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Many students take the PSAT in the fall of their junior year. What a lot of students may not notice is the full name of the test is PSAT/NMSQT, or Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Thus, the PSAT is not just good practice for your SATs. It's also the first step in becoming a National Merit Finalist and hopefully, earning a $2,500 scholarship from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC).

In this article, we'll discuss what steps you need to take to become a National Merit Finalist and compete for a scholarship. We'll also give you advice on how to write a strong application and maximize your chances of becoming a National Merit Scholar.

Here's how the numbers break down:

Each year, about 1.6 million students take the PSAT. Of the juniors who take the exam, about 16,000 earn scores that qualify them as Semifinalists (that's around 1%). This group is narrowed down to 15,000, who become Finalists. Of this group, about 7,500 are awarded scholarships of $2,500 a year (that can be renewed each year you're in college).

This article will explain the three key steps you need to follow to win the National Merit scholarship, from meeting the entry requirements, to scoring well on the PSAT, to submitting a standout application.

Step 1: Meet the Entry Requirements

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) requires you to have a few qualifications to even be considered for the scholarship:

You must be enrolled as a high school student, progressing normally toward graduation.

You must plan to enroll full time in college starting the fall following high school graduation.

You must be a U.S. citizen or U.S. lawful permanent resident planning to become a U.S. citizen.

These requirements will be checked with a few questions at the beginning of the PSAT.

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Step 2: Score in the Top 1% of the PSAT

Becoming a National Merit Finalist is competitive and requires a top score on the PSAT. Although it varies from state to state, most students must score above 1400 (out of 1520) to qualify as a Semifinalist, which means they can compete to move on to Finalist standing.

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How can you achieve a top 1% score on the PSAT? Prepare with high-quality materials. Identify your weak points and work to improve them. If the Reading section confuses you, spend the majority of your time practicing those sections. If math isn't your thing, commit yourself to drilling PSAT Math problems. The National Merit competition uses a Selection Index that is based on your Reading, Math, and Writing test scores, so mastering all three sections is key.

Take control of your learning and study with practice questions and sample tests. This practice will also pay off later when you take the SATs in the spring of your junior year and fall of senior year.

Bonus: Aiming for a National Merit Scholarship? If you're not sure you can self-study your way to a qualifying PSAT score, you'll love our PSAT prep program, PrepScholar .

We designed our program to learn your strengths and weaknesses through advanced statistics and customize your prep to be as effective as possible for you. When you start with PrepScholar, you'll take a diagnostic that will determine your weaknesses in over forty PSAT skills. PrepScholar then creates a study program specifically customized for you .

To improve each skill, you'll take focused lessons dedicated to each skill, with over 20 practice questions per skill. This will train you for your specific area weaknesses, so your time is always spent most effectively to raise your score.

We also force you to focus on understanding your mistakes and learning from them. If you make the same mistake over and over again, we'll call you out on it.

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For more info on prepping for the PSAT, check out our detailed guide to attaining National Merit Semifinalist status.

Step 3: Submit an Excellent Application

Complete the NMSC application requirements by fall of your senior year (usually early October). This application allows 15,000 of the 16,000 Semifinalists to move on to Finalist standing.

If you don't become a Finalist or don't qualify, you may still get word that you're a Commended Student or remain as a Semifinalist, which are great distinctions that will stand out on college applications. However, only Finalists are eligible for National Merit Scholarship awards.

The online NMSC application is the same as your college application in some ways and different in other ways.

Similarities

You must submit the following:

  • Your academic record (transcript)
  • SAT scores*
  • Information about your activities and leadership roles
  • A personal essay

*You have to take the SATs on approved dates, usually in the fall of your senior year, and make sure to send along your score report to NMSC. They need to receive your scores by December 31st of your senior year. While there is no strict cutoff for SAT scores, they must be competitive like your PSAT scores (usually around 1400 or above) so they know your PSAT wasn't a fluke.

Differences

  • A recommendation from your high school principal or someone the principal designates as a school official
  • Information about your school's curricula and grading system

Let's dig into each component to maximize your chance of building a strong application to win the National Merit Scholar title.

Academic Record and SAT Scores

The National Merit Corporation is first and foremost looking to award academic achievement. There is no strict cutoff, but a competitive GPA (3.5 and above) and high SAT scores (approximately 1400 and above) are recommended. Your academic record should also show that you challenged yourself with honors and AP classes. When you're a high school junior, there isn't much you can do about this, other than continue to excel in your classes.

Ready to go beyond just reading about the SAT? Then you'll love the free five-day trial for our SAT Complete Prep program . Designed and written by PrepScholar SAT experts , our SAT program customizes to your skill level in over 40 subskills so that you can focus your studying on what will get you the biggest score gains.

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Extracurricular Activities and Community Service

The NMC is also looking at the skills and accomplishments shown in your application. Demonstrated leadership goes a long way--for example, leading in Student Council or other student organizations.

Your activities should reveal your passions and interests--it is usually better to show "depth over breadth." In other words, get deeply involved in a few activities you're passionate about rather than showing minor participation in every club, team, and organization your school has to offer. Almost all activities are valuable if they show your commitment, leadership potential, and ability to work with and help others.

Recommendations

Recommendations go a long way. Cultivate good relationships with your teachers, counselor , and principal and provide a "brag sheet" for them with the qualities and accomplishments you would like them to include in your recommendation.

Your brag sheet may include the following:

  • What six adjectives best describe you?
  • What do you consider your greatest accomplishment(s)?
  • What are your strongest goals for the next five years?
  • What is a meaningful experience you have had during high school?

These anecdotes will make writing a lot easier, and they'll thank you for this.

Make sure to ask for your recommendation at least three weeks in advance of the deadline, and follow up with your writer to make sure it'll be submitted on time. The earlier you notify them, the more ahead you'll be of your classmates, most of whom will need college application letters.

Personal Essay

The personal essay adds your voice to your application materials. Your essay is the place where you can share your unique story and perspective and make your application materials come to life.

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Here is an example of a past National Merit essay question:

To help the reviewers get to know you, describe an experience you have had, a person who has influenced you, or an obstacle you have overcome. Explain why this is meaningful to you. Use your own words and limit your response to the space provided.

The space allows for about 500 - 600 words.

You should focus on two important components of the essay. First, the NMC wants to see that you can express yourself clearly and powerfully through writing . Make sure to proofread, edit, and revise for any spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, or weaknesses in syntax and diction.

Second, your essay reveals how you think about yourself , your accomplishments, and your goals. What do your experiences mean to you? What do they reveal about your identity? Spend some time brainstorming before you decide what aspects of your identity are most important to share with the NMC readers.

For example, did a group science fair project show you the power of collaboration in making new discoveries? Did a Student Council debate reveal the complexity of perspectives on a single issue? Did Lisa Simpson teach you the importance of sticking to your principles, even if your family may not always agree?

The topics are endless, and there is no best answer, but whatever you choose should reveal something significant about who you are . Once you have your first draft, ask a friend, family member, counselor, or English teacher for feedback on what worked and what didn't. It's a short essay, so make sure every sentence is there for a reason and important for telling your story.

In Conclusion

Staying motivated and committing yourself to all these goals will put you in the best position toward becoming a National Merit Finalist. Remember, only 15,000 students (< 1%) are chosen as Finalists, and of those, only about 7,500 students receive scholarships. On a percentage basis, it's even more competitive than getting into the Ivy League, so even with all your hard work, you'll still need a certain amount of luck!

NSMC notifies students if they have become finalists in February of their senior year. Scholarship notifications go out in March. By that time, most of your college applications will be done and submitted.

Now you just have to try to relax and wait for the decisions to come! If you complete all the steps mentioned above, you can be confident that you've done all you can – now hopefully the National Merit Scholarship Corporation will recognize all your hard work.

What's Next?

Want more tips on how to get a top PSAT score? Check out our guide on how to get a perfect PSAT score for all the info you need to know.

Are you striving for perfection on the SAT? Read our detailed guide by our resident SAT full scorer .

Aiming to get into a top-tier school? Check out our article: What's a good SAT score for the Ivy League?

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points? We have the industry's leading SAT prep program. Built by Harvard grads and SAT full scorers, the program learns your strengths and weaknesses through advanced statistics, then customizes your prep program to you so you get the most effective prep possible.

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Rebecca graduated with her Master's in Adolescent Counseling from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has years of teaching and college counseling experience and is passionate about helping students achieve their goals and improve their well-being. She graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University and scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT.

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22 Full-Ride Scholarships for National Merit Finalists

What’s covered:, how much are national merit scholarships, how many schools offer full rides to national merit scholars, full-tuition scholarships for national merit finalists, how does your psat score impact your college chances.

It’s no wonder why many colleges are excited to welcome National Merit Finalists to their campuses—they’re among the most sought-after students in the nation, having scored highly on standardized tests and having demonstrated academic excellence during their high school years.

Some colleges offer National Merit Finalists full-ride scholarships to entice them into attending their institution, and a few will even offer additional financial awards that can be applied to things like research, study abroad, and technology.

National Merit Finalists begin as National Merit Semifinalists—an honor earned by scoring highly on the PSAT/NMSQT. Just 16,000 students out of over 1.5 million test takers are recognized as Semifinalists! Semifinalists are selected by state, with each state having its own cutoff scores (which change annually) that a student must meet to become a semifinalist.

While being named a National Merit Semifinalist is a prestigious honor in its own right, such students are also given the opportunity to advance to the level of National Merit Finalist. Finalists can earn scholarship dollars through a process similar to completing a college application—earning a strong score on the SAT or ACT, getting great grades, receiving a persuasive recommendation, and composing a compelling essay.

At the completion of the process, over 15,000 students are named National Merit Finalists and become eligible to win one of three types of scholarships:

  • The National Merit Scholarship: This is a one-time award of $2,500 based largely on a student’s academic record, essays, and written recommendations.
  • Corporate-Sponsored Merit Scholarship Awards: These scholarships vary in multiple aspects, from value to length—some are one-time awards while others are renewable. They’re awarded to students who meet specific criteria, such as being children of the business’s employees, residing in a community where the business operates, or pursuing a particular career path.
  • College-Sponsored Merit Scholarship Awards: Colleges and universities offer students renewable awards of varying values, provided that they’ve listed the school as their first choice and that they’ve gained admission.

It’s uncommon for National Merit Colleges to offer full-ride scholarships—it’s almost possible to count the number on your fingers and toes. Full-ride scholarships are the most generous award a student can receive—they cover the total expenses of college, including tuition, housing, meals, fees, and books. They also often include stipends that can be used on anything from covering other living expenses to studying abroad.

Full-ride scholarships are as rare as they are generous—the website Investopedia says that “unless a student is an elite athlete, in the top 1% academically, or has accomplished some other notable feat, the likelihood of getting a full-ride scholarship is slim to none.” Don’t be discouraged, though! One notable feat that can earn a student a full-ride scholarship at select schools is becoming a National Merit Finalist.

Numerous colleges offer full-ride scholarships to National Merit Finalists—a strong incentive to entice top students into applying to their programs.

1. Faulkner University

Freshman applicants who are National Merit Finalists and list Faulkner University as their first-choice school with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation receive funding to cover full tuition, room and board, and mandatory fees. National Merit Semifinalists also receive an award—they’re given free tuition at the University.

2. Florida A&M University

Florida A&M will cover the total cost of attendance—which may include tuition, fees, on-campus room and board, books, supplies, travel, and other miscellaneous expenses—for in-state National Merit Finalists through the Benacquisto Scholarship Program.

3. Florida Atlantic University

Florida Atlantic University (FAU) provides in-state National Merit Finalists with awards that cover up to the full cost of attendance through the Benacquisto Scholarship Program. Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA and enroll for 12 credit hours per semester to continue receiving the award.

4. Florida International University

National Merit Finalists will find tuition, fees, housing, and a meal plan covered at Florida International University (FIU). They will also receive a stipend for books and, if they demonstrate financial need, a laptop as well.

To qualify for the award, students must choose FIU as their top-choice university with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

5. Liberty University

Liberty University offers to cover the cost of tuition, as well as room and board, for up to four years for National Merit Semifinalists. Students must matriculate into Liberty University’s Honors Program to receive the award. National Merit Semifinalists also receive free tuition at Liberty University.

6. Louisiana Tech University

The National Merit Scholarship at Louisiana Tech University covers the cost of tuition, on-campus housing, and meals for four years for National Merit Finalists who list Louisiana Tech University as their first choice with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

To continue receiving the award, students must take a full-time course load and maintain a 3.0 GPA.

7. Murray State University

National Merit Finalists at Murray State receive four-year free tuition, on-campus housing, and meal plans. Recipients are required to maintain a 3.2 GPA, enroll full-time, and participate in the University’s Honors College.

8. New College of Florida

The New College of Florida offers to cover the full cost of attendance for National Merit Finalists who are residents of the Sunshine State through the Benacquisto Scholarship Program. To qualify, students must register the New College of Florida as their first choice institution with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

9. Oklahoma Christian University

Oklahoma Christian University (OC) National Merit Scholar Award covers up to 17 credit hours per semester of full tuition, mandatory fees, housing, and a meal plan for up to eight semesters. To qualify, students must list OC as their first-choice university with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation and maintain a 3.0 GPA as an OC student.

