National Merit Scholarship – What It Is & How To Apply

National Merit Scholarship – Are you a high school student residing in the United States and looking for a way to pursue further education without resorting to student loans and potential debt?

Consider exploring scholarship opportunities, and one notable option is the National Merit Scholarship.

National Merit Scholarship - What It Is & How To Apply

The National Merit Scholarship Program is an annual competition designed for high school students gearing up for college.

Eligibility for this scholarship requires students to take the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) or NMS Qualifying Test (NMSQT), usually given in their junior year.

This academic competition offers students the chance for recognition and the opportunity to qualify for scholarships based on their PSAT scores.

What Is The National Merit Scholarship?

In simple terms, it is a scholarship program that is available to high school students in the US. It is also available to students who are in the District of Columbia or U.S. territories.

Every year, recognized students who have exceptional scores on their PSATs are given a scholarship by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

However, the scholarship does not only come from the National Scholarship Corporation itself; it also comes from colleges, universities, corporations, and organizations as well.

How Does The National Merit Scholarship Work?

The process is easy to understand. But first, you need to know that the PSAT and NMSQT exams are taken every year.

Once the exams have been taken and scored, the NMSC will then calculate the annual selection index scores.

50,000 applicants with the highest selection index scores will qualify for the scholarship. However, the high schools will notify the students if they qualify for this scholarship as a semifinalist or as a commended student.

Who Is Eligible To Receive The NMS?

Most high school students in the US do not know that they are eligible for this scholarship. Also, if you have already taken the preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test, then you are eligible for the scholarship.

Types of National Merit Scholarships

There are different types of national merit scholarships, and before you apply, you need to know each one of them. Let’s take a look at the different types of NMS.

College-sponsored National Merit Scholarships

This is a multi-year, renewable scholarship. It is awarded by universities and colleges to students who will attend their school.

Corporate-sponsored National Merit Scholarship

This scholarship is awarded by private corporations and businesses. It is reserved for employees’ kids, and it is also a one-time or extendable scholarship.

National Merit $2,500 Scholarships

This is a one-time scholarship given by the NMS Corporation to students who have done exceptionally well in their academics and meet all the eligibility requirements.

National Merit Special Scholarships

The Special Scholarship is a one-time or extendable scholarship that is awarded by private corporations and businesses to exceptional students. The scholarship is given to students who are not finalists for the $2,500 scholarship.


There are certain requirements you must meet before you can apply for or qualify for this scholarship.

Aside from taking the preliminary student aptitude test and the national merit scholarship qualifying test, several other criteria also apply. They include:

  • You have to be enrolled in high school full-time.
  • You must have the intention of going to college the fall semester after you graduate.
  • Students have to earn a PSAT/NMSQT score in the top 1% of their state.
  • Students have to take the PSAT/NMSQT test before the 12th.

Finally, you must have good academic performance, and you must ensure that your grades reflect strong academic performance.

How Can I Qualify for the National Merit Scholarship?

To qualify for NMS, you first have to take the PSAT. The preliminary SAT is usually taken in the junior year, so do not forget to take this test.

Aside from taking the test in your junior year, you can only qualify for this scholarship when you take the test in your third year of high school.

If you earn a good score, you will be qualified for formal recognition or scholarship consideration. Note: You might be asked to complete an application, but this will only be necessary if you have been declared a semifinalist.

How Can I Apply For The National Merit Scholarship?

It’s a simple and direct process. Semifinalists who scored in the top one percent of tests in their state will be notified by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

Upon receiving the notification, you’ll also get instructions on accessing your applicant portal to complete the remaining application steps.

This includes obtaining an endorsement from your school principal or another administrator and confirming your SAT or ACT scores.

Frequently Asked Questions

What PSAT Score Do I Need To Qualify for the National Merit Scholarship?

The scores needed for this scholarship are not fixed; they vary each year and are influenced by the state in which you reside.

How Can I Increase My Chances Of Earning This Scholarship?

To improve your likelihood of receiving this scholarship, it’s essential to start preparing early. In addition to practice tests, early commencement is crucial.

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