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Many students take the PSAT in the fall of their junior year. What a lot of students may not notice is the full name of the test is PSAT/NMSQT, or Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Thus, the PSAT is not just good practice for your SATs. It's also the first step in becoming a National Merit Finalist and hopefully, earning a $2,500 scholarship from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC).

In this article, we'll discuss what steps you need to take to become a National Merit Finalist and compete for a scholarship. We'll also give you advice on how to write a strong application and maximize your chances of becoming a National Merit Scholar.

Here's how the numbers break down:

Each year, about 1.6 million students take the PSAT. Of the juniors who take the exam, about 16,000 earn scores that qualify them as Semifinalists (that's around 1%). This group is narrowed down to 15,000, who become Finalists. Of this group, about 7,500 are awarded scholarships of $2,500 a year (that can be renewed each year you're in college).

This article will explain the three key steps you need to follow to win the National Merit scholarship, from meeting the entry requirements, to scoring well on the PSAT, to submitting a standout application.

Step 1: Meet the Entry Requirements

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) requires you to have a few qualifications to even be considered for the scholarship:

You must be enrolled as a high school student, progressing normally toward graduation.

You must plan to enroll full time in college starting the fall following high school graduation.

You must be a U.S. citizen or U.S. lawful permanent resident planning to become a U.S. citizen.

These requirements will be checked with a few questions at the beginning of the PSAT.

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Step 2: Score in the Top 1% of the PSAT

Becoming a National Merit Finalist is competitive and requires a top score on the PSAT. Although it varies from state to state, most students must score above 1400 (out of 1520) to qualify as a Semifinalist, which means they can compete to move on to Finalist standing.

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How can you achieve a top 1% score on the PSAT? Prepare with high-quality materials. Identify your weak points and work to improve them. If the Reading section confuses you, spend the majority of your time practicing those sections. If math isn't your thing, commit yourself to drilling PSAT Math problems. The National Merit competition uses a Selection Index that is based on your Reading, Math, and Writing test scores, so mastering all three sections is key.

Take control of your learning and study with practice questions and sample tests. This practice will also pay off later when you take the SATs in the spring of your junior year and fall of senior year.

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To improve each skill, you'll take focused lessons dedicated to each skill, with over 20 practice questions per skill. This will train you for your specific area weaknesses, so your time is always spent most effectively to raise your score.

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For more info on prepping for the PSAT, check out our detailed guide to attaining National Merit Semifinalist status.

Step 3: Submit an Excellent Application

Complete the NMSC application requirements by fall of your senior year (usually early October). This application allows 15,000 of the 16,000 Semifinalists to move on to Finalist standing.

If you don't become a Finalist or don't qualify, you may still get word that you're a Commended Student or remain as a Semifinalist, which are great distinctions that will stand out on college applications. However, only Finalists are eligible for National Merit Scholarship awards.

The online NMSC application is the same as your college application in some ways and different in other ways.

Similarities

You must submit the following:

  • Your academic record (transcript)
  • SAT scores*
  • Information about your activities and leadership roles
  • A personal essay

*You have to take the SATs on approved dates, usually in the fall of your senior year, and make sure to send along your score report to NMSC. They need to receive your scores by December 31st of your senior year. While there is no strict cutoff for SAT scores, they must be competitive like your PSAT scores (usually around 1400 or above) so they know your PSAT wasn't a fluke.

Differences

  • A recommendation from your high school principal or someone the principal designates as a school official
  • Information about your school's curricula and grading system

Let's dig into each component to maximize your chance of building a strong application to win the National Merit Scholar title.

Academic Record and SAT Scores

The National Merit Corporation is first and foremost looking to award academic achievement. There is no strict cutoff, but a competitive GPA (3.5 and above) and high SAT scores (approximately 1400 and above) are recommended. Your academic record should also show that you challenged yourself with honors and AP classes. When you're a high school junior, there isn't much you can do about this, other than continue to excel in your classes.