10. Texas Tech University

The National Merit Finalist Scholarship from Texas Tech provides National Merit Finalists with funding to cover the full cost of attendance for four years of undergraduate study. To remain eligible to receive funding, scholarship recipients are required to enroll in 30 hours per academic year and maintain a minimum 3.5 GPA.

11. University of Alabama

The University of Alabama has an enticing offer for National Merit Finalists—free tuition and housing. The school also provides National Merit Finalists with a supplemental scholarship of $3,500 per year, a one-time $2,000 allowance for summer research or international study, and $500 annually for books.

12. University of Central Florida

Both in-state and out-of-state National Merit Finalists have a good reason to put the University of Central Florida (UCF) at the top of their lists—in-state students have their total cost of attendance covered, while out-of-state students receive a waiver that allows them to pay the in-state tuition rate, and a UCF Merit Scholarship valued at $80,000.

National Merit Finalists also receive an expedited admissions decision, guaranteed admission into UCF’s Burnett Honors College, guaranteed on-campus housing, and a laptop.

13. University of Idaho

National Merit Finalists at the University of Idaho receive an institutional award that covers tuition, fees, and room and board if they enroll at the University for their first semester of undergraduate studies. National Merit Finalists are also directly admitted to the University Honors Program.

14. University of Maine

Maine residents who are National Merit Semifinalists are awarded the UMaine National Merit Award, which provides free tuition, as well as room and board, at the University of Maine for up to 15 credits per semester. Students must maintain full-time status—at least 12 credits per semester—to continue receiving the award.

15. University of Mississippi

National Merit Finalists with a minimum 3.0 GPA are eligible for the Academic Excellence National Merit Semifinalist/Finalist Scholarship at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). The award covers the cost of tuition and housing—it also covers non-resident fees for out-of-state students. The award is renewable for up to four years.

16. University of New Mexico

In-state students who are National Merit Finalists qualify for free tuition, fees, and housing at the University of New Mexico. The award is renewable for four years, provided that recipients maintain a minimum 3.3 GPA and complete 15 credit hours in the fall and spring semesters.

17. University of North Texas

The saying goes “everything is bigger in Texas,” and that’s true for National Merit Finalist awards—at least at the University of North Texas, where scholarship packages include the total cost of attendance. Both residents and non-residents of Texas have the cost of tuition, housing, meals, and books covered, along with a generous stipend.

The total value of the award for Texas residents is $128,000, while the value for non-residents is $177,000!

18. University of South Florida

The University of South Florida (USF) provides National Merit Finalists with a strong incentive to attend the school. Both in-state and out-of-state students receive a scholarship covering 100% of the full cost of attendance along with a $2,000 scholarship for study abroad.

National Merit Finalists at USF also receive a tuition waiver for their first 30 credits of graduate study at the school if they immediately enter a graduate program at the University after earning a baccalaureate degree.

19. University of Texas at Arlington

In-state and out-of-state National Merit Finalists receive exceptional financial support at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), including an award that covers tuition, fees, and on-campus housing. Students also receive stipends for books, supplies, and other educational expenses; research; and study abroad.

20. University of Tulsa

National Merit Finalists who designate the University of Tulsa (TU) as their first choice school with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation are awarded free tuition, fees, room and board, and books at the school. Recipients are also given membership in Leadership TU (led by the University’s President), guaranteed admission into TU’s Honors Program, and a $6,000 annual monetary gift.

The award is renewable for up to five years or until an undergraduate degree is earned. Students must maintain a minimum of 15 hours of coursework per semester to continue receiving the award.

21. University of West Florida

National Merit Finalists who attend the University of West Florida (UWF) their first semester in college are awarded free tuition, fees, housing, and meal plan. Recipients are also given an $800 stipend per semester for books and a one-time stipend of up to $1,500 for research or study abroad.

22. Virginia Commonwealth University

National Merit Finalists are eligible for the Presidential Scholarship at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), a four-year award that covers the cost of tuition, fees, and room and board. The total value of the award is approximately $114,356!

While a number of colleges offer full-ride scholarships to National Merit Finalists, numerous others provide National Merit Finalists with free tuition.

1. Harding University

National Merit Finalists who select Harding University as their first-choice school with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation receive free tuition and a $2,000 annual stipend. Recipients must maintain a minimum 3.25 GPA and live in campus housing.

2. Iowa State University

Iowa State University provides in-state National Merit Finalists with free tuition scholarships that are renewable for four years of undergraduate coursework. To receive the award, students must maintain full-time status at the University and a minimum 3.0 GPA.

3. Mississippi State University

Mississippi State University provides National Merit Finalists with free tuition and housing through its National Merit Finalist Scholarship, which is open to both in-state and out-of-state students. The award is worth approximately $40,000 over four years for Mississippi residents and $100,000 over four years for non-residents!

4. New Jersey Institute of Technology

National Merit Finalists are eligible to receive a four-year award covering the cost of tuition at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). The award is renewable for four years, provided that recipients maintain full-time status and a minimum 3.0 GPA.

5. Oklahoma State University

Both in-state and out-of-state National Merit Finalists qualify for a five-year tuition waiver at Oklahoma State University (OSU). The award is valued at up to $70,100 for in-state students and up to $147,700 for out-of-state students!

6. University of Oklahoma

The University of Oklahoma (OU) won’t cover all the expenses of in-state and out-of-state National Merit Finalists; however, it does offer them particularly generous aid packages. OU waives tuition for National Merit Finalists and provides generous stipends to help offset the cost of room and board, books, technology, and fees. The University also awards stipends for study abroad and research.

7. University of Houston

The University of Houston (UH) offers National Merit Finalists a generous scholarship package if they attend the institution—they have the cost of tuition and fees covered. In addition, National Merit Scholars at UH receive a $2,000 stipend for study abroad and a $1,000 stipend for research.

8. University of Texas at Dallas

National Merit Finalists at the University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) get complete tuition coverage for up to eight semesters. They also receive a stipend of $4,000 per semester to offset the cost of books, supplies, and other expenses; a housing stipend of $1,500 per semester; and a one-time stipend of $6,000 study abroad.

National Merit Finalists at UT Dallas also receive admission into the Collegium V Honors program.

9. University of West Virginia

National Merit Finalists with a minimum high school GPA of 3.5 can receive free tuition at the University of West Virginia along with a one-time $3,500 stipend for study abroad.

PSAT scores aren’t evaluated in the college admissions process; however, a high PSAT score is a strong indicator that an applicant will earn a high score on the SAT, which impacts your chances significantly. Standardized test scores and grades are used to calculate an applicant’s Academic Index —a single numerical score that many highly selective colleges use to screen applicants. If an applicant fails to meet a college’s Academic Index threshold, their application is likely to not receive serious consideration.

As mentioned above, becoming a National Merit Semifinalist is an impressive achievement in itself, since just the top 1% of scorers in a given state receive that recognition. National Merit Semifinalists will want to make sure to include it in the Awards and Honors section of the Common App, as it may improve their odds of college admission.

CollegeVine can help add clarity to your college admission odds. Our free chancing engine uses a variety of factors—ranging from grades to test scores to extracurricular activities—to estimate your odds at hundreds of colleges across the country! Rather than merely predict what college you may or may not get into, this powerful tool can also illuminate strengths and weaknesses in your college profile, giving you a chance to address underwhelming areas and improve your college admission odds.

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national merit scholarship finalist essay

Jeff Widman

I enjoy hacking/optimizing systems. currently working as a software engineer focused on infrastructure/plumbing. founded/sold two companies., the magical 4.0–national merit finalist essay.

When I was a junior in highschool, I had to write a 500 word essay as part of the process of becoming a National Merit Finalist (remember the PSAT?). This is still o still one of my favorites:

——————————————————————————————–

The Magical 4.0

As I walked to the front of the class and began to read, I found it impossible to think; I could only read each word one at a time. It was the last day of finals, and I was presenting my narrative project to my English class. Only four days earlier, my dreams had been shattered. I had lost my 4.0. Struggling for an “A” throughout the quarter, it had come down to the very last test; I needed to get a 98. When the teacher returned my test, an 89.5 glared in red at the top of the page. Even more painful was the inner questioning that had immediately followed. My narrative project became my analytical tool as I struggled to make sense of my loss. Re-telling the event in the third-person, I shoved my emotions aside and asked the questions I previously had not dared to face.

As the quarter had progressed everything else had faded except this goal of maintaining my 4.0. Every spare moment had been spent studying Chemistry, or revising my World Literature essay. My friends had become strangers. Because I had been consistently going to bed after midnight, my performance in Track had suffered–I no longer had any chance of running in the State meet.

But how could I distill this experience into a narrative? Could I adequately describe the effort that had gone into my 4.0, or how close I had come to getting an A, only to see it pulled just out of my reach on the very last test? Would my audience even care? Would they understand how hard I worked for perfection, how I expected perfection–how I was used to perfection? Would they understand what it meant to lose perfection?

I labored over my narrative to shorten it–every time I started typing it would just grow and grow. The ending was the biggest challenge; it wasn’t until I started typing the last paragraph that I came up with the idea of a happy-ever-after ending, the ending I almost had, where I scored a 99 instead of an 89.5.

Not until after my presentation, as I shared my reflections on the experience, did I reveal to the class that I had really gotten the 89.5. Afterward my English professor would write, “This was one of my favorite moments of last year, Jeff. Maybe best of all was the brilliant move to have the ending different than what actually happened in your life, and then reveal that ‘real’ ending in your comments. The entire room was transfixed by your revelation; I could feel it. You both criticized yourself and elevated yourself by so bravely doing that.”

The contrast between the two endings–the dream and the reality–underscored what my narrative project had made me realize was my only question: Had I overvalued perfection? Even if I had achieved the 99, would my 4.0 have been worth so much sacrifice?

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Scholarship Essays

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National Merit Scholarship Essay Example 1 - Influential Person or Obstacle

To help the reviewers get to know you, describe an experience you have had, a person who has influenced you, or an obstacle you have overcome. explain why this is meaningful to you.

"What's your box?" The speaker's words, amplified by the microphone, resonated in my mind. What is my box? I know what my box is, that is the thing that limits me, that keeps me from opening myself up to the world, and I am well aware of the fact that it exists. But why does my box exist? I didn't know, and that's why I couldn't stop mulling over those three words.

That assembly was unlike any that I had ever been to. The man who came to speak that day was unique. Instead of talking at us, it was like he was having a conversation with all six hundred of us. His message was simple: don't be scared. Don't be scared to break your box, to be yourself, and to get mad.

He asked us, the audience, to raise our hands if we had a box. The majority of the people sitting in the auditorium did, some reluctantly, others without hesitation. I kept my hands resting timidly in my lap. And that's when I realized. That was my box. I deny myself of the liberty of letting people in, and, in all honesty, I had no idea why it was there, barring me in almost every facet of my life.

That night, exhausted, I laid on my bed and squeezed my eyes shut, but sleep did not come as easily as I had hoped or expected. Instead, I found myself pondering over that one question: why does my box exist? Although my eyes were focused intently on the ceiling, I was looking at a slideshow of my life. I scanned through the years, looking for one particular event so profound that it altered the way that I presented myself to the public. And I found nothing. Sure, there were some sad moments in my life, but none where there was such a discernible difference in my attitude after it passed.

I found myself dismayed by my fruitless search. But in that time that I spent engrossed in my psyche, I took a close look at my mental processes and I learned more about myself than I ever had before. I know now that there is no single event that altered my development or defined me; I am who I am because of a multitude of factors and it is important that I come to accept these aspects of myself if I am to change.

In my opinion, it is essential that we get to know ourselves, even if we don't know what exactly makes us the people we are. if we hope to mature and develop, it helps to have an understanding of ourselves. In that one day of introspection, I learned a lot about myself. That assembly is significant to me because it prompted a single question that inspired a progression in my way of thinking.

Original Source: Essay Forum

Compass Education Group

National Merit Scholarship Program Explained

national merit scholarship finalist essay

Below we cover the the most frequently asked questions about the National Merit Scholarship Program. Please see our National Merit Semifinalist Cutoffs page for the latest information on actual and projected Selection Index cutoffs by state.

What is the National Merit Scholarship Program and how do you enter? The NMSP is a program administered by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation in cooperation with the College Board to recognize high achieving high school seniors. Some recognition levels are based purely on junior PSAT/NMSQT scores, while other levels have additional qualifications (explained below). The NMSC gives out approximately $50 million in scholarships each year, and some colleges provide lowered —or even free —tuition to recognized students, multiplying the net impact of National Merit severalfold.

You must take the PSAT/NMSQT as a high school junior and either attend high school in the United States or U.S. Territories or be a U.S. student studying abroad. On your PSAT score report, you will see a section with your Selection Index and how you answered the questions about your entry eligibility. If there is an asterisk next to your Selection Index, it means that NMSC believes that you are ineligible.

