National Merit Scholarship
National Merit Scholarship Program
The National Merit® Scholarship Program is an academic competition for recognition and scholarships that began in 1955. High school students enter the National Merit Program by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®)–a test which serves as an initial screen of more than 1.5 million entrants each year–and by meeting published program entry/participation requirements.
Student Entry Requirements
To participate in the National Merit® Scholarship Program, a student must:
- 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;
- 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
- 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.
The student’s responses to items on the PSAT/NMSQT answer sheet that are specific to NMSC program entry determine whether the individual meets requirements to participate in the National Merit Scholarship Program. Click here to see NMSC program entry items on the PSAT/NMSQT answer sheet. Score reports provided for test takers and their schools indicate whether the student meets program entry requirements. A school official or the student should report immediately to NMSC any error or change in reported information that may affect participation.
Of the 1.5 million entrants, some 50,000 with the highest PSAT/NMSQT® Selection Index scores (critical reading + mathematics + writing skills scores) qualify for recognition in the National Merit®Scholarship Program. In April following the fall test administration, high-scoring participants from every state are invited to name two colleges or universities to which they would like to be referred by NMSC. In September, these high scorers are notified through their schools that they have qualified as either a Commended Student or Semifinalist.