National Merit Scholarship Program for Students


There are many ways a student can compare themselves to other students across the country: AP exams, the SAT and the ACT. But the test that students are required to take freshman year allows them to apply for one of the most prestigious scholarships for high school students in the country.

The National Merit Scholarship Program has been running since 1955. Every high school student actually applies for the NMSC, even if they do not realize it.

By taking the Practice SAT, students automatically open up the opportunity for them to apply for the NMSC. But of the 1.6 million students who take the PSAT, only the top 50,000 with the highest scores are given the chance to get the scholarship, which is is $2500.

Senior Grace Lee was one of the student selected to get a chance at winning the NMSC.

“I knew I had a score that that was pretty high so I had a decent chance, but then also I didn’t want to assume anything,” Lee said, “because when you assume anything, you open yourself up to being disappointed later.”

Lee is one of  students who is being considered for the scholarship. The other students are Dylan Green, Quincey Pyatt, Nicholas Jager, Jayanth Tatikonda, Emily Padgett, Sophie Pollack-Milgate and Sophie Opferman.

Once the initial 50,000 are selected, they are narrowed down to 16,000 semi finalists in September. The students vying for the scholarship are then asked to take and submit their SAT scores to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

Then, on Feb. 11, the students who had become finalists are notified of their status.

The six students previously listed have made it past the the semi final stage and are finalists.

Then, between March and June 2019, the finalists are given one of three different types of scholarships.

Some get the straight $2500 scholarship. This is given without considering where the students want to go to college or what their family’s financial status is, but there is a limit for the number of scholarships that can be given to students in each state.

Other competitors receive the Corporate-Sponsored Merit scholarship.

This is awarded to students who are children of a company’s employees, or students who wish to pursue careers in fields that the companies want to encourage. This is a scholarship that can be a one-time award, or renewable over four years.

The final kind of scholarship is the College-Sponsored Merit scholarship.

This is given to students by their first-choice universities. But, the competitors must have notified NMSC and their first-choice universities that they have accepted their offers and that those universities are, in fact, their first choice.

This can come from any university in the world, whether it is the smallest of liberal arts schools or an internationally known university.

“I want to go to a college in California,” said Lee, “Stanford.”

-Ian McCormick