What if I couldn’t take the PSAT? Every year students miss the PSAT for legitimate reasons such as illness. To allow those students the opportunity to compete in National Merit, NMSC has a process known as alternate entry . Students must make a written request to NMSC for an alternate entry application form. The application itself must be signed off on by your principal or counselor and postmarked no later than April 1 after the missed PSAT/NMSQT.

national merit scholarship finalist essay

What is the Selection Index? The Selection Index is a weighting of your PSAT component scores to determines the level of your recognition within the initial stages of the National Merit program.

How is the Selection Index calculated? The Selection Index is double the sum of your Reading and Writing (RW) score, and Math score divided by 10. Alternatively, you can simply drop the last zero on your section scores, double the RW and add the Math. For example, a student with scores of 690 RW and 720 M would have a Selection Index of 69 x 2 + 72 = 210. You cannot directly calculate a Selection Index from a Total Score (320 – 1520). For students entering the competition with an SAT score through Alternate Entry, note that — when calculating a Selection Index — each SAT section is capped at 760. If, for example, you have a 700 RW and 800 Math, your Selection Index would be 70 x2 + 76 = 216.

Why is the Reading and Writing twice as important as the Math? The emphasis on “verbal” skills has a long history with the NMSP. The digital PSAT no longer has separate Reading and Writing scores, but the RW score is still doubled.

I’ve already received my PSAT scores; how can I find out whether I will qualify for recognition? Although you can use the Compass projections to estimate whether you are likely to qualify as a Commended Student or Semifinalist, there is no way of knowing your official status until high schools are notified by NMSC in early September of your senior year (sometimes schools hear by late August). Compass has published the cutoffs for the class of 2024 and estimates for the class of 2025 . An historical archive dating back more than 15 years can be found here . The Commended cutoff for future classes becomes unofficially known in the April after the PSAT. Compass will report this score and how it may impact Semifinalist cutoffs on our regularly updated cutoffs post.

Will I qualify as a Semifinalist if I am in the 99th percentile for Selection Index according to my score report? Although approximately 1% of test takers will become Semifinalists, there are a number of reasons why percentile scores are far too inaccurate to determine eligibility. Even the state percentiles that are now on the digital SAT report do not have enough information, because they are actually based on the prior 3 years of scores. Further, the percentile is rounded, and not accurate enough to determine cutoffs.

Why do some states have more Semifinalists and Finalists than other states? Although Commended Scholars are honored based on a single, national cutoff, NMSC distributes Semifinalists proportionally to states (and District of Columbia and U.S. Territories) based on the number of graduating students in the state. For example, California sees approximately 2,100 Semifinalists each year—the most in the country. It gets 13% of Semifinalists because it produces approximately 13% of high school graduates. Mississippi, on the other hand, typically sees about 135 National Merit Semifinalists, because the state produces a bit more than 0.8% of U.S. graduates. The distribution is completely unrelated to the number of students taking the PSAT in the state.

Why are Semifinalist cutoffs so much higher in some states than in others? Two things that have impact on cutoffs are participation rates and demographics. In some states, ACT is the dominant test and not as many students take the PSAT. This leaves some students out of the competition and will tend to produce lower cutoffs. Some states have large pockets of extremely qualified students and are particularly competitive. For example, Massachusetts and New Jersey have class of 2024 cutoffs of 222 and 223, respectively. At the other end of the spectrum, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming had NMSF cutoffs of 207 for the class of 2024. The minimum Semifinalist cutoff for a state is the national Commended level. If, for example, the Commended cutoff is at 210, no state can have a Semifinalist cutoff less than 210.

How are Semifinalists set for homeschoolers, boarding school students, or U.S. students studying abroad? Homeschoolers are treated no differently than other students in a state. U.S. students studying abroad will have to meet the highest state cutoff in the country. For the class of 2024, that was 223. Boarding school cutoffs are the most complex to calculate. Instead of being set at the state level, they are determined regionally. A Northeast boarding school student, for example, must meet the highest cutoff of any state within the Northeast region. NMSC defines boarding schools as schools with predominantly out-of-state students. NMSC considers your state to be where you went to school when you took the PSAT, not your state of residency or the state of your new school.

Do I have to be a U.S. citizen to participate? NMSC has made this part of the process easier to understand than it was in the past. Students at high school in the U.S. or in U.S. Territories are eligible. Period. Students studying abroad are eligible as long as they are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents of the U.S. (“green card”) or or have applied for permanent residence (the application for which has not been denied) and intend to become U.S. citizens at the earliest opportunity allowed by law.

Will NMSC notify me if I become a Semifinalist? No. NMSC provides information only to schools until a student becomes a Finalist. Homeschoolers are the exception.

When will my school tell me? NMSC mails information to schools in late August. Some schools let students know their status in early September. Many schools wait until NMSC officially releases student names to the press in the second week of September. Compass will track all of the latest news on our Semifinalists cutoff page.

Will being a Semifinalist help get me into my first-choice college? While Semifinalist status is a nice award to list on your application, you should not expect it alone to have a significant impact on your admission chances at most colleges. The recognition tells college that you did well on the PSAT. Your SAT and ACT scores are far more important to colleges; your National Merit status does not add much new information. However, having a high number of enrolled Semifinalists is seen as a badge of honor at some colleges and will factor in their admission decisions. Some colleges have programs specifically to attract National Merit Finalists and offer large merit awards.

Do I need to take the SAT to become a Semifinalist? No. Commended Student and Semifinalist recognition are based only on your Selection Index and your entry eligibility.

What happens after I am named a Semifinalist? Semifinalists will receive login credentials for the Finalist application portal. You will need to provide background information and an essay. Your school will need to provide its recommendation and electronically submit your application in the second week of October,

What is the National Merit Finalist essay prompt? NMSC may change the prompt in future years, but it has been the same for many years. It is broad enough that most students are able to use or slightly rework their Common App essay. For the class of 2024, the prompt was:

“To help the reviewers get to know you, describe an experience you have had, a person who has influenced you, or an obstacle you have overcome. Explain why this is meaningful to you. Use your own words and limit your response to the space provided.”

There is not a word limit specified, but the essay must fit within the provided space (approximately 3500 characters). Expect to keep your essay to 600 – 650 words.

Do I need to take the SAT or ACT to become a Finalist? Among the requirements to proceed from Semifinalist to Finalist is that you receive a “confirming score.” This score helps validate that you can, on an official SAT or ACT test date, achieve a high score and confirm your testing skill.

Can a high ACT score be a confirming score? Yes, the ACT can be used to confirm PSAT results.

How high of an SAT score do I need for a confirming score? The confirming score is determined each year by NMSC and is calculated in the same way as the PSAT Selection Index. The confirming score is set nationally, so it does not matter what Semifinalist cutoff you met. The confirming SAT Selection Index (SSI) generally falls at or near the Commended cutoff.

The easiest calculation of the SSI is from your section scores. Drop a zero, double your RW, and add your Math score. For example, Student X might have a total score of 1450, with section scores of 720 RW and 730 M. Student X’s SSI would be 2(72) + 73 = 217. It’s possible for a student with a lower total score to have a higher SSI. Student Y has a total score of 1430, with section scores of 750 ERW and 690 M. Student Y’s SSI would be 2(75) + 69 = 219.

You cannot determine your SSI directly from your total score. One student scoring 1400 might have a high enough SSI, whereas another student with a 1400 might fall short. You must know your RW and Math scores.

How high of an ACT score do I need for a confirming score? NMSC wants to have a level playing field, so it converts components of the ACT score into an SAT Selection Index. In order to do that, you need to use the official concordance tables published by ACT/College Board. There is no SAT Science, so NMSC does not look at ACT Science. So discard that score.

Step 1: Add your ACT English and ACT Reading scores Step 2: Use the ACT E+R to SAT RW concordance table to find the concordant SAT RW score based on the sum in step 1. Be sure that you are going in the correct direction when using the concordance tables. ACT E+R to SAT RW is not always the same as SAT RW to ACT E+R. Step 3: Use the ACT M to SAT M table to find the concordant SAT M score based on your ACT Math score. Step 4: Calculate your SAT SI: drop the last zeros (i.e. divide by 10), double your RW, and add your Math score. You want this number to be at least as high as your class year’s Commended Student score.

Example: A student has ACT scores of 32E, 34M, 33R, and 31S. Science is not used. The sum of E and R is 65. In the concordance tables, this is equivalent to a 700 RW. The 34 Math is concordant to a 760. This student’s SAT Selection Index is 70×2 + 76 = 216.

When do I have to take the SAT or ACT for the score to be ‘confirmed’? You can use any SAT or ACT score from the fall of your sophomore year to December of your senior year. This means that you could have received an SAT confirming score even before taking the PSAT/NMSQT. NMSC recommends that you not wait until the December test date.

How do I submit scores to NMSC? NMSC does not automatically know your SAT and ACT scores. You must submit them just as you would to a college. The College Board code for NMSC is 0085. The ACT code is 7984. Please verify these codes before submitting. Since NMSC will use your highest scores, there is no penalty for choosing them as one of your free score recipients when you register for the SAT or ACT.

Can I superscore SAT or ACT dates in order to reach the confirming score cutoff? No. NMSC will use your highest scores, but will not superscore across test dates.

If I have achieved a confirming score, is there any reason to shoot for a higher score? The requirement for a confirming score is simply true or false when applying to become a Finalist. However, your test scores are used to evaluate you during the scholarship phase of the competition. Depending on your goals, you may want to optimize your score.

Can sophomores qualify for National Merit recognition? No. Even if your scores are high enough, you will not be eligible for National Merit as a sophomore unless you will be graduating a year early. In that case, you should contact NMSC or your principal about next steps as NMSC has no way of automatically knowing your eligibility.

Is it hard for a Semifinalist to become a Finalist? Of the 16,000 Semifinalists, 15,000 become Finalists. You must go through an application process to proceed to Finalist level and then to compete for National Merit Scholarships. As part of the application, you must meet citizenship requirements, have a satisfactory academic record, achieve a confirming score on the SAT or ACT (and submit the scores to NMSC!), write an essay, and receive a recommendation from your principal. More information can be found in the PSAT/NMSQT Student Guide . In the Semifinalist letter from your school (it will NOT come from NMSC unless you are homeschooled), NMSC will provide details about how to begin the process online.

When will I find out if I am a Finalist? You will be notified in February of senior year.

Do all Finalists receive scholarships? What is a National Merit Scholar? Only about half of Finalists become National Merit Scholars and receive a National Merit Scholarship. There are three types of scholarships for Finalists, each with its own criteria. A student can only receive one type of scholarship. Approximately 4,000 Finalists receive scholarships from sponsoring colleges with renewable stipends of $500–$2,500 per year. Students must be accepted by a sponsoring institution and list the college as first choice in order to receive a college-sponsored award. These awards are not transferable to another college. Corporations sponsor approximately 1,000 awards for Finalists each year with a minimum one-time value of $2,500 or $1,000 renewable. Most of these awards are to Finalists who are the children of employees. Approximately 2,500 students receive awards of $2,500 directly from National Merit. These awards are highly competitive and are allocated proportionally by state. A list of sponsoring colleges and corporations can be found in the PSAT/NMSQT Student Guide .

I’ve heard about colleges that provide full-ride awards. Why are college-sponsored awards only listed as $500–$2,500 per year? Colleges can also choose to provide additional awards to National Merit Finalists. These are not technically National Merit Scholarships, but they can be the most important awards for many students. Which colleges offer these awards and how much they offer can change from year to year. In recent years, Florida has had a generous scholarship program for National Merit Finalists, and schools such as UT-Dallas and Texas A&M also provide substantial awards. Compass does not maintain a database of scholarships. The National Merit forum at collegeconfidential.com is a useful resource.

Are scholarships available to Commended Students and Semifinalists? Technically, these students cannot be National Merit Scholars, but approximately 1,100 of them will receive Special Scholarships from sponsoring corporations. As with other corporate-sponsored awards, these are predominantly for the children of employees, although companies can also identify students in a particular region or field of study.

When will I find out if I receive a scholarship? You will be notified of scholarship status sometime between March and June of your senior year. In order to receive a college-sponsored scholarship, you must note the college as your first choice on the National Merit application. It can be to your advantage not to immediately choose a first-choice college—you can leave it as “Undecided.” You do not want to miss out on a large scholarship because you have listed the wrong college. There is no reason to list a college that does not provide National Merit Scholarships. List your first-choice among college that do provide scholarships. You can update your choice via the Online Scholarship Application portal.

Art Sawyer

About Art Sawyer

Art graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University, where he was the top-ranked liberal arts student in his class. Art pioneered the one-on-one approach to test prep in California in 1989 and co-founded Compass Education Group in 2004 in order to bring the best ideas and tutors into students' homes and computers. Although he has attained perfect scores on all flavors of the SAT and ACT, he is routinely beaten in backgammon.

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Next post national merit semifinalist cutoffs class of 2024 - archived, 456 comments.

