The National Merit® Scholarship Program is an academic competition for recognition and scholarships conducted with the PSAT administered every Fall to high school juniors.
Of the 1.6 million entrants, only about 50,000 (3%) with the highest PSAT/NMSQT® Selection Index scores (calculated by doubling the sum of the Reading, Writing and Language, and Math Test scores) qualify for recognition in the National Merit® Scholarship Program. In September, these high scorers are notified through their schools that they have qualified as either a Commended Student or Semifinalist.
- Commended students- In late September, more than two-thirds (about 34,000) of the approximately 50,000 high scorers on the PSAT/NMSQT® receive Letters of Commendation in recognition of their outstanding academic promise.
- Semifinalist students-In early September, about 16,000 students, or approximately one-third of the 50,000 high scorers, are notified that they have qualified as Semifinalists.
- Finalists- In February, some 15,000 Semifinalists are notified by mail at their home addresses that they have advanced to Finalist standing.
Types of Merit Scholarships
Beginning in March and continuing to mid-June, NMSC notifies approximately 7,500 Finalists at their home addresses that they have been selected to receive a Merit Scholarship award. Merit Scholarship awards are of three types:
- National Merit® $2,500 Scholarships
Every 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.
Texas colleges vary drastically about the amount of financial aid awarded to National Merit Finalists:
- Abilene Christian University and Baylor University offer scholarships to cover the cost of tuition only. Students would still pay for fees, room and board.
- University of Dallas also provides a scholarship to cover the cost of tuition only, but this scholarship is limited to 20 students.
- Texas A&M University offers a scholarship worth $33,000 over all four years (less than the cost of tuition).
- University of Houston‘s scholarship covers the cost of tuition and fees, plus provides $1,000 for research and $2,000 for study abroad.
- UT Dallas provides a scholarship to cover full tuition and fees, plus $28,000 in stipends for other expenses (room and board or study abroad). Students are also guaranteed admissions to the honors program.
- Texas Tech University provides a scholarship to cover the entire cost of attendance (tution, fees, plus room and board).
Other notable programs:
- Auburn University– Full tution and on-campus housing for first year
- University of Alabama– Full tution, one year of housing, + $17,000 stipend
- University of Arizona– for residents- $72,000 + $1,500 for study abroad
- For non-residents- Scholarship between $44,000 and $92,000 depending on GPA and test scores