Perhaps you’ve heard of The National Merit Scholarship Program and wonder what you need to do to apply. If so, that’s what this episode of the Scholarship Shark Podcast is all about.  The NMSP is an academic scholarship competition administered by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC), which is a privately funded, not-for-profit organization. This program began in 1955 and currently around 1.5 million students from 22,000 high schools enter the competition each year. On this episode, I explain how to apply for the National Merit Scholarship and break down the process step by step.

There is only one way to be considered for the National Merit Scholarship.

Students all over the United States would love to be considered for the National Merit Scholarship, but many of them don’t know exactly how to go about getting into the race. It’s not really that hard. All students who take the PSAT (Preliminary SAT – also known as the NMSQT – National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) are screened by their test results, so taking the test is the first step. The highest scoring test takers become the semi-finalists, who then have to complete a detailed scholarship application. I walk through the details carefully in this episode so be sure you take the time to listen.

Here are the entry requirements for the National Merit Scholarship.

Any student who is a U.S. Citizen and is enrolled full-time as a high school student, progressing toward completion of high school and intending to enter college the fall following their high school graduation is eligible to apply for the National Merit Scholarship. But they need to be sure to take the PSAT/NMSQT their JUNIOR or 11th-grade year. After those tests are scored, selection of semi-finalists is revealed during the Senior year of high school. Some of the semi-finalists will move on to the final round of consideration. Roughly 7,500 students will be awarded the final scholarship, which totals nearly $35 million in award money. Learn more about this prestigious scholarship, on this episode.

You can still participate in the National Merit Scholarship if you’re graduating High School early.

These days many students finish high school early due to dual enrollment programs between their local school district and colleges. While it’s an advantage to finish up high school early, it puts a different spin on qualifying for the National Merit Scholarship. If you are graduating high school early you will need to take the PSAT before you enroll in college – either the year you plan to graduate or the year prior to graduation. It can be difficult to know exactly how to time your test so listen to this episode to hear how I recommend you approach it.

More is needed for college admissions than scoring well on the National Merit Scholarship.

Some students believe that if they are awarded the National Merit Scholarship, colleges are going to automatically approve their application for admission, but that’s not the case. Every college has its own admission qualifications, most requiring a good score on the ACT and many also requiring the SAT. There’s more than simply being awarded the NMS. On this episode, I highlight what you need to do in order to make your best application for college, so I hope you listen.

On this episode of the podcast

  • [0:15] What IS the National Merit Scholarship?
  • [0:58] How to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship. (for Juniors, with tips for Sophomores)
  • [2:36] Why does a High School Junior want to take the PSAT?
  • [4:49] What are the differences between the PSAT and the SAT?
  • [5:25] Homeschool students can take the PSAT – here’s how to go about it.
  • [6:36] What if you’re graduating college early? Can you participate in the National Merit Scholarship?
  • [8:04] The process for qualifying for the National Merit Scholarship Competition.
  • [13:28] What does it mean to score well on the National Merit Scholarship?
  • [14:02] An email with a question about when to begin applying for financial aid.
  • [16:33] Opportunities for you to hear me speak.

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