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Hello! I had a question about Alternative Entry. If a student took the PSAT/NMSQT as a 10th grader (as practice, with the rest of his class), would this then disqualify him from using the “Alternative Entry” method in 11th grade? I realize that to do Alternative Entry you can’t already taken the PSAT– but I wasn’t sure if that applied to just PSATs in junior year, when kids are eligible for entering the National Merit competition. [For clarification- I’m sure the test that the kids took was the PSAT/NMSQT, and NOT the PSAT 10.] Thank you!

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Steph, Only the junior year PSAT/NMSQT serves as a qualifier for National Merit. The sophomore year test your student took is, therefore, irrelevant. The Alternate Entry process specifically applies to students who are unable to take the 11th grade PSAT.

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Hi Art, For a 10th grader, would you recommend taking PSAT/NMSQT or SAT given that to qualify for NMSC, the child would have to re-take PSAT/NMSQT again in junior year.

Vivek, There is not a right or wrong answer here. Normally I would recommend that a student go ahead and take the PSAT. It’s convenient; it’s very similar to the digital SAT. That last part is important. If the student’s testing career is going to extend beyond this December (and that’s true for virtually all sophomores), they will be taking the digital SAT. If your student wants to get in a paper SAT, they have until December. For all but a very small number of sophomores, that seems like overkill. A fall sophomore is unlikely to be at a point where they’ll get a final score (the exception would be students already well into the 1500s). And it doesn’t have a practice benefit because the paper SAT is almost gone. So my soft recommendation would be to go ahead and take the PSAT.

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1. For the students who got selected to semi-finalists, they need to submit only one school of their choice (one of the questions) in the NMSQT finalist application – does the public/private school choice make a difference in getting the Corporate/NMSQT awards? 2. Do the parents need to be an employee of the Corporate Sponsors to receive any awards under the corporate awards category?

Thank you in advance. Best,

Neelahm, If a Semifinalist becomes a Finalist and has listed a school that sponsors National Merit, NMSC will generally match the student with a school award. If the student’s first choice is not a sponsor, then they will be eligible for a corporate or NMSC award. The student’s first choice school can be updated through April, I believe, but the matching process starts in March.

Most corporate awards are for the children of employees. You can find more info here on page 10 of the Student Guide .

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English Learners cannot take the NMSQT w/accommodations such as “extended time”; the system does not allow them. Is this a true statement?

Synde, That is a true statement. There is no accommodation specifically for English Learners on the PSAT, SAT, or ACT as far as I am aware.

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Hello Art If my ACT is 35 & translates to 228/230 ( twice taken ) and SAT is (229) , which do you think should I submit? Also if I do ACT should I just submit the superscore as it will include both. Would you also be able to chime in with regards to colleges which would be a better option to send SAT ( 1530 ) or ACT (35 both times) ?

As always thank you so much for your time & help Best MaryAnn

Mary Ann, Both your SAT and ACT are so strong that it doesn’t matter for National Merit which one you provide. Those scores are only used as a minimum qualifying standard — the “confirming score.” They are not used in the competition itself.

It’s very much a toss-up for colleges. As a single point to point concordance, a 35 is equivalent to a 1540. In the other direction, a 1530 is concordant with a 35. You might say that the ACT is ever so slightly stronger.

Thank you so much for your kind help and time! Best !

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My son is in his junior year and he has an SAT score of 1570 and a PSAT score of 1460. Do you think he has a chance to qualify to become a semi finalist for NMSQT Scholarship? Please let us know.

Thanks, Usha

Usha, Only his PSAT score matters for qualification as a Semifinalist. Actually, it’s the Selection Index that matters, not so much his 1460. The SI puts twice the weight on the Reading and Writing score. You’ll find his Selection Index on his score report. The cutoffs are determined by state. In some places he would probably qualify easily. In other states he might miss out. See our estimates in my other post here .

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I wanted to ask if you know what the typical cutoffs for the National Merit African American, Hispanic recognition, Rural recognition typically are? I know they’ve been making some changes the past few years? I’m a tutor who’s going to be doing some pro bono work at a Title I school in our county for some of their top sophs this coming fall and the admin asked if i knew what the typical cutoffs are for those programs!

Love your blog!

MG, I wish I could be more helpful here, but College Board doesn’t release the figures — at least not en masse. The cutoffs are set by state, and student must be in the top 10% of scores (they can also qualify via AP scores). You might want to call College Board and ask about your state.

Thank you for the kind words, and thank you for helping students in your local area!

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How to Write a National Merit Essay

Teresa j. siskin.

Semifinalists are notified in September each year, and finalist applications, including essays, are due the following month.

You’ve cleared the first hurdle once you’ve become a semifinalist for the National Merit Scholarship Competition. Continuing to compete as a finalist means completing an application, which includes an essay. While there is no one "correct” way to write this essay, you can help distinguish yourself from fellow semifinalists by offering a clear, concise 500-word piece that shares a perspective and leaves an impression.

Explore this article

  • Structure and Inspiration

1 Structure and Inspiration

You can approach the National Merit Scholarship essay as you would any other scholarship essay. According to Kansas State University and Dr. Kay Peterson from the University of Florida, one way to structure your essay is to focus on a life altering or defining moment. Draw from a simple occurrence, such as falling off your bike as a small child or a book you read, or from a much more intense event, such as losing a home in a hurricane, as long as you relay what lesson you took from that experience. Use the introduction of your essay to recount this defining moment, and conclude with a thesis that summarizes how that event affected your outlook on life. Then, use your subsequent body paragraphs to highlight how this moment continues to affect your life personally or academically, and conclude by relating this experience to your goals for college, your desire for college scholarships, or your passion for becoming a National Merit Scholar. You can always ask others for help both in brainstorming for essay topics and in editing your final product.

  • 1 University of Florida Office of Financial Aid: Writing the Scholarship Essay
  • 2 Kansas State University: Writing Scholarship Essays

About the Author

Teresa J. Siskin has been a researcher, writer and editor since 2009. She holds a doctorate in art history.

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How to Win a National Merit Scholarship

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National Merit Scholarship: Exploring how to become a National Merit Scholar!

The path to covering the cost of college can be confusing and stressful. Between navigating financial aid and applying for scholarships for college, there’s a lot to keep track of. We want to make the process of finding merit-based scholarships as straightforward as possible. 

If you’re reading this article, then you already know the National Merit Scholarship can be a great option for making the cost of college more affordable. But how do you become one of the National Merit Scholarship winners? 

In this guide to National Merit Scholarships, we’ll break down:

What is the national merit scholarship.

  • National Merit Scholarship requirements

What is a merit-based scholarship?

  • Starting your scholarship search to find other scholarships for college
  • Optimizing your odds of becoming a National Merit Scholar with your PSAT score
  • National Merit Scholarship colleges, and more

The National Merit Scholarship is a great starting place for your scholarship search . In fact, most students qualify for this scholarship without even realizing it. As such, it can be a great first step to looking for scholarships for college.

For starters: what is a National Merit Scholarship, and why is it different from other scholarships for college?

The National Merit Scholarship Program is an academic program that awards scholarships to high-achieving high school students across the nation. The National Merit Scholarship amount is $2,500 for each of the National Merit Scholarship winners. 

National Merit Scholarship requirements are based on a student’s PSAT/NMSQT. Students usually take this exam in their junior year of high school.

Each year, 1.5 million students enter the competition to become National Merit Scholars. Of these students, approximately 7,250 will receive National Merit Scholarships.

You may have heard the phrases “merit scholarship” or “merit-based scholarships” tossed around as you begin your scholarship search. This begs the question: what is a merit-based scholarship?

Unlike need-based scholarships, which are awarded based on demonstrated financial need , merit-based scholarships are awarded based on talent or merit. They can be determined by academic merit—like high GPA —athletic merit, or any category where students have demonstrated excellence. On occasion, a merit scholarship will also take financial need into account, though this is less common.

The National Merit Scholarship is one such merit scholarship, awarded primarily based on PSAT scores. While the National Merit Scholarship is provided by a private, not-for-profit organization, many merit-based scholarships are given out by universities. 

These scholarships vary in size, from a few hundred dollars to the full cost of college tuition . Merit-based scholarships can greatly help to offset the cost of college. 

national merit scholarship

How do I get merit-based scholarships?

The National Merit Scholarship evaluates prospective National Merit Scholars via multiple elimination rounds. The first round is based solely on PSAT scores, with the highest scorers progressing to the next round of evaluation. A semi-finalist must then meet other academic requirements in order to advance to become a National Merit finalist. 

National Merit Scholarship requirements for finalists entail: 

  • Enrollment in the final year of high school, with plans to enroll full-time in college the following fall
  • Endorsement from your high school principal
  • A record of high academic performance
  • A completed National Merit Scholarship Application, including the submission of an essay
  • An SAT or ACT score demonstrating continued excellence

The National Merit Scholarship program provides more information about qualifying to become a National Merit Scholar here . 

This is one example of the evaluation process for merit-based scholarships for college. As you continue your scholarship search, you will see different processes unique to each merit scholarship. 

Each merit-based scholarship emphasizes distinct qualities in its applicants. For example,  excellence at an instrument , mastery of an art form, or a high-achieving GPA. Each merit scholarship also involves its own set of requirements. Some selection processes involve essays and other application components while others do not. 

When you research scholarships for college, explore individual academic scholarship requirements, application requirements, and extracurricular requirements for each merit scholarship. This will give you the best odds of winning a merit-based scholarship and offsetting the cost of college. 

You can learn more about identifying and applying for a merit scholarship from this CollegeAdvisor webinar . 

national merit scholarship finalist essay

How many National Merit Scholars are there?

If you’re hoping to become a National Merit Scholar, it’s important to know your odds. 

There are several evaluation rounds involved in the selection of National Merit Scholars. The first round is comprised of high school students who submit a PSAT score (and who satisfy the other National Merit Scholarship requirements) via the PSAT/NMSQT exam taken each fall. This usually amounts to approximately 1.5 million entrants submitting PSAT scores. 

After PSAT scores have been calculated, the 50,000 applicants with the highest PSAT scores will qualify for recognition. Of these 50,000 students, 34,000 earn the title of “Commended Student.” However, that means those students will not become National Merit Scholars. The other 16,000, selected as the highest scorers of each state, are semi-finalists for the National Merit Scholarship. 

Around 15,000 of the 16,000 semifinalists will earn the title of “National Merit finalist.” Semifinalists can become National Merit finalists by demonstrating ability, skill, and accomplishment throughout the other National Merit Scholarship requirements. 

A finalist chances of winning

Ultimately, a National Merit finalist has about a 50% chance of being selected as a National Merit scholar. 7,250 finalists will become National Merit Scholars, receiving a National Merit Scholarship amount of $2,500 to help cover the cost of college. See the National Merit Scholarship’s FAQs for advice on progressing from being a National Merit finalist to one of the National Merit Scholarship winners.

Of the 1.5 million applicants who submitted a PSAT score, there are only 7,250 National Merit Scholarship winners. This means you have a 0.5% chance of becoming a National Merit Scholar, making this one of the most competitive merit-based scholarships. 

While only a National Merit Scholar receives the National Merit Scholarship amount of $2,500, even earning the title of National Merit finalist can help you attain other scholarships for college. In fact, many colleges identify as National Merit Scholarship colleges and offer a variety of financial awards to both finalists and scholars. Some of these National Merit Scholarship colleges even grant a full ride to finalists. A full-ride covers the entire cost of college!

National Merit Scholarship

What qualifies you to be a National Merit Scholar?

There are multiple rounds of qualifications and eliminations that you must beat to become a National Merit scholar. 

In order to become a semi-finalist, the most important requirement is your PSAT score. The PSAT, taken in your junior year, is the primary component in determining your eligibility as a National Merit Scholar. It’s important to submit strong PSAT scores in order to progress to semi-finalist standing.

Your PSAT scores are evaluated relative to the scores of other entrants in a given year. For this reason, it is very difficult to give cutoffs as to what score you should aim for, as the cutoff will vary from year to year. In addition, you must be one of the top scorers in your state in order to become a semi-finalist. Due to the variable nature of National Merit Scholarships, we recommend simply optimizing your own PSAT score, rather than aiming for a particular PSAT score. 

Aside from your PSAT scores, the National Merit Scholarship winners must show strong overall academic performance, gain an endorsement from their high school principal, and demonstrate various other accomplishments throughout high school.

The National Merit scholarship committee also weighs the following factors for a National Merit finalist: 

  • The submission of a strong essay to the National Merit Scholarship application
  • An SAT or ACT score consistent with the applicant’s PSAT score

Finally, a successful National Merit Scholar will be enrolled in their final year of high school with plans to attend college the following fall.

Note that prior to achieving semifinalist status, only your PSAT score matters. Once you are a National Merit finalist, other factors—such as your GPA and accomplishments—become relevant factors in determining your eligibility.

Review more tips from U.S. News on submitting a strong application to become a National Merit Scholar.

How do you become a National Merit finalist?