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Extracurricular Activities and Community Service

The NMC is also looking at the skills and accomplishments shown in your application. Demonstrated leadership goes a long way--for example, leading in Student Council or other student organizations.

Your activities should reveal your passions and interests--it is usually better to show "depth over breadth." In other words, get deeply involved in a few activities you're passionate about rather than showing minor participation in every club, team, and organization your school has to offer. Almost all activities are valuable if they show your commitment, leadership potential, and ability to work with and help others.

Recommendations

Recommendations go a long way. Cultivate good relationships with your teachers, counselor , and principal and provide a "brag sheet" for them with the qualities and accomplishments you would like them to include in your recommendation.

Your brag sheet may include the following:

  • What six adjectives best describe you?
  • What do you consider your greatest accomplishment(s)?
  • What are your strongest goals for the next five years?
  • What is a meaningful experience you have had during high school?

These anecdotes will make writing a lot easier, and they'll thank you for this.

Make sure to ask for your recommendation at least three weeks in advance of the deadline, and follow up with your writer to make sure it'll be submitted on time. The earlier you notify them, the more ahead you'll be of your classmates, most of whom will need college application letters.

Personal Essay

The personal essay adds your voice to your application materials. Your essay is the place where you can share your unique story and perspective and make your application materials come to life.

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Here is an example of a past National Merit essay question:

To help the reviewers get to know you, describe an experience you have had, a person who has influenced you, or an obstacle you have overcome. Explain why this is meaningful to you. Use your own words and limit your response to the space provided.

The space allows for about 500 - 600 words.

You should focus on two important components of the essay. First, the NMC wants to see that you can express yourself clearly and powerfully through writing . Make sure to proofread, edit, and revise for any spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, or weaknesses in syntax and diction.

Second, your essay reveals how you think about yourself , your accomplishments, and your goals. What do your experiences mean to you? What do they reveal about your identity? Spend some time brainstorming before you decide what aspects of your identity are most important to share with the NMC readers.

For example, did a group science fair project show you the power of collaboration in making new discoveries? Did a Student Council debate reveal the complexity of perspectives on a single issue? Did Lisa Simpson teach you the importance of sticking to your principles, even if your family may not always agree?

The topics are endless, and there is no best answer, but whatever you choose should reveal something significant about who you are . Once you have your first draft, ask a friend, family member, counselor, or English teacher for feedback on what worked and what didn't. It's a short essay, so make sure every sentence is there for a reason and important for telling your story.

In Conclusion

Staying motivated and committing yourself to all these goals will put you in the best position toward becoming a National Merit Finalist. Remember, only 15,000 students (< 1%) are chosen as Finalists, and of those, only about 7,500 students receive scholarships. On a percentage basis, it's even more competitive than getting into the Ivy League, so even with all your hard work, you'll still need a certain amount of luck!

NSMC notifies students if they have become finalists in February of their senior year. Scholarship notifications go out in March. By that time, most of your college applications will be done and submitted.

Now you just have to try to relax and wait for the decisions to come! If you complete all the steps mentioned above, you can be confident that you've done all you can – now hopefully the National Merit Scholarship Corporation will recognize all your hard work.

What's Next?

Want more tips on how to get a top PSAT score? Check out our guide on how to get a perfect PSAT score for all the info you need to know.

Are you striving for perfection on the SAT? Read our detailed guide by our resident SAT full scorer .

Aiming to get into a top-tier school? Check out our article: What's a good SAT score for the Ivy League?

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points? We have the industry's leading SAT prep program. Built by Harvard grads and SAT full scorers, the program learns your strengths and weaknesses through advanced statistics, then customizes your prep program to you so you get the most effective prep possible.

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Rebecca graduated with her Master's in Adolescent Counseling from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has years of teaching and college counseling experience and is passionate about helping students achieve their goals and improve their well-being. She graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University and scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT.

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National Merit Scholarship Program Explained

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Below we cover the the most frequently asked questions about the National Merit Scholarship Program. Please see our National Merit Semifinalist Cutoffs page for the latest information on actual and projected Selection Index cutoffs by state.

