National Achievement Scholarship Program

The National Achievement® Scholarship Program is an academic competition established in 1964 to provide recognition for outstanding Black American high school students. Black students may enter both the National Achievement Program and the National Merit® Program by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®) and meeting other published requirements for participation. The two annual programs are conducted concurrently but operated and funded separately. A student’s standing is determined independently in each program. Black American students can qualify for recognition and be honored as Scholars in both the National Merit Program and the National Achievement Program, but can receive only one monetary award from NMSC.

Student Entry Requirements

To participate in the National Achievement® Scholarship Program, a student must:

  1. take the PSAT/NMSQT® in the specified year of the high school program and no later than the third year in grades 9 through 12, regardless of grade classification or educational pattern;
  2. request entry to the National Achievement Program by marking Section 14 on the PSAT/NMSQT answer sheet, thereby identifying himself or herself as a Black American who wishes to be considered in this competition as well as in the National Merit® Scholarship Program;
  3. be enrolled as a high school student, progressing normally toward graduation or completion of high school, and planning to enroll full time in college no later than the fall following completion of high school; and
  4. be a citizen of the United States; or be a U.S. lawful permanent resident (or have applied for permanent residence, the application for which has not been denied) and intend to become a U.S. citizen at the earliest opportunity allowed by law.

Information supplied by the student on the PSAT/NMSQT answer sheet determines whether the individual meets requirements for participation in the National Achievement Program. Click here to see NMSC program entry items on the PSAT/NMSQT answer sheet, including the section Black American students must mark to request consideration in the National Achievement Program. A school official or the student should report immediately to NMSC any error or change in reported information that may affect participation.

Program Recognition

Of the more than 160,000 students who currently enter the National Achievement® Program each year, over 4,700 are honored. A group of about 3,100 Outstanding Participants are referred to colleges for their potential for academic success. A smaller group of about 1,600 are named Semifinalists, the only students who have an opportunity to advance in the competition for National Achievement Scholarships.