National Merit Scholarships are a fantastic option for offsetting the cost of college. This is especially true considering most high school students already take the PSAT , which is the primary means of determining eligibility for this merit scholarship. As such, it is important to optimize your odds of becoming a National Merit finalist by doing well on the PSAT. 

So, the best way to boost your odds of becoming a National Merit Scholar is to maximize your PSAT score. Wondering how to excel at the PSAT?

Here are some of our top tips:

1. start early.

Standardized testing is a learned skill, and ample evidence suggests that studying for a standardized test is strongly correlated with higher scores. Therefore, the earlier you begin studying, and the more effort you put in, the more successful you will be. 

2. Practice for the PSAT

Familiarize yourself with the contents of the PSAT so that there are no surprises when you take the exam. You should also take advantage of the many practice tests available online. This will give you a sense of your base score, as well as where you have the most room for improvement.

3. Take the exam more than once

In order to be eligible for National Merit Scholarships, you must be in your junior year of high school when you take the PSAT. However, you can, and should, also take the PSAT in your sophomore year to get hands-on experience sitting for the exam. This will not impact your eligibility for the merit scholarship.

Putting in the time now will give you the best odds of becoming a National Merit finalist. And in case National Merit Scholarships aren’t motivation enough, the PSAT score is also a frequent factor amongst other academic scholarship requirements, so putting in the effort now can help you net several scholarships for college. 

Aside from the PSAT score, academic scholarship requirements for the National Merit Scholarship also include having a strong GPA. This matters less in the initial evaluation rounds, but if you hope to progress from being a National Merit finalist to a National Merit scholar, your grades will be a factor. Keep your grades high in order to optimize your chances both for this merit scholarship as well as other scholarships for college.

National Merit Scholarship

Merit-based scholarships for high school seniors

As you start the scholarship search, know that there are many more merit-based scholarships available to you outside of just National Merit Scholarships. There are also many resources available to you to inform your scholarship search. 

Organization-Sponsored Merit-Based Scholarships

Forbes provides a list of the most generous and prestigious merit-based scholarships and fellowships for high school seniors. This includes merit-based scholarships for students who:

  • Excel in STEM fields or writing
  • Volunteer or participate in public service
  • Demonstrate academic merit and financial need, and more.

This list is a helpful one to start your scholarship search with. There are also many other assorted merit-based scholarships, including the Doodle for Google merit-based scholarship hosted by Google that awards money to students for submitting doodles for display on Google’s home page.

CollegeAdvisor.com also provides a webinar for finding merit-based scholarships as a domestic student. 

Finally, note that if you qualify as a National Merit finalist but are not selected as a National Merit Scholar, you will still benefit from this merit-based scholarship indirectly. While you will not receive the National Merit Scholarship amount of $2,500, there are many National Merit Scholarship colleges that award aid if you are a National Merit finalist. 

The University of Maine , University of South Florida , University of Alabama , and University of Oklahoma are just a few of several National Merit Scholarship colleges that offer full-ride tuition to any National Merit finalist who is accepted. So, even if you are not a National Merit Scholar, the National Merit Scholarships can still lower your cost of college.

Institution-Sponsored Merit-Based Scholarships

Another option to include in your scholarship search is scholarships for college that are provided by the colleges themselves. USC, for example, offers a generous merit-based scholarship to students who submit their applications by an earlier deadline. USC merit-based scholarships are awarded to about 2% of early applicants and range in award amount from a quarter of tuition to full tuition coverage. 

Vanderbilt also offers a merit-based scholarship for applicants to its Ingram Scholars program, Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholarship program, and Chancellor’s Scholarship program, among other additional merit-based scholarships. Unlike USC, Vanderbilt’s merit-based scholarships each have their own application process with corresponding supplemental essays. For help writing these essays, see CollegeAdvisor’s Vanderbilt essay guide .

Note that, unlike an organization’s merit-based scholarship, a college merit-based scholarship can only be used at the institution by which they are granted.

As you can see, there are dozens of merit-based scholarships to consider in your scholarship search. A merit-based scholarship is a great way to lower the cost of college, particularly for students who may not qualify for the amount of need-based aid that they require. 

National Merit Scholarship: Five tips for winning!

National Merit Scholarship

Becoming a National Merit Scholar is a fantastic way of starting your scholarship search as you prepare to transition to college. In fact, the National Merit Scholarships are one of the lowest-effort scholarships for college, as most high schools organize a school-wide proctoring of the PSAT. As such, we recommend doing whatever you can to optimize your chances of becoming a National Merit finalist. 

Here are our best tips for meeting the academic scholarship requirements of the National Merit Scholarship:

1. take practice tests for the psat.

One of the absolute best ways of optimizing a standardized test score is to study for it ahead of time. Your PSAT score is no different. You can find several practice exams via CollegeBoard and other online resources. Take these practice exams seriously, putting in the time to examine your strengths and weaknesses so that you can prepare as efficiently as possible. This is the best thing you can do to boost your odds of becoming a National Merit Scholar.

2. Optimize your GPA

Your GPA is going to be one of the most important academic scholarship requirements as you apply for scholarships for college. National Merit Scholarships are no different: your GPA is less of a factor than the PSAT scores in the first evaluation round, but if you hope to progress from National Merit finalist to National Merit Scholar, your GPA must be strong. Achieve this by taking challenging classes throughout high school and learning efficient study habits so that you earn high marks. 

3.  Write a great essay

If you are a semifinalist, the National Merit Scholarship selection team will ask you to write a 600-650 word essay as part of the application to become a National Merit Scholar. Most years, the prompt for this essay is broad enough that students can write about almost anything. Spend time thinking about your topic, and ensure that you are putting your best foot forward. The essay should be well-written, free of any mistakes, and should engage the reader. Treat this essay as if you were writing a supplemental essay for a college.

4. Excel on the SAT or ACT

If you are a finalist for the National Merit Scholarship, your SAT or ACT scores will become an additional factor in weighing your application. It’s important to study just as hard for these exams as you did for the PSAT, if not harder. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation will be looking for evidence that you have continued or improved your academic excellence since sitting for the PSAT. There are many, many resources available online to optimize your SAT or ACT scores.

5.  Enrich your life in other areas

If you want to become a National Merit Scholar, you will have to show accomplishment both in and out of the classroom. This can consist of other awards, achievements, and extracurriculars that demonstrate your standing as a well-rounded, high-achieving student. In addition, having more experience in other areas of your life will give you more to write about in your essay. In fact, as you continue your scholarship search, you will see that many scholarships for college are looking not just for academic achievement but also for evidence of strong character and an interesting set of activities beyond the classroom.

National Merit Scholarship- Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are a lot of factors to consider as you pursue the National Merit Scholarship and other scholarships for college. 

We know the National Merit Scholarship amount might not cover the full price of your tuition, but each scholarship you earn takes some of the burden off of the cost of college. We hope this guide will help give you the best possible chance of becoming a National Merit Scholar, and we wish you the best of luck.

national merit scholarship finalist essay

This article was written by Becky Weinstein. If you want to get help with your college applications from CollegeAdvisor.com  Admissions Experts ,  register with CollegeAdvisor.com today.   Also, check out our other guides to  Merit-Based Scholarships as you embark on your college application journey!

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National Merit Scholarship

About the scholarship.

National Merit Scholarship Program provides financial assistance for college to high school seniors who achieve outstanding scores on standardized tests.

  • Essay Required : No
  • Need-Based : No
  • Merit-Based : Yes
  • This program is open to students who are enrolled full-time in a secondary school, progressing normally toward graduation or completion of high school, and planning to enter college in the fall following high school graduation.
  • Applicants must be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident in the process of becoming a U.S. citizen and be taking the PSAT/NMSQT at the proper time in the high school program and no later than the third year in grades 9 through 12, regardless of grade classification or educational pattern.
  • On the basis of the PSAT/NMSQT results, approximately 16,000 of the highest scorers are designated as semifinalists; they are apportioned among states based on the number of graduating seniors in each state, to ensure equitable geographical representation.
  • Finalists for National Merit Scholarships must be graduating seniors who are selected from among the semifinalists on the basis of SAT scores, academic performance in all of grades 912, and recommendations by high school principals.
  • Country : US

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The Complete Guide: Becoming a National Merit Finalist

Years ago, I was a National Merit Commended Scholar. I forgot about that until today, when I dug up an old high school resume. In hindsight, nothing ever happened from that distinction.

Today, I’ll be breaking down the steps to becoming a National Merit Scholarship Finalist and the big question: is it even worth it to compete?

national merit scholarship finalist essay

What is the National Merit Scholarship Program?

Simply put, National Merit Scholarship Finalists are students who’ve taken a standardized test at school during junior year, scored higher than almost everyone else, and gotten a scholarship as a reward for their performance.

The National Merit Scholarship Program manages all of this: the testing, the selection, and the scholarship distribution.

So let’s get down to the specifics.

What standardized test must I take to be a National Merit finalist?

It’s a test similar to the one that’s quickly losing relevance: the SAT. It’s so similar to the SAT that it’s called the PSAT, or “Preliminary” SAT. The PSAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test is shorter and easier than the SAT because it’s geared toward younger high schoolers. Both tests evaluate math and language arts.

Note: The PSAT 10 and PSAT/NMSQT are similar, but the PSAT 10 is taken in 10th grade to practice for the real SAT and the PSAT/NMSQT is taken in 11th grade to qualify for the National Merit Scholarships.

When and where can I take this PSAT/NMSQT?

October of junior year. If your school offers this test, you’ll hear about it from school. It costs $17 but most schools cover the entire test fee. If not, you’ll have to find a neighboring school that proctors it. Some schools will even ask students to go in-person to take it on a Saturday. Once you take the PSAT/NMSQT, your scores are automatically entered into the national competition. No need to apply separately.

How is the PSAT/NMSQT scored?

The PSAT score range is from 48 (lowest possible) to 228 (highest possible).

There are 3 sections: reading, math, and writing. Each of these sections are scored from 8 (lowest possible) to 38 (highest possible). To get your final qualifying score, you just add together the three scores from each of the three sections and multiple that number by 2.

For example, if you got a 30 on math, 31 on reading, and 32 on writing, your PSAT/NMSQT score will be (30 + 31+ 32) x 2 = 186.

What score do I need to qualify as a National Merit Semifinalist?

This number varies every year and it even varies by state. For Class of 2021, for example, students in California needed a 221 out of 228 to qualify. In New Jersey, 222. In North Dakota, 209.

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I want to qualify for the $2,500 national merit scholarship. how do i know if i’m eligible.

It’s a multi-step process.

  • You need to be a high school student with U.S. citizenship or lawful residency.
  • You need to take the PSAT/NMSQT in October of junior year. If your school asks you to take it in sophomore year, that score won’t qualify you for the competition, unless you’re planning on graduating from high school as a junior.
  • If you’re competing against 1.5 million test takers, you need to first make it to the Semifinalist round, which means the top 16k test scores. I can’t give you the exact score because the cutoff varies by year.
  • You need to get your principal to endorse you by demonstrating a transcript with good grades and a real SAT score that’s close enough to your PSAT/NMSQT score.
  • You need to write an essay and fill out a specific National Merit Finalist application.
  • If your application is approved, you’ll be one of 15k finalists out of 16k semifinalists.
  • Only 7,600 out of the 15k finalists get the $2,500 scholarship.

When do I get the scholarship?

If you take the PSAT/NMQST in October 2020, make it to the finalist round, and are selected to be one of the 7,600 recipients of the $2,500 scholarship, you’ll get the money in May 2022 right before college. So it takes about 18 months.

How does the National Merit Scholarship Corporation select winners?

Based on the latest data from 2021, among the 1.5 million competition entrants from the 2019 competition, 50k of the highest scores were recognized. Among those, there’s even more distinct recognition.

Commended: These are 34k of the 50k highest scores. These students do not advance to the next round. They get a “Letter of Commendation” a.k.a. a participation award. I was National Merit commended and I will just say that no one has ever cared about this. Not colleges, job interviewers, professors, or even my family friends.

Semifinalist: These are about 16k of the 50k highest scores. These students are eligible to advance to the next round to be considered a “Finalist.” The score cutoff to be a National Merit semifinalist varies by state and test takers are ranked by state.

Finalist: These are 15k of the 16k semifinalists whose submitted documentation get approved. To become a finalist, semifinalists must:

  • take the real SAT and prove a similar score to their PSAT/NMSQT score
  • get a recommendation and endorsement from their school principal
  • fill out an additional application, the “National Merit Finalist Application”
  • write an essay
  • maintain a high GPA

Semifinalists receive a letter in the mail if they make it as a finalist and a “Certificate of Merit” printout.

Scholarship finalist: Only 7,600 of the 15k finalists receive the $2,500 scholarship. As long as they confirm they’ll be enrolled full-time in college after graduating from high school, the scholarship finalists get the funds around May of senior year, so over a year and a half after taking the test.

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national merit scholarship finalist essay

The Admissions Strategist

National merit scholarship (how to win it): the winner’s guide.

The National Merit Scholarship Program is an academic competition for scholarships and recognition that started in 1955.

