National Merit Scholarship Program

You constantly hear about highly ranked athletes being recruited by colleges on full ride (tuition + all expenses) scholarships. So what about students who are academically competitive? Do they get any scholarships for attending college? The National Merit Scholarship (NMSC)program is one such program for students who achieve high scores in standardized tests. The eligibility to this program is based on PSAT scores. Read more about the program here.

Students who fall under the top 1% in each state, based on their PSAT scores, qualify to be a semi finalist. Read about score cut offs for each state here. So if you reside in a highly competitive sate like Massachusetts it might not be easy to make the cut, but most other states have a lower cut off.

When you visit the NMSC website, you will also see a list of colleges and corporates sponsoring the different scholarship amounts (see here). It is disappointing to see that the scholarship amounts offered are vey low, $500-$2000 per year. We we know that an out of state public college can run around $50,000 per year. What most high school counselors won’t tell you is that there is more to the program than what you see on the NMSC website. Colleges want to fill their classes with a diverse groups of students, not just good athletes. They are also trying to attract students who can achieve high academic success. So different colleges offer different programs to attract National Merit scholarship semi finalists and finalists. You will need to do a lot of research to find these offers. For example, UT Dallas offers a full ride scholarships for NSMC finalists + some stipends. This can be found on their web site here. Similarly, many colleges offer partial tuition to NMSC semifinalists.

If you are a high school junior this fall and a good test taker, spend some time this summer prepping for the PSAT in October. Based on which state you live in, you can be eligible for scholarships up to $200,000 for a four year, out of state college. Isn’t spending a few hours during this summer prepping for PSAT worth it?


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