceed the minimum PSAT/NMSQT qualification score. The scholarship program identifies semifinalists and nominated students using something called a selection index, which is calculated based on PSAT scores. Specific qualifying results for semi-finalists vary by state.
- Students must attend high school in the United States, the District of Columbia, or the United States commonwealth and Territory or meet the citizenship requirements for students attending high school outside the United States.
For students outside the US, to be eligible for the National Merit Scholarship Program, students attending high school outside the United States must be US citizens or is a legal resident of the United States (or has applied for permanent residency whose application has not been denied) and intends to become a U.S. citizen at the earliest date allowed by law .
Students who are unable to take the PSAT/NMSQT due to illness, emergency, or other inevitable circumstances may still be eligible if they meet all eligibility requirements for the NMSC program. The affected student or a school official should request information regarding alternative admission procedures to the National Merit Scholarship Program in writing to the national merit scholarship corporation (NMSC) as soon as possible after administration of the PSAT/NMSQT.
For the affected student to be considered by the NMSC, the student must have the written application postmarked by April 1 after missing PSAT/NMSQT administration. Alternate admission applications into the national merit scholarship must include the student’s name and address, Contact details of the student making the request, Student’s secondary school name and address. The student is also required to detail a brief explanation for the reasons for missing the PSAT/NMSQT.
Getting the written application to the NMSC as soon as possible improves the chances of the student meeting alternate admission requirements. Upon receipt and processing of your request, NMSC will provide alternative enrollment materials, such as program enrollment instructions and forms that must be signed by a school official.
Types of Merit Scholarship
The NMSC evaluates each finalist’s application, academic record. Their written application and their school recommendation and their contributions to their community. Finalists who are selected to be awarded a merit scholarship are notified from March to mid-June, approximately 7,500 finalists that they have been selected to receive a Merit Scholarship will be notified. There are three types of merit scholarship namely:
- National Merit $2500 Scholarship
Each finalist applies for these one-time scholarships awarded on behalf of the country. Finalists are selected by college admissions committees and high school advisors without consideration of family financial situation, college choice, or course and career plans.
- Corporate Sponsored Merit Scholarship Awards
Corporate sponsors will award prizes to children of employees or members, residents of the communities in which the company operates, or finalists with plans for careers that the sponsor wishes to sponsor. These scholarships are renewable for either four years of undergraduate study or a one-time award.
- University Sponsored Merit Scholarship Award
Officials of each sponsoring college will select scholarship winners from among the finalists who have been admitted and have notified NMSC by the published deadline that the sponsoring college or university is the first choice. These awards are renewable for up to four years of undergraduate study.
Each year, approximately 800 students who participate in the National Merit Program and are considered outstanding but do not make the finalist list are selected to receive special scholarships offered by companies and business organizations.
To be considered for a special scholarship, students must meet the criteria of the sponsor and the eligibility requirements of the National Merit Scholarship Program. You will also need to submit an entry form to the sponsoring organization. NMSC then filters through a list of outstanding students and contacts them through their respective high schools.
These students and their school officials submit detailed scholarship applications. The students are evaluated by the national merit scholarship corporation on their abilities, skills and achievements and selects winners for the Sponsor’s Special Scholarships. These scholarships are renewable for either four years of undergraduate study or a one-time award.
Merit scholarships are supported by approximately 400 independent sponsors and NMSC self-funding. Sponsoring organizations include corporations and corporations, corporate foundations, professional associations, and universities.