Each year, approximately 7,500 Finalists receive scholarships. About 1,100 outstanding National Merit participants who are not Finalists also receive Special Scholarships annually.

Some colleges even offer free tuition or full-ride scholarships to National Merit Finalists.

Scholarship money is always great, but it isn’t the only benefit to the National Merit program. Becoming a National Merit Finalist is a prestigious honor that can give your chances of college admission a major boost.

So, how can you reap the benefits of becoming a National Merit Finalist? Read this guide to learn everything you need to know!

Odds of Winning a National Merit Scholarship

Before we get started, you should know that earning a National Merit Scholarship is even more competitive than earning acceptance to an Ivy League college.

  • Millions of students take the PSAT each year. About 16,000 students become Semifinalists, and 15,000 become Finalists.
  • Of the Finalists, about 7,500 receive scholarships.

Of course, even if you don’t win a scholarship, becoming a Semifinalist or Finalist is a great honor.

It can make you a more competitive college applicant and earn you additional scholarship money from some colleges.

So, let’s find out how to increase your chances of success.

How to Enter the National Merit Program

Entering the National Merit Program is simple: Take the PSAT (formally known as the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) during the fall of your junior year in high school.

The test is usually administered in October.

National Merit Scholarship: How to Win

Click above to watch a video on how to win the National Merit Scholarship.

If you meet certain qualifications, taking the PSAT/NMSQT automatically enters you in the National Merit Scholarship competition.

These qualifications are:

  • Being enrolled as a high school student who is progressing normally toward graduation
  • Planning to enroll full-time in college the fall after you graduate from high school
  • Being a U.S. citizen or U.S. lawful permanent resident who plans to become a U.S. citizen

On your PSAT test form, you will answer four questions that determine whether you meet these requirements.

Next Steps: Qualifying for Scholarships

Of course, taking the test is only the beginning. To continue through the competition, you’ll need to:

  • Score in the top one percent of PSAT test-takers
  • Find out if you’re a Semifinalist or a Commended student
  • Complete an application (if selected as a Semifinalist)
  • Submit SAT scores
  • Find out if you’ve qualified for scholarship(s)

Let’s take a closer look at each step of this process.

Score in the Top One Percent

After you take the PSAT, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) receives and reviews scores.

  • If you meet the basic qualifications described above, they look at your Selection Index .
  • The Selection Index is calculated by doubling the sum of your Reading, Writing and Language, and Mathematics scores.

About 16,000 high scorers become Semifinalists.

  • This represents less than one percent of test-takers, meaning you’ll need to score in the top one percent to qualify as a semifinalist.

However, scores are considered on a state-by-state basis, so that students from across the nation have a chance to qualify.

Students often ask what score they’ll need to become a Semifinalist. This is hard to answer, because it varies from year to year. It’s usually somewhere around 1400.

For more information, you can call the NMSC at 847-866-5100 and ask about the previous year’s cutoff in your state.

Get personalized advice!

Receive notification of semifinalist/commended status.

You’ll have a long wait before you find out if you’ve achieved Semifinalist status.

In late September of your senior year, about 34,000 students receive a Letter of Commendation. Commended Students are based on a Selection Index score that is slightly lower than the Selection Index score needed to become a Semifinalist.

  • Commended students don’t continue in the competition, but some do receive Special Scholarships.
  • It’s also something positive to mention on your college applications.

An additional 16,000 students are notified that they have qualified as Semifinalists, usually in early September. All Semifinalists will receive application materials from NMSC through their schools.

Complete an Application

To advance from Semifinalist to Finalist, you will need to complete the NMSC application. 15,000 of the 16,000 Semifinalists become Finalists.

These applications are usually due in early October. The application is similar to a college application.

It includes:

  • Information about your activities and leadership roles
  • A recommendation letter from the principal or a school official designated by your principal
  • Information about your school’s grading system and classes

To become a Finalist, you must:

  • Have excellent academic performance all four years of high school (preferably a 3.5 GPA or higher)
  • Have SAT scores that “confirm your PSAT performance”
  • Continue meeting basic qualifications, including being enrolled in the last year of high school and planning to enroll in college in the fall

In the “Tips” section at the end of the article, we’ll discuss how to put your best foot forward with an impressive application.

Submit SAT Scores

SAT scores are part of the NMSC application. You’ll have to take the SAT on approved dates, usually during the fall of senior year.

  • The NMSC must receive your scores by December 31 of your senior year.
  • Although the NMSC doesn’t give a specific cutoff score for the SAT, they do say that your score should confirm your PSAT score.

Basically, your score should be close to your PSAT score to demonstrate that your PSAT performance wasn’t a fluke. You should aim for around 1400 or better.

Qualify for Scholarships

In February, about 15,000 Semifinalists receive a letter that they have advanced to Finalist standing.

Your high school principal will receive a certificate and present it to you.

From the Finalist group, winners of Merit Scholarships are selected. These selections are based on abilities, skills, and accomplishments.

Between March and mid-June, 7,500 Finalists learn that they have been awarded Merit Scholarships. There are three types of scholarships:

  • National Merit $2500 Scholarships: Every Finalist is considered for these single payment scholarships, which are awarded on a state-by-state basis. Selections are not based on financial circumstances, major or college choice, or career plans.
  • Corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards: Corporate sponsors designate awards for children of employees or members, residents of communities where the company operates, or Finalists with career plans the sponsor wishes to encourage. These awards are usually $500-$2000 and may be one-time awards or renewable for all four years of college.
  • College-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards: Officials of sponsor colleges select winners from Finalists who have been accepted for admission and have informed NMSC that the college is their top choice. These awards are renewable for four years of undergraduate study.

Schools that offer free tuition or free-ride scholarships to National Merit Scholars include:

  • Texas A&M
  • University of Oklahoma
  • University of Arizona
  • Auburn University
  • University of Tulsa
  • Baylor University

In addition, about 1,100 excellent National Merit Program participants who are not Finalists receive Special Scholarships.

These may be one-time awards or renewable for four years of study. Students must meet the sponsor’s criteria and submit an entry form to the sponsor organization.

Tips for Winning a National Merit Scholarship

Now, we’ll look at tips that will help you qualify for a National Merit Scholarship.

These tips fall into two categories: earning a high score on the PSAT and submitting a top-notch NMSC application.

How to Earn a High Score on the PSAT

  • Answer PSAT practice questions or take practice tests on the CollegeBoard’s website. Becoming familiar with the structure, format, and question types is extremely helpful.
  • When you get a question wrong, take the time to read the right answer and understand why it’s correct. Why did you get the question wrong? What steered you in the wrong direction? What’s a better strategy you can use in the future?
  • Based on how you perform on practice tests, determine your strengths and weaknesses. As you continue preparing, focus on improving in your areas of weakness.
  • This may mean drilling math questions, studying vocabulary words (along with roots, prefixes, and suffixes), brushing up on grammar, or practicing with reading passages.
  • If you need a lot of help in a subject area, consider hiring a tutor or working with a teacher at your school.
  • Continue taking practice tests/answering practice questions to ensure that you’re improving and getting closer to your target score.

How to Submit a Competitive NMSC Application

  • Have a GPA of at least 3.5 or better. You should have performed consistently well throughout high school, and you should have taken challenging courses. Of course, you can’t change your previous performance and schedule, but do your best to earn the highest grades possible now.
  • Earn a high score on the SAT (preferably 1400 or better). You can prepare for the SAT in much the same way you prepared for the PSAT.
  • Show deep extracurricular involvement in a few areas you’re passionate about, along with leadership experiences whenever possible.
  • Cultivate positive relationships with your principal and other school officials. Ask for your recommendation at least three weeks ahead of time. Provide a list of qualities, experiences, and accomplishments they can mention in your letter.

Writing an Excellent Personal Essay for Your Application

Your NMSC essay must be 500-600 words.

The personal essay topic varies each year. Here’s one example from a previous year:

To help the reviewers get to know you, describe an experience you have had, a person who has influenced you, or an obstacle you have overcome. Explain why this is meaningful to you. Use your own words and limit your response to the space provided.

Like your college application essay, this essay is intended to showcase your unique personality and perspective.

Follow the same guidelines you should follow when writing your college application essay:

  • Brainstorm what aspects of your life, personality, and values you’d like to share with the NMSC.
  • Write in your authentic voice and be honest. The committee wants to know who you are as an individual.
  • Open with an anecdote that introduces the topic you’d like to address. Use specific details that make the story yours.
  • Be reflective. What did you learn from the experience you’ve described? How did it help you grow or influence your life? Why does the topic you selected matter to you?
  • Proofread and edit. Make sure you’ve conveyed your ideas clearly and using appropriate conventions. Cut unnecessary fluff and clarify confusing parts.
  • Have a parent, friend, and/or teacher read your essay and provide feedback.

Final Thoughts: National Merit Scholarship (And How to Win It!)

If you become a National Merit Scholar, it’s a huge honor that can qualify you for several scholarships (and even a full ride at some schools).

  • Winning a National Merit scholarship is a long and highly competitive process, but it’s doable with practice and dedication.

The steps you must take to win a National Merit scholarship—earning good grades, participating in leadership and extracurricular activities, preparing for and performing well on the SAT, building relationships with teachers and administrators, and crafting a personal essay—are also essential for applying to college.

  • So, aiming for a National Merit scholarship is a win no matter what happens. Do your best, but don’t stress too much over the results.

You’ll learn a lot from the experience, and you’ll build the competitiveness of your college application. If you win a scholarship or two along the way, that’s icing on the cake.

Learn how we can help you with college and career guidance! Check out our YouTube channel!

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national merit scholarship finalist essay

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Eight seniors named 2024 National Merit Finalists

Byline photo of Raj Jaladi

Eight seniors advanced as finalists in the 2024 National Merit Scholarship Program. The National Merit Scholarship Program ( NMSP ) is a nationwide academic competition and the largest of its kind. It is awarded based on academic talents and performance on the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test ( PSAT ). Finalist standing is awarded to 15,000 students annually, representing less than one percent of U.S. high school graduating seniors.

“I’m consistently impressed and proud of the achievements of our students. To have eight students be named National Merit Finalists is amazing,” Assistant Principal Mario Pupillo said.

Students go through multiple steps to apply. The student’s guidance counselor must complete part of the application, which requires a recommendation letter alongside the principal’s endorsement. In the last 20 years, comprehensive counselor Jennifer Wibbeneyer has helped several students in the process.

“ I’m very excited for the students. We had a great group of Semifinalists. [These students] have consistently demonstrated high marks and a dedication to their learning so it is great to see them recognized and awarded for their efforts,” Wibbenmeyer said.

Numerous factors contribute to the students’ impressive results, according to Pupillo. 

“Among those [factors], two stand out to me. The first is our teaching staff’s dedication to providing a top-quality education for our students. Every day, they put students in a position to be successful. The second is the commitment of our students, both as individuals and as a community,” Pupillo said. “I am often in classrooms and see our students working together to explore, discover and push each other’s learning to great heights.”

The school’s tradition of strong results in the NMSP spans decades. Fifteen students were awarded finalists in the year 2023 , 12 students in the year 2022  and 13 in the year 2021 . 

“It makes me proud that we consistently have a high number of Semifinalists each year enter [into the competition].  I think it is a real testament not only to the students and the efforts they have put into their studies but also to our teachers, who have guided and pushed them to excel in their education,” Wibbenmeyer said.

Additionally, Wibbenmeyer has noticed some trends in the results in recent years.

“I feel like the competition has gotten tougher. With such stiff competition between so many high-caliber students, it is coming down to the most minute details to determine who moves on to finalist standing. Students with very high GPAs and strong grades in challenging courses are not being moved forward, which I think speaks to the overall talent nationwide,” Wibbenmeyer said.

Both Wibbenmeyer and Pupillo advise future applicants to start early.

“My advice to applicants would be the same as I would give to any student. Starting day one of ninth grade, work hard, take advantage of opportunities and consistently work to put yourself in a situation where you can excel. For example, do all of your homework, take advantage of AcLab time, form study groups and perhaps most importantly — don’t be afraid to ask for help,” Pupillo said.

Senior Michael Emerson

  • How did you feel when you heard that you were the finalist for the National Merit Scholarship?

I felt good both for the accomplishment and for the opportunity to receive the scholarship amount.

  • What are some characteristics you believe helped you achieve this award?

I don’t think that any of my personal skills helped me get the award. I think it mostly preparing and taking a good number of practice tests over the summer before.

  • What is your academic area of passion and why?

Social studies, because to me, it is the most applicable to real life.

  • What are you planning to pursue in college?

I am planning to pursue economics.

  • What did you choose to write about in your main essay for the National Merit application? And why was it meaningful to you?

I wrote about getting cut from the baseball team during my freshman year of high school and how that forced me to find a new identity beyond baseball.

Senior Audrija Ghosh

I was pretty happy.

I believe my dedication to lifelong learning and just making the most of the opportunities presented to me at school helped me achieve this award.  