What is the National Merit Scholarship Program and how do you enter? The NMSP is a program administered by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation in cooperation with the College Board to recognize high achieving high school seniors. Some recognition levels are based purely on junior PSAT/NMSQT scores, while other levels have additional qualifications (explained below). The NMSC gives out approximately $50 million in scholarships each year, and some colleges provide lowered —or even free —tuition to recognized students, multiplying the net impact of National Merit severalfold.

You must take the PSAT/NMSQT as a high school junior and either attend high school in the United States or U.S. Territories or be a U.S. student studying abroad. On your PSAT score report, you will see a section with your Selection Index and how you answered the questions about your entry eligibility. If there is an asterisk next to your Selection Index, it means that NMSC believes that you are ineligible.

What if I couldn’t take the PSAT? Every year students miss the PSAT for legitimate reasons such as illness. To allow those students the opportunity to compete in National Merit, NMSC has a process known as alternate entry . Students must make a written request to NMSC for an alternate entry application form. The application itself must be signed off on by your principal or counselor and postmarked no later than April 1 after the missed PSAT/NMSQT.

national merit finalist essay prompt

What is the Selection Index? The Selection Index is a weighting of your PSAT component scores to determines the level of your recognition within the initial stages of the National Merit program.

How is the Selection Index calculated? The Selection Index is double the sum of your Reading and Writing (RW) score, and Math score divided by 10. Alternatively, you can simply drop the last zero on your section scores, double the RW and add the Math. For example, a student with scores of 690 RW and 720 M would have a Selection Index of 69 x 2 + 72 = 210. You cannot directly calculate a Selection Index from a Total Score (320 – 1520). For students entering the competition with an SAT score through Alternate Entry, note that — when calculating a Selection Index — each SAT section is capped at 760. If, for example, you have a 700 RW and 800 Math, your Selection Index would be 70 x2 + 76 = 216.

Why is the Reading and Writing twice as important as the Math? The emphasis on “verbal” skills has a long history with the NMSP. The digital PSAT no longer has separate Reading and Writing scores, but the RW score is still doubled.

I’ve already received my PSAT scores; how can I find out whether I will qualify for recognition? Although you can use the Compass projections to estimate whether you are likely to qualify as a Commended Student or Semifinalist, there is no way of knowing your official status until high schools are notified by NMSC in early September of your senior year (sometimes schools hear by late August). Compass has published the cutoffs for the class of 2024 and estimates for the class of 2025 . An historical archive dating back more than 15 years can be found here . The Commended cutoff for future classes becomes unofficially known in the April after the PSAT. Compass will report this score and how it may impact Semifinalist cutoffs on our regularly updated cutoffs post.

Will I qualify as a Semifinalist if I am in the 99th percentile for Selection Index according to my score report? Although approximately 1% of test takers will become Semifinalists, there are a number of reasons why percentile scores are far too inaccurate to determine eligibility. Even the state percentiles that are now on the digital SAT report do not have enough information, because they are actually based on the prior 3 years of scores. Further, the percentile is rounded, and not accurate enough to determine cutoffs.

Why do some states have more Semifinalists and Finalists than other states? Although Commended Scholars are honored based on a single, national cutoff, NMSC distributes Semifinalists proportionally to states (and District of Columbia and U.S. Territories) based on the number of graduating students in the state. For example, California sees approximately 2,100 Semifinalists each year—the most in the country. It gets 13% of Semifinalists because it produces approximately 13% of high school graduates. Mississippi, on the other hand, typically sees about 135 National Merit Semifinalists, because the state produces a bit more than 0.8% of U.S. graduates. The distribution is completely unrelated to the number of students taking the PSAT in the state.

