National Merit Scholarships

"National Merit Scholarships" submitted by SchoolGrantsfor Editorial Team and last updated on Friday 22nd July 2011

The National Merit Scholarship Program is a United States academic scholarship competition for recognition and college scholarships administered by National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC), a privately funded, not-for-profit organization. The program began in 1955. NMSC conducts two annual competitions for recognition and scholarships: the National Merit Scholarship Program, which is open to all students who meet entry requirements, and the National Achievement Scholarship Program in which only African American students participate. Each year a total of approximately 10,500 scholarships are awarded through NMSC programs. The corporation's headquarters are located in Evanston, Illinois.

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation awards more than 9,000 scholarships each year, ranging from $500 to $10,000. Taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test in the fall of your junior year in high school will enter you in the competition. Plus, the PSAT is a chance to practice for the SAT.

Not all colleges participate in the National Merit scholarship program. However, it is a great honor to be a National Merit Semifinalist and to compete for National Merit Scholarships. Colleges are very interested in students who are National Merit Semifinalists. Student who are National Merit Semifinalists have an opportunity to compete for National Merit Scholarships. The student must take a SAT test and send a letter of recommendation from their counselor. This information will be mailed to qualified student.

Of the 1.5 million entrants, about 50,000 qualify for recognition. More than two-thirds of those qualified receive Letters of Commendation; about a third of the 50,000 become Semifinalists, about 94% of whom go on to become Finalists. Over half of the Finalists are selected to receive scholarships underwritten by corporations and business organizations, colleges and universities, and by NMSC with its own funds.

This year approximately 1.5 million juniors in some 22.000 high schools across the country entered the 2011 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. This test served as an initial screening of program entrants. The program is highly competitive and identifies the top 50,000 students whose scores qualify them for recognition. Approximately 34,000 high performers have been named Commended Students throughout the nation. Some 16,000 high school seniors have the opportunity to continue in the competition for some 8,400 National Merit Scholarships, worth more than $36 million.

To become a Finalist, Semifinalists must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by the high school principal, and earn SAT scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test. They must also submit a detailed scholarship application, which includes an essay and information about the Semifinalist's participation and leadership in school and community activities.

See your high school counselor or go to to learn more.