The National Merit Scholarship Program is an academic competition for recognition and scholarships.

It began in 1955 to honor academically talented U.S. high school students and encourage them to pursue postsecondary education.

About The National Merit Scholarship Program

The program is open to all U.S. high school students who take the PSAT/NMSQT in their third year of high school (grade 11). The selection index score from the PSAT/NMSQT is used to determine which students qualify for recognition and scholarships.

About 1.5 million students take the PSAT/NMSQT each year. From this group, 50,000 students with the highest scores qualify for recognition in the National Merit Scholarship Program. Of these high scorers, 16,000 are named Semifinalists based on their PSAT/NMSQT scores and other factors. Semifinalists must fulfill additional requirements to advance to Finalist standing. About 15,000 advance to Finalists.

  • Finalists compete for National Merit Scholarships totaling nearly $30 million. Scholarships are sponsored by corporations, colleges, universities, and other organizations.
  • The types of scholarships awarded include:
  • National Merit $2,500 Scholarships: Awarded to Finalists based on abilities, skills, and interests.
  • Corporate-sponsored scholarships: Provided by about 200 corporations and business organizations for children of their employees or members.
  • College-sponsored scholarships: Offered by about 180 colleges and universities for students who plan to attend the sponsor institution.

Important Dates and Deadlines for the 2024 NMSP

The National Merit Scholarship Program (NMSP) has important dates and deadlines you’ll need to be aware of to be considered for an award in 2023.

1. Registration

The first step is to register for the 2023 PSAT/NMSQT which will be administered in October 2022. Registration opens in the summer and the sooner you sign up the better. This exam acts as the initial screen of program entrants.

2. Qualifying Scores

In September 2024, NMSC will determine the qualifying selection index score for each state based on the scores of all students who took the PSAT/NMSQT. If your score meets or exceeds your state’s qualifying score, you’ll be invited to enter the 2024 NMSP competition as a Semifinalist.

3. Semifinalist Notification

If selected as a Semifinalist in September 2023, you’ll receive a notification from your high school and an Official Letter of Commendation from NMSC in the mail. You must then submit an application to advance to Finalist standing.

  • The Semifinalist application which includes an essay, self-description, and high school report will be available on the NMSC website in October 2024.
  • The application deadline for Semifinalists is typically in late October. No extensions will be granted, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to complete all required forms.

4. Finalist Notification

In February 2024, NMSC will notify high schools of Finalists in the competition. If selected as a Finalist, you’ll receive an Official Letter of Commendation in the mail from NMSC. Roughly half of all Finalists will be selected to receive Merit Scholarship awards.

Eligibility Requirements for the National Merit Scholarships

To be eligible for the National Merit Scholarship Program, you must meet several basic requirements.

1. Be a high school student (grades 9-12)

You must be enrolled as a high school student in the U.S., U.S. territories, or select schools abroad during the 2023 academic year. Both public and private school students are eligible to participate.

2. Take the PSAT/NMSQT

All students must take the PSAT/NMSQT exam during their junior year of high school to potentially qualify as a National Merit Scholarship recipient. The scores from this standardized test are used to determine National Merit Scholarship semifinalists. Registration for the PSAT/NMSQT opens in August for the October test. There is a small registration fee, though fee waivers are available for those who qualify based on financial need.

3. Meet minimum PSAT/NMSQT score requirements

To become a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist, students must achieve a minimum PSAT/NMSQT score that varies each year. The scores required to qualify as a semifinalist are determined based on the scores of all students who take the PSAT/NMSQT across the country. The nationwide cut-off scores are set by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. Students will be notified through their schools in September of their senior year if they qualify as a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist.

4. Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen

You must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. lawful permanent resident (green card holder), or have DACA status to qualify for most National Merit Scholarships. Students with pending green cards or DACA applications are not eligible. Certain college-sponsored National Merit Scholarships may have different citizenship requirements. Check with the specific colleges you are interested in for their guidelines.

5. Plan to enroll in college full-time

You must intend to enroll in a U.S. college or university as an undergraduate student full-time in the fall following your senior year of high school. Winners of National Merit Scholarships must attend an accredited U.S. college or university. Most scholarships do not restrict which field of study or major you choose.

READ ALSO- How to apply for Hagan Scholarship in USA 2024

Conclusion

By meeting these eligibility criteria, you’ll have the opportunity to compete for prestigious National Merit Scholarships worth thousands of dollars. Staying focused on your grades, taking challenging courses, and preparing thoroughly for the PSAT/NMSQT can help set you up for success.

With hard work and persistence, you have a chance to become one of the select high school students chosen as a recipient.

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