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How High School Students Can Qualify for National Merit Scholarships

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Newspapers across the country have been running stories featuring local students that were selected as semifinalists for the 2011 National Merit Scholarships.

National Merit Scholarships are awarded to approximately 8,400 finalists who are notified of their achievement between March and June.

National Merit Scholarship Corporation

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation is an independent, non-profit organization that operates without government assistance. It has earned a reputation for quality and integrity, and their goals have remained constant since the organization’s beginning in 1955:

  • Identify and honor academically talented U.S. high school students
  • Stimulate increased support for their education
  • Provide efficient and effective scholarship program management for organizations that wish to sponsor college undergraduate scholarships

Types of National Merit Scholarship Awards

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation awards three types of Merit Scholarships:

  • National Merit $2500 Scholarships Each finalist competes for these single payment scholarships, which are awarded on a state representational basis. Winners are selected without consideration of family financial circumstances, college choice, or major and career plans.
  • Corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards Corporate sponsors designate their awards for children of their employees or members, for residents of a community where a company has operations, or for Finalists with career plans the sponsor wishes to encourage. These scholarships may either be renewable for four years of undergraduate study or one-time awards.
  • College-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards Officials of each sponsor college select winners of their awards from Finalists who have been accepted for admission and have informed NMSC by the published deadlines that the sponsor college or university is their first choice. These awards are renewable for up to four years of undergraduate study.

Additionally, each year up to 1,300 outstanding National Merit Program participants that were not recognized as finalists receive Special Scholarships provided by corporations and business organizations. In order to be considered for a Special Scholarship, students must meet the sponsor’s criteria and entry requirements of the National Merit Scholarship Program and submit an entry form to the sponsor organization.

National Merit Scholarship Program Participation Info

According to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation website, if a high school student wishes to participate in the National Merit Scholarship Program, they must:

  • Take the PSAT/NMSQT in the specified year of the high school program and no later than the third year in grades 9 through 12
  • Be enrolled as a high school student progressing normally toward graduation or completion of high school and planning to enroll full time in college no later than the fall following completion of high school
  • Be a citizen of the United States or be a U.S. lawful permanent resident (or have applied for permanent residence, the application for which has not been denied) and intend to become a U.S. citizen at the earliest opportunity allowed by law

The PSAT/NMSQT is an exam co-sponsored by the College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

It is a standardized test which gives students a chance to enter the National Merit Scholarship Corporation scholarship programs and receive information from colleges yet also serves as practice for the SAT and measures critical reading skills, math problem solving skills and writing skills.


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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