I am really passionate about using AI in the financial sector. I believe it has a lot of potential in predicting market fluctuations since that is partially just a combination of data and human behavior. I would love to make a positive impact by utilizing smart and ethical technology to provide stability and growth to the economy, as well as channel capital towards sustainable development and inclusive projects. 

A combination of computer science, financial engineering, and statistics … for now, but that might change as I discover new passions [and] majors.

  • Do you know where you are going to college?

Yes, either Cornell University or Georgia Institute of Technology, but I am leaning towards Cornell.

I chose to write my essay about how I play Sudoku every day as a sort of morning ritual. In my essay, I discussed how this habit has become a guide for my life, teaching me to take risks and be patient with success. Not only was this a very meaningful and personal topic since I do a Sudoku every day, but it also allowed me to be a bit more creative and unique with my personal essay, as I talked about a game that some may consider a “trivial” activity, but has great personal value to me.

Senior David Hawiger

I was happy because I get free college now at Mizzou, along with the possibility of getting a National Merit Scholarship.  

I studied for the PSAT.

M edicine: I’ve really enjoyed shadowing at Spark!

Premed, biology 

I wrote about fishing and how it has helped me learn more about myself.

Senior Rajeshwar Jaladi

I felt excited and proud of the accomplishment.  

Test-taking skills and being persistent with the process. 

Law. I like how policy and law have to evolve to the changing landscape of technologies so we can all enjoy our freedoms.

I am planning to pursue computer science and law.

I chose to write about my community work with students who have dropped out of school, helping them take courses in coding and assisting them with their job search. This is meaningful to me because it helped me clear several misbeliefs we carry in society about students who drop out of school and the reasons for dropping out. Working with students firsthand helps understand the problem and create better solutions.

Senior Serena Liu

At first, I was very tired because I was out of town when I found out that the results had come out, so I checked my portal in the middle of the night. But I was still super excited to see I was a finalist. I’ve worked really hard on my academics and I am proud that my effort was reflected. 

I enjoy reading and writing in my free time, which has definitely helped me with standardized testing. I also try to manage my time and put first things first.

My academic area of passion is journalism. I enjoy being able to use my voice and to highlight other people’s stories. 

I am planning to major in sociology and computer science. I also want to write for campus publications.

I wrote about growing up raised by immigrant grandparents and how I came to accept my own identity through founding our school’s Asian Based Celebrations Club.

Senior Aristuto Paul

This finalist declined the interview process.

Senior Norah Rutkowski

I was really excited.

I work really hard in school and my other activities. I was also lucky to do well on the PSAT.  

My favorite subject is math because I enjoy the process of problem solving.

I’m undecided, but am thinking about math or environmental studies.

I will go to Swarthmore College.

I wrote about my state swim meet in my junior year. I know sports are generally a bad topic for essays, but it was a good learning experience and helped me learn how to cope with disappointment.

Senior Santosh Sahoo

 I was very excited to hear the big news. It was a huge moment for me because my hard work and dedication paid off.  

My strong academic record, community service, and leadership activities have helped me achieve this award.  

My area of passion is computer science. I am intrigued by the logistical and analytical approach needed for developing new technology. Coupled with my strong mathematical base, computer science is a good fit for me.

In college, I will pursue computer science with a concentration in either Artificial Intelligence or Cybersecurity.

“March 24th, 2023 marks a very important day in my life. I helped my school team win second place at state. More importantly, I persevered through extreme circumstances and played with integrity. I stayed true to my values. I exited the room as a winner, not only at chess but at the game of life.”

This was the closing paragraph of my National Merit finalist essay. I chose to write about the Missouri State Chess Championship Tournament, where my challenging final round was a testament to my core values.

  • Audrey Ghosh
  • David Hawiger
  • Michael Emerson
  • Norah Rutkowski
  • Santosh Sahoo

national merit scholarship finalist essay

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Odessa High School senior named National Merit Scholarship Finalist

Apr. 4—Ector County ISD has announced that Odessa High School senior Anika Gundlapalli has earned National Merit Scholarship Finalist status, meaning she ranks among the top 1/2 -percent of the more than 1.3 million high school seniors.

This honor is based on her performance on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT), in the fall semester of her junior year, a news release said.

She was introduced as a National Merit Finalist as last week's school board meeting.

Anika is the daughter of Drs. Meghana Gillala and Sai Gundlapalli.

She is the Valedictorian of her class, an International Baccalaureate Diploma candidate, and a Presidential Scholar nominee. She is a member of the OHS Varsity Choir, President of the Junior Volunteer Teen Leadership Program at Medical Center Hospital, a volunteer at the Crisis Center of West Texas, and Founder and President of the Foundation for Mental Health Empowerment and Education. She wants to pursue a career in medicine and is undecided on a college.

One of the goals of the National Merit Scholarship Corporation is to identify and honor academically talented U.S. high school students. Since its founding, NMSC has recognized over 3.5 million students and provided some 470,000 scholarships worth over $1.8 billion. The honors awarded by NMSC to exceptionally able students are viewed as definitive marks of excellence. This year, some 7,000 scholarships are available worth approximately $28 million.

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MBA Scholarships That Help Pay for School

There are many opportunities for scholarships, fellowships and other sources of money that you don't have to repay.

MBA Scholarships

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Most universities with business schools offer in-house scholarships; some also provide a list of external sources of aid to pay for school.

Multiple scholarships, fellowships and grants are available for students enrolling in a Master of Business Administration program. Since these funds do not need to be repaid, they are basically free money to help pay for your degree.

Some awards are national while others are college-specific. Some are merit-based, often depending on GMAT scores , while others are for minorities. The amounts vary, and some even offer a stipend.

Sam Weeks, an MBA admissions consultant, says that although lenders tend to be happy to finance MBAs, “a scholarship allows you to be more flexible because you don’t have that debt to pay back.”

Without an MBA scholarship, business majors whose hearts were leading them toward social impact or entrepreneurship may get forced into careers like management consulting or investment banking, Weeks says, adding that "you can’t go out and start your own business if you are $200,000 in debt. The scholarship enables them to follow more interesting post-MBA career paths.”

Here are some sources of scholarships and other funding for an MBA that don't have to be repaid.

National Sources

Military mba merit scholarship.

Veterans and active members of the military who are U.S. residents may apply for the Military MBA Merit Scholarship . The scholarship is offered to attend one of 27 partner schools throughout the U.S., and award amounts vary.

A bachelor’s degree and a record of military service are required, along with other application materials, and demonstrated leadership is a plus. Applicants cannot be already in an MBA program or a graduate of one.

Goldman Sachs MBA Fellowships

First-year MBA students seeking a summer associate position at the multinational investment bank can apply for the Goldman Sachs MBA Fellowship . The program is geared toward students interested in investment banking or private wealth management at Goldman.

Recipients receive $35,000 plus a summer associate salary. Upon successful completion of that summer internship and acceptance of a full-time offer at Goldman, fellows receive an additional $40,000 and possibly a full-time associate signing bonus.

Knight-Hennessy Scholars

This program fully funds up to three years of graduate study at Stanford University in California. To qualify, applicants must complete the MBA application for Stanford's Graduate School of Business and file a separate Knight-Hennessy Scholarship application. Instructions for the scholarship application are on the program's website .

National Black MBA Association

This professional organization, which has a membership level for undergraduate and grad students, offers MBA scholarships to qualifying members who are U.S. citizens. Recipients attend a partner university, and additional award criteria, deadlines and amounts may vary.

College-Specific MBA Scholarships

Most universities with business schools offer in-house scholarships; some also provide a list of external sources of aid to pay for school, experts note.

For example, the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management and the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler Business School are among schools that offer scholarships, fellowships and stipends in varying amounts for academic achievement, including to specific populations such as university alumni, women, state residents, veterans and international students.

Weeks advises applicants from traditional backgrounds to aim for a GMAT score above the class average. “All schools publish their class averages. When you apply to business school you submit your application, and you receive your scholarship offers either immediately or within a few weeks if your profile is strong."

However, what applicants tend to not know is that "there is a chance you can go back to the school and negotiate a scholarship,” Weeks says, giving the following scenario: “If you receive offers from two great schools, one of them with a nice scholarship and one with no scholarship, we work with our clients to tell the school with no scholarship, ‘Hey, I have an offer from another top school with a scholarship, but I’d like to join you guys. Are there any other scholarships that I’m eligible for to help close that difference in cost?’”

Applicants are often reluctant to do this because they don’t want to seem pushy, he says. But remember that you are applying to business school, and "good negotiations are part of the process,” he says, stressing that politeness is key.

Weeks also says a one-time scholarship given at the start of your program is not always the end, since sometimes you can apply for scholarships during your first year of school to cover your second year.

Smaller MBA Scholarships

Experts also encourage prospective MBA students to go for smaller scholarships, which can add up. They sometimes are offered by departments within a business school.

“As part of your MBA application, most schools will consider you for a host of merit scholarships or fellowships,” says Candy Lee LaBalle, an MBA application consultant and owner of LaBalle Admissions. “Often all you need to do to be considered is click a box that says, ‘I would like to be considered.’”

A merit scholarship is "based on the strength, or merit, of your application," LaBalle explains. "So, the stronger your profile, the higher your chances to secure one of these. This is one reason to push as hard as you can for a top test score, either GMAT or GRE . It is a nice surprise when you get an admit from a school that includes a hefty scholarship award.”

Some schools consider applicants for scholarships if they write an additional essay as part of the application process.

“Definitely write these essays and give them as much care and consideration as you do to your general application essays,” LaBalle advises.

She says there are also many private scholarships available, although they can be difficult to track down because many are offered by small organizations and target specific demographic groups. She says one comprehensive listing of outside funding is curated by UCLA's Anderson School of Management .

"Don’t limit yourself to just one scholarship," she says. "Apply for as many relevant scholarships as possible. Remember that even smaller scholarships can add up and contribute to your overall funding.”

Some countries offer scholarships for their citizens that will cover full tuition, LaBalle adds, such as Spain's La Caixa and Indonesia’s Endowment Fund for Education.

More Tips For MBA Scholarship Seekers

Experts suggest paying careful attention to rules when applying for scholarships.

“Some scholarships, such as those from Fulbright , must be applied for well before you apply to an MBA," LaBalle says. "Others, you apply after you are admitted. Websites like Scholarships 360 and GoGrad provide comprehensive lists of MBA scholarships along with application details."

Keep track of application deadlines, required documents and follow-up steps so that your scholarship applications are complete and submitted before deadlines, LaBalle suggests.

Weeks, who says he helped clients win more than $2.5 million in scholarships in 2023, cautions that a scholarship from the school is seldom awarded based just on the application essay.

“Your whole application has to be good,” he says. “If you have a good profile overall – good GMAT score, good undergrad GPA, good work experience – you are more likely to get a scholarship on the basis that the school wants you to join.”

How to Find Money to Pay for an MBA

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Tags: MBAs , business school , graduate schools , scholarships , education , students

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The Morning

Baruch college, an upward-mobility machine.

The New York school is praised as a model college in a new report on diversity in higher education.

Inside the lobby of Baruch College.

By David Leonhardt

City College of New York often serves as a nostalgic symbol of American higher education’s past. The college did not charge tuition for decades, and its students, many of them poor, went on to become Nobel laureates, chief executives, civil rights leaders and more. By contrast, higher education today can seem both less accessible and less rigorous.

But it turns out that the school that occupies City College’s original 19th-century campus, on the East Side of Manhattan, has done a fine job of living up to its predecessor’s legacy.

That school is Baruch College, and it is an upward-mobility machine.

More than 60 percent of Baruch students receive Pell grants, which means they typically come from the bottom half of the income distribution. About 75 percent of undergraduates are people of color. The average annual cost of attending Baruch for low-income students is less than $2,000. And Baruch’s six-year graduation rate is 74 percent, well above the national average.

When I asked S. David Wu, an engineering scholar who is Baruch’s president, about City College’s original vision of educating the masses, he told me, “In many ways, Baruch is realizing that vision, but in a 21st-century way.”

In today’s newsletter, I’ll tell you about a new report that tracks how other colleges are doing.

A worrisome decline

After Michael Bloomberg finished being mayor of New York City in 2013, he turned his attention to philanthropy and decided that increasing economic diversity in higher education was a priority. “America needs to have as big a pool of talented, hard-working, well-educated people as it can possibly get,” Bloomberg told me.

His main program is known as the American Talent Initiative, and its goal is to persuade colleges with high graduation rates to diversify. This morning, the group released its latest report , and it praises Baruch as a model college.

“There are very few colleges in the country like Baruch,” said Josh Wyner of the Aspen Institute, which helps run the American Talent Initiative. Indeed, among all U.S. colleges with a graduation rate above 70 percent, Baruch may be the most economically diverse. It both holds down tuition costs and creates clear pathways for students to earn degrees, Wyner said.

Other parts of the new report, however, are worrisome.

Bloomberg’s group set a goal almost a decade ago: Lift the annual enrollment of low- and moderate-income students at colleges with high graduation rates by 50,000 — or roughly 10 percent. The group planned to do so partly by building a membership organization where colleges could share strategies.

Initially, the progress was impressive. Enrollment jumped by more than 20,000 in the initiative’s first three years, putting it comfortably on pace to achieve the goal within a decade.

But momentum stalled in 2019-20. The reasons weren’t completely clear, but I’ve noticed that economic diversity often declines when college administrators aren’t paying close attention. Other priorities — sports teams, fund-raising, U.S. News’s rankings — take over. Covid made the situation worse, by exacerbating K-12 inequality and preventing some lower-income students from making it to college.

By fall 2021, all the early progress had been erased. Enrollment of lower-income students at colleges with high graduation rates was slightly below its 2015 level.

In response, the initiative got tougher. To remain members, college now must commit to specific lower-income enrollment levels, rather than vaguely promising to make progress. A small number of colleges have since dropped out. Among them, according to public records, were Penn State and Virginia Tech, as well as several private schools, including Wake Forest, which is among the country’s least economically diverse colleges, and Denison, in Ohio.

( This Times feature lets you look up economic diversity at nearly 300 colleges.)

But 125 colleges remained, including the entire Ivy League and the flagship state universities in California, Michigan, Texas and Wisconsin. About 15 schools more have recently joined. Baruch is among them, as are Colorado College, Illinois State and Towson.

At these member schools, lower-income enrollment has fully recovered from its recent decline. Updated data isn’t available for the roughly 200 other colleges with a graduation rate of at least 70 percent, but their trend is unlikely to be so positive:

Successful strategies

The new report cities several promising strategies for lifting diversity, such as:

Reduce so-called merit aid , which tends to go to affluent students, and direct scholarships to students who demonstrate both academic excellence and financial need. Boston University has recently done so.

Recruit more transfers from community colleges , where top students from modest backgrounds often start . Central Florida, Dayton, George Mason and the University of California all emphasize community-college transfers, and Princeton recently started a program.

Help students navigate higher education . Its bureaucracy can be so maddening that it keeps students from graduating. In response, Baruch has created an office called BOSS — Baruch One Stop Shop — where students can get help enrolling in classes or filling out aid forms. The college has also created cohorts of first-year students who take classes together and can help one another.

Baruch’s mission, Wu told me, is to educate a student body that resembles society at large — and increase upward mobility as a result. “Our diversity,” he said, “very much reflects the diversity of New York.”

Some colleges will soon charge $100,000 a year. My colleague Ron Lieber explains how it happened.

President Biden will announce student debt relief for millions of borrowers in a Wisconsin speech.

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Metropolitan Diary: Best taxi ride in 50 years .

Lives Lived: Albert Heath was a virtuoso jazz drummer who collaborated with John Coltrane and Nina Simone. He died at 88 .

Women’s college basketball: South Carolina beat Iowa , 87-75, to win their second national title in three years. Iowa’s defeat comes days before Caitlin Clark is expected to be the No. 1 pick in the W.N.B.A. Draft.

A G.O.A.T.: Dawn Staley, South Carolina’s coach, thanked Clark for making women’s basketball more popular. “ She carried a heavy load ,” Staley said. Read about Clark’s collegiate career .

Men’s college basketball: John Calipari is nearing a deal to coach at Arkansas .

UConn: The Huskies face Zach Edey and Purdue with a chance to become the first repeat men’s college basketball national champions since Florida in 2006 and 2007.

ARTS AND IDEAS

“University Challenge”: The New Yorker Brandon Blackwell knew that if he wanted to have a career in competitive quizzing, he had to move to its epicenter: London.

Despite already having a degree, he applied to Imperial College London to get a visa. Then, he competed for the college on the Britain’s premier quiz show, “University Challenge.” Blackwell’s appearance on the show in 2020 turned him into a national figure and Imperial — which had not won the competition since 2001 — into a “University Challenge” powerhouse .

More on culture

The “3 Body Problem,” a Netflix show, has outraged people in China despite it being from the country. That highlights how censorship has shaped public opinion , Li Yuan writes.

For nearly two decades, a gang stole items from small U.S. museums , including Yogi Berra’s championship rings.

In the finale of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” Larry David essentially restaged the contentious “Seinfeld” ending, The Washington Post reports.

THE MORNING RECOMMENDS …

Finish any blend of cheese in your fridge with this quick stovetop mac and cheese .

Trick your brain to love running with these three tips .

Buy a gift for under $25 .

Keep your dog warm and dry on rainy days with a raincoat .

Take our news quiz .

Here is today’s Spelling Bee . Yesterday’s pangrams were curtain and taciturn .

And here are today’s Mini Crossword , Wordle , Sudoku , Connections and Strands .

Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David

Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox . Reach our team at [email protected] .

David Leonhardt runs The Morning , The Times’s flagship daily newsletter. Since joining The Times in 1999, he has been an economics columnist, opinion columnist, head of the Washington bureau and founding editor of the Upshot section, among other roles. More about David Leonhardt

IMAGES

  1. Lakeville Area students named 2022 National Merit Scholarship Finalists

    national merit scholarship finalist essay

  2. What is the national merit scholarship, and how do I apply?

    national merit scholarship finalist essay

  3. National Merit Scholarship

    national merit scholarship finalist essay

  4. Meet our amazing 2023 National Merit Scholar Semifinalists

    national merit scholarship finalist essay

  5. What is the national merit scholarship, and how do I apply?

    national merit scholarship finalist essay

  6. How To Write A National Merit Scholarship Essay

    national merit scholarship finalist essay

COMMENTS

  1. National Merit Finalist

    However, only Finalists are eligible for National Merit Scholarship awards. The online NMSC application is the same as your college application in some ways and different in other ways. Similarities. You must submit the following: Your academic record (transcript) SAT scores* Information about your activities and leadership roles; A personal essay

  2. PDF Information about the 2024 National Merit Scholarship Competition

    withdrawn from the competition. A Semifinalist can advance to Finalist standing and be considered for a National Merit Scholarship in only one specific annual competition. Initiated in 1955, the National Merit Scholarship Program is conducted by National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC®), a

  3. 22 Full-Ride Scholarships for National Merit Finalists

    The University of Alabama has an enticing offer for National Merit Finalists—free tuition and housing. The school also provides National Merit Finalists with a supplemental scholarship of $3,500 per year, a one-time $2,000 allowance for summer research or international study, and $500 annually for books. 12.

  4. The Magical 4.0-National Merit Finalist Essay

    The Magical 4.0. As I walked to the front of the class and began to read, I found it impossible to think; I could only read each word one at a time. It was the last day of finals, and I was presenting my narrative project to my English class. Only four days earlier, my dreams had been shattered. I had lost my 4.0.

  5. National Merit Scholarship Essay Example 1

    Scholarship Essays. MindSumo allows students to solve real-world projects from the world's largest companies. Build highly sought after skills and help fund your degree. Virtual Internships provides students and graduates guaranteed access to remote work placement opportunities in 70+ countries. MindSumo users receive a $100 discount on all ...

  6. National Merit Scholarship Program Explained

    The NMSP is a program administered by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation in cooperation with the College Board to recognize high achieving high school seniors. Some recognition levels are based purely on junior PSAT/NMSQT scores, while other levels have additional qualifications (explained below). The NMSC gives out approximately $50 ...

  7. How to Write a National Merit Essay

    You've cleared the first hurdle once you've become a semifinalist for the National Merit Scholarship Competition. Continuing to compete as a finalist means completing an application, which includes an essay. ... You can approach the National Merit Scholarship essay as you would any other scholarship essay. According to Kansas State ...

  8. How to Win a National Merit Scholarship

    3. Write a great essay. If you are a semifinalist, the National Merit Scholarship selection team will ask you to write a 600-650 word essay as part of the application to become a National Merit Scholar. Most years, the prompt for this essay is broad enough that students can write about almost anything.

  9. How to Become a National Merit Scholarship Finalist

    First, National Merit Scholarship Corporation will contact you if you make it that far. In order to become a Finalist, you must then: complete the National Merit Scholarship Application, which includes writing an essay. have a record of very high academic performance in all of grades 9 through 12 and in any college course work taken.

  10. National Merit Scholarship

    About the Scholarship. Opens: 8/1/2023. Closes: 10/1/2023. National Merit Scholarship Program provides financial assistance for college to high school seniors who achieve outstanding scores on standardized tests. Apply Now.

  11. National Merit Scholarship Corporation

    2023. July - September. NMSC is excited to announce the names of more than 16,000 Semifinalists in the 2024 National Merit® Scholarship Program. These academically talented high school seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,140 National Merit Scholarships worth nearly $28 million that will be offered next spring.

  12. The Complete Guide: Becoming a National Merit Finalist

    fill out an additional application, the "National Merit Finalist Application" write an essay; maintain a high GPA; Semifinalists receive a letter in the mail if they make it as a finalist and a "Certificate of Merit" printout. Scholarship finalist: Only 7,600 of the 15k finalists receive the $2,500 scholarship. As long as they confirm ...

  13. PDF Requirements and Instructions for Semifinalists in the 2024 National

    Consideration for a college-sponsored Merit Scholarship award is limited to Semifinalists who qualify as Finalists and who also: 1. report to NMSC that a sponsor college is their first choice (see Sponsors of National Merit Scholarships in the 2024 National Merit Scholarship Program); 2. have applied for admission to the sponsor college; and 3.

  14. National Merit Scholarship (How to Win It!): The Winner's Guide

    Between March and mid-June, 7,500 Finalists learn that they have been awarded Merit Scholarships. There are three types of scholarships: National Merit $2500 Scholarships: Every Finalist is considered for these single payment scholarships, which are awarded on a state-by-state basis. Selections are not based on financial circumstances, major or ...

  15. National Merit Scholarship Program

    The National Merit Scholarship Program is a United States academic scholarship competition for recognition and university scholarships. The program is managed by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation ... an essay written by the finalist; and a recommendation written by a high school official. NMSC's own funds support the majority of these ...

  16. National Merit Scholarship Corporation

    College-sponsored Merit Scholarships In the 2025 competition, it is expected that about 3,800 National Merit Scholarships will be offered to Finalists who plan to attend a sponsor college or university. (See the list of about 160 colleges that currently are Merit Scholarship sponsors, here.) A college-sponsored scholarship is renewable for up ...

  17. What Is the National Merit Scholarship Program?

    The National Merit Scholarship recognizes college-bound high school students with strong academic records. The scholarship program uses 11th graders' PSAT scores to select 50,000 high-scoring students. Fewer than 1 in 3 of those students will go on to become a scholarship finalist.

  18. national merit scholarship essay got me confused????

    Keep in mind that your chance of getting money depends a lot on your school choice -- for a college sponsored scholarship they aren't going to care about this essay. It's only for those $2500 ones straight from NMSC that the essay could make a difference between being a finalist and getting a scholarship. The reason half the finalists don't get ...

  19. Eight seniors named 2024 National Merit Finalists

    Eight seniors advanced as finalists in the 2024 National Merit Scholarship Program. The National Merit Scholarship Program (NMSP) is a nationwide academic competition and the largest of its kind.It is awarded based on academic talents and performance on the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT).Finalist standing is awarded to 15,000 students annually, representing less than one percent ...

  20. National Merit Scholarship Corporation

    Semifinalists must fulfill several requirements, which are provided in the information they receive with their scholarship applications. These include completing an application, having a consistently very high academic record, writing an essay, being endorsed and recommended by a school official, and taking the SAT ® or ACT ® and earning a score that confirms the PSAT/NMSQT performance.

  21. National Merit Scholarship

    National Merit Scholarship finalists are selected based on their academic records, the recommendations provided by school officials, demonstrated leadership and participation in school and community activities, and the finalist's own essay. ... Write a Compelling Essay: The scholarship application requires an essay. Use this opportunity to ...

  22. What's up with the National Merit essay? : r/ApplyingToCollege

    About 2500 scholarships come straight from NMSC (the $2500 ones) -- so that's a competitive process where your essay would matter. Another 1000 scholarships or so go through corporate sponsors - lots of those relate to whether your parent works for a company. The rest of the scholarships go out through the school sponsors.

  23. Odessa High School senior named National Merit Scholarship Finalist

    Apr. 4—Ector County ISD has announced that Odessa High School senior Anika Gundlapalli has earned National Merit Scholarship Finalist status, meaning she ranks among the top 1/2 -percent of the ...

  24. MBA Scholarships That Can Help Pay for Business School

    Weeks, who says he helped clients win more than $2.5 million in scholarships in 2023, cautions that a scholarship from the school is seldom awarded based just on the application essay. "Your ...

  25. PDF Semifinalists in the National Merit Scholarship Program

    From over 16,000 Semifinalists, more than 15,000 are expected to advance to the Finalist level, and in February they will be notified of this designation. All National Merit Scholarship winners will be selected from this group of Finalists. Merit Scholar designees are selected on the basis of their skills, accomplishments, and potential for ...

  26. Baruch College, an Upward-Mobility Machine

    Reduce so-called merit aid, which tends to go to affluent students, and direct scholarships to students who demonstrate both academic excellence and financial need. Boston University has recently ...