Why are Semifinalist cutoffs so much higher in some states than in others? Two things that have impact on cutoffs are participation rates and demographics. In some states, ACT is the dominant test and not as many students take the PSAT. This leaves some students out of the competition and will tend to produce lower cutoffs. Some states have large pockets of extremely qualified students and are particularly competitive. For example, Massachusetts and New Jersey have class of 2024 cutoffs of 222 and 223, respectively. At the other end of the spectrum, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming had NMSF cutoffs of 207 for the class of 2024. The minimum Semifinalist cutoff for a state is the national Commended level. If, for example, the Commended cutoff is at 210, no state can have a Semifinalist cutoff less than 210.

How are Semifinalists set for homeschoolers, boarding school students, or U.S. students studying abroad? Homeschoolers are treated no differently than other students in a state. U.S. students studying abroad will have to meet the highest state cutoff in the country. For the class of 2024, that was 223. Boarding school cutoffs are the most complex to calculate. Instead of being set at the state level, they are determined regionally. A Northeast boarding school student, for example, must meet the highest cutoff of any state within the Northeast region. NMSC defines boarding schools as schools with predominantly out-of-state students. NMSC considers your state to be where you went to school when you took the PSAT, not your state of residency or the state of your new school.

Do I have to be a U.S. citizen to participate? NMSC has made this part of the process easier to understand than it was in the past. Students at high school in the U.S. or in U.S. Territories are eligible. Period. Students studying abroad are eligible as long as they are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents of the U.S. (“green card”) or or have applied for permanent residence (the application for which has not been denied) and intend to become U.S. citizens at the earliest opportunity allowed by law.

Will NMSC notify me if I become a Semifinalist? No. NMSC provides information only to schools until a student becomes a Finalist. Homeschoolers are the exception.

When will my school tell me? NMSC mails information to schools in late August. Some schools let students know their status in early September. Many schools wait until NMSC officially releases student names to the press in the second week of September. Compass will track all of the latest news on our Semifinalists cutoff page.

Will being a Semifinalist help get me into my first-choice college? While Semifinalist status is a nice award to list on your application, you should not expect it alone to have a significant impact on your admission chances at most colleges. The recognition tells college that you did well on the PSAT. Your SAT and ACT scores are far more important to colleges; your National Merit status does not add much new information. However, having a high number of enrolled Semifinalists is seen as a badge of honor at some colleges and will factor in their admission decisions. Some colleges have programs specifically to attract National Merit Finalists and offer large merit awards.

Do I need to take the SAT to become a Semifinalist? No. Commended Student and Semifinalist recognition are based only on your Selection Index and your entry eligibility.

What happens after I am named a Semifinalist? Semifinalists will receive login credentials for the Finalist application portal. You will need to provide background information and an essay. Your school will need to provide its recommendation and electronically submit your application in the second week of October,

What is the National Merit Finalist essay prompt? NMSC may change the prompt in future years, but it has been the same for many years. It is broad enough that most students are able to use or slightly rework their Common App essay. For the class of 2024, the prompt was:

“To help the reviewers get to know you, describe an experience you have had, a person who has influenced you, or an obstacle you have overcome. Explain why this is meaningful to you. Use your own words and limit your response to the space provided.”

There is not a word limit specified, but the essay must fit within the provided space (approximately 3500 characters). Expect to keep your essay to 600 – 650 words.

Do I need to take the SAT or ACT to become a Finalist? Among the requirements to proceed from Semifinalist to Finalist is that you receive a “confirming score.” This score helps validate that you can, on an official SAT or ACT test date, achieve a high score and confirm your testing skill.

Can a high ACT score be a confirming score? Yes, the ACT can be used to confirm PSAT results.

How high of an SAT score do I need for a confirming score? The confirming score is determined each year by NMSC and is calculated in the same way as the PSAT Selection Index. The confirming score is set nationally, so it does not matter what Semifinalist cutoff you met. The confirming SAT Selection Index (SSI) generally falls at or near the Commended cutoff.

The easiest calculation of the SSI is from your section scores. Drop a zero, double your RW, and add your Math score. For example, Student X might have a total score of 1450, with section scores of 720 RW and 730 M. Student X’s SSI would be 2(72) + 73 = 217. It’s possible for a student with a lower total score to have a higher SSI. Student Y has a total score of 1430, with section scores of 750 ERW and 690 M. Student Y’s SSI would be 2(75) + 69 = 219.

You cannot determine your SSI directly from your total score. One student scoring 1400 might have a high enough SSI, whereas another student with a 1400 might fall short. You must know your RW and Math scores.

How high of an ACT score do I need for a confirming score? NMSC wants to have a level playing field, so it converts components of the ACT score into an SAT Selection Index. In order to do that, you need to use the official concordance tables published by ACT/College Board. There is no SAT Science, so NMSC does not look at ACT Science. So discard that score.

Step 1: Add your ACT English and ACT Reading scores Step 2: Use the ACT E+R to SAT RW concordance table to find the concordant SAT RW score based on the sum in step 1. Be sure that you are going in the correct direction when using the concordance tables. ACT E+R to SAT RW is not always the same as SAT RW to ACT E+R. Step 3: Use the ACT M to SAT M table to find the concordant SAT M score based on your ACT Math score. Step 4: Calculate your SAT SI: drop the last zeros (i.e. divide by 10), double your RW, and add your Math score. You want this number to be at least as high as your class year’s Commended Student score.

Example: A student has ACT scores of 32E, 34M, 33R, and 31S. Science is not used. The sum of E and R is 65. In the concordance tables, this is equivalent to a 700 RW. The 34 Math is concordant to a 760. This student’s SAT Selection Index is 70×2 + 76 = 216.

When do I have to take the SAT or ACT for the score to be ‘confirmed’? You can use any SAT or ACT score from the fall of your sophomore year to December of your senior year. This means that you could have received an SAT confirming score even before taking the PSAT/NMSQT. NMSC recommends that you not wait until the December test date.

How do I submit scores to NMSC? NMSC does not automatically know your SAT and ACT scores. You must submit them just as you would to a college. The College Board code for NMSC is 0085. The ACT code is 7984. Please verify these codes before submitting. Since NMSC will use your highest scores, there is no penalty for choosing them as one of your free score recipients when you register for the SAT or ACT.

Can I superscore SAT or ACT dates in order to reach the confirming score cutoff? No. NMSC will use your highest scores, but will not superscore across test dates.

If I have achieved a confirming score, is there any reason to shoot for a higher score? The requirement for a confirming score is simply true or false when applying to become a Finalist. However, your test scores are used to evaluate you during the scholarship phase of the competition. Depending on your goals, you may want to optimize your score.

Can sophomores qualify for National Merit recognition? No. Even if your scores are high enough, you will not be eligible for National Merit as a sophomore unless you will be graduating a year early. In that case, you should contact NMSC or your principal about next steps as NMSC has no way of automatically knowing your eligibility.

Is it hard for a Semifinalist to become a Finalist? Of the 16,000 Semifinalists, 15,000 become Finalists. You must go through an application process to proceed to Finalist level and then to compete for National Merit Scholarships. As part of the application, you must meet citizenship requirements, have a satisfactory academic record, achieve a confirming score on the SAT or ACT (and submit the scores to NMSC!), write an essay, and receive a recommendation from your principal. More information can be found in the PSAT/NMSQT Student Guide . In the Semifinalist letter from your school (it will NOT come from NMSC unless you are homeschooled), NMSC will provide details about how to begin the process online.

When will I find out if I am a Finalist? You will be notified in February of senior year.

Do all Finalists receive scholarships? What is a National Merit Scholar? Only about half of Finalists become National Merit Scholars and receive a National Merit Scholarship. There are three types of scholarships for Finalists, each with its own criteria. A student can only receive one type of scholarship. Approximately 4,000 Finalists receive scholarships from sponsoring colleges with renewable stipends of $500–$2,500 per year. Students must be accepted by a sponsoring institution and list the college as first choice in order to receive a college-sponsored award. These awards are not transferable