national merit scholarship

National Merit Scholarship 2024: Everything You Need to Know

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National Merit Scholarship – When thinking about college entrance, “National,” “Merit,” and “Scholarship” all seem very attractive. Even better when you understand that you have already applied for this prize just by taking the PSAT in the fall of your junior year!

Yet, it can’t be that simple. In spite of the fact that the PSAT was taken by more than 4.5 million high school juniors in 2021, the National Merit Scholarship only chose 7,500 finalists. It amounts to less than 5% of the total.

How can a high school student qualify for the National Merit Scholarship? What is the National Merit Scholarship in detail? What does the admissions process signify for your prospects at prestigious colleges? Does receiving National Merit designation have advantages besides the original scholarship opportunity?

Continue reading to learn how to be eligible for a National Merit Scholarship, how to comprehend the application procedure, and how to increase your chances of winning.

national merit scholarship


The National Merit Scholarship Program: What Is It?

An annual scholarship competition for college freshmen is held under the auspices of the National Merit Scholarship Program (NMSP). The National Merit Scholarship Company is in charge of organizing this scholarship (NMSC).

The National Merit Scholarship Program’s principal objective is to recognize and reward gifted high school students in the USA and to inspire them to undertake challenging college coursework.

In 1955, the National Merit Scholarship was created. The organization behind this scholarship, NMSC, is a privately funded non-profit that runs independently from the US government.

Any high school students in the USA who satisfy the conditions to participate are eligible to enter the tournament. The Scholarship recipients are selected based on their aptitudes, competencies, and achievements.

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National merit scholarship Requirements

You must fulfill the requirements listed below in order to apply for the NMSP 2024;

Be enrolled in high school, making regular progress toward graduation or finishing high school, and intending to enroll full-time in college by the fall after finishing high school.
regardless of grade classification or educational pattern, take the PSAT/NMSQT in the designated high school program year and no later than the third year in grades 9 through 12, and
either finish high school in the United States, the District of Columbia, or one of the US commonwealths or territories, or satisfy the citizenship requirements for students who are studying abroad.

A student attending high school outside of the United States must be a citizen of the United States or a lawful permanent resident of the United States (or have applied for permanent residence, and the application has not been denied), and they must intend to become a citizen of the United States at the earliest opportunity permitted by law in order to be eligible for the 2024 National Merit Scholarship Program (NMSP).


Submitting a National Merit Scholarship application

By passing the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQ) and fulfilling other program entry requirements, you can apply for the National Merit Program Scholarship. The test is sponsored jointly by NMSC and College Board and is given every fall.

The PSAT/NMSQT is used by NMSC as the initial screening test for a sizable number of applicants. The entry method for a particular year’s competition is the test. For entry into the 2024 National Merit Program, for instance, the 2020 PSAT/NMSQT was used. Most participants in the 2024 program will start college in the fall of 2024.

The competition for 2024 begins with the announcement of Semifinalists in September 2021 and ends with the announcement of NMS winners and the release of their names to the media in the spring of 2024. The PSAT/NMSQT administration in the fall of 2020 marks the start of the 2024 program, which lasts until the spring of 2024. Each competition lasts approximately 1.5 years.



Different types of Awards

Each year, three different types of NM undergraduate scholarships are made available, including:

  • $2500 National Merit Scholarships (25,000 scholarships are available.)
  • scholarships provided by colleges (Number of scholarships offered: 2,100)
  • Scholarships funded by corporations (Number of scholarships offered:4,100)

While the first two are solely available to finalists, corporate-sponsored awards may be given to finalists alone or to other deserving students through special scholarships.

national merit scholarship


Key Dates in 2024

February 1                 Certificates of Merit for Finalists mailed to principals.

February 8                Notification of advancement to Finalist standing mailed to Semifinalists’ home addresses.

March 10                  Mailing begins of corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship® awards and Special Scholarships to winners at their home addresses and confidential notices to their principals.

March 25                 Mailing of National Merit® $2500 Scholarships to winners at their home addresses and confidential notices to their principals.

May 3                     Mailing begins of college-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards to winners at their home addresses and confidential notices to their principals.

Mid-May                 Finalists not chosen to receive a National Merit Scholarship are notified at their home addresses. Candidates not chosen as Special Scholarship winners are also notified.

April 21                  Corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship winners

May 12                  National Merit $2500 Scholarship winners

June 2                   College-sponsored Merit Scholarship winners

July 12                  Additional college-sponsored Merit Scholarship winners. A few additional National                              Merit $2500 Scholarship winners and corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship recipients will be announced individually during the summer.

April 1                   Postmark the deadline for students who missed taking the 2020 psat/nmsqt to request consideration for alternate entry to the 2024 National Merit Program

Mid-April               High school principals are notified if any of their students are among the 50,000 entrants with the highest psat/nmsqt

Early September   Principals are notified of their Semifinalists in the 2024 National Merit Scholarshipncompetition.


What Grade Must You Get To Be A Semifinalist For A National Merit Scholarship?

Once student test results are received, each state’s cutoff score for that particular year is calculated based on the predetermined number of Semifinalists for that state. For instance, in order to be considered a Semifinalist, you would need a Selection Index score of 223 if you reside in California and took the PSAT in October 2017.

Your Reading, Writing, Lane, and Arithmetic Test results are added together to get your Selection Index score, which is then multiplied by two (2). This figure might change not just by state but also by year. Less than 1% of high school students proceed to become Semifinalists, regardless of the precise cutoff for your state; all students who qualify receive outstanding marks.

If you have a score report, look at it. Your three test results must be added up and multiplied by two to determine your selection index. If you qualify, The College Board also puts this on your report.

Link To Merit Scholarship Website


Rating on the National Merit Scholarship Selection Index

The NMSC determines your final score after you take the PSAT. Each year, they compute selection index scores to assess PSAT results. Here is a list of the PSAT/NMSQT cutoff scores from last year. Find yours to understand how competitive the National Merit Scholarship Competition will be in your area as these selection index ratings differ by state:

STATE                                            SELECTION INDEX SCORE

Alabama                                              216

Alaska                                                213

Arizona                                               219

Arkansas                                             214

California                                            222

Colorado                                             220

Connecticut                                         221

Delaware                                            220

DC                                                     223

Florida                                               219

Georgia                                              220

Hawaii                                               219

Idaho                                                215

Illinois                                               221

Indiana                                             218

Iowa                                                 215

Kansas                                              218

Kentucky                                           218

Louisiana                                           215

Maine                                                215

Maryland                                            222

Massachusetts                                     223

Michigan                                             219

Minnesota                                           219

Mississippi                                           214

Missouri                                              217

Montana                                             214

Nebraska                                            216

Nevada                                               218

New Hampshire                                    218

New Jersey                                          223

New Mexico                                         213

New York                                             221

North Carolina                                      219

North Dakota                                        212

Ohio                                                    218

Oklahoma                                            214

Oregon                                                220

Pennsylvania                                         220

Rhode Island                                         218

South Carolina                                       215

South Dakota                                         214

Tennessee                                             219

Texas                                                    221

Utah                                                      215

Vermont                                                 216

Virginia                                                  222

Washington                                            222

West Virginia                                          212

Wisconsin                                              216

Wyoming                                               212

Average Score                                        218

According to the data above, the typical cutoff score is 218; however, depending on where you live, you may be able to get by with a lower score if you live in Wyoming or Iowa and a higher score if you live in Massachusetts, New Jersey, or Washington, D.C. In general, scoring 4-5 points above the typical cutoff score for your state greatly increases your chances of making the Semifinals.

One of the most prestigious scholarships available to college students is the National Merit Scholarship. Participating in the National Merit program has some additional advantages besides the chance to win a National Merit Scholarship.

A strong indicator of your academic excellence to include in your application is achieving the status of Commended Student or Semifinalist, which may allow you to apply for Special Scholarships.

Consequently, we urge you to treat this application process seriously. Do a lot of research, and if you run into problems with your application, don’t forget to use the comment form below.


national merit scholarship


Common Questions Regarding National Merit Scholarship

How does a student in high school apply for a National Merit Scholarship?

A high school student must take the PSAT/NMSQT® at a nearby high school or other authorized location in the designated high school year and satisfy the NMSC’s published program participation requirements in order to be eligible to compete. For more information, see “How to Enter the Competition”.

Are sophomores who take the PSAT/NMSQT required to retake it?

Yes, provided that the student completes grades 9 through 12 in the customary four years.

Can a student who is homeschooled take the PSAT/NMSQT?

Yes, but the test must be administered at a local high school or approved location. Contact the principal or guidance counselor well in advance of the test day to make arrangements to take the PSAT/NMSQT at that school.

What if a student misses the PSAT/NMSQT?

A student who misses the PSAT/NMSQT test due to illness, an emergency, or other extenuating circumstance, but meets all other requirements for NMSC program participation, may still be able to enter the competition.

How can students tell whether they have met entry requirements?

Students should check their PSAT/NMSQT Score Reports to see whether an asterisk appears next to their Selection Index scores. If an asterisk is present, then the student does not meet the entry requirements for the National Merit Scholarship Program. Students should compare their responses on the Entry Requirements section of their score reports to those listed on the National Merit Scholarship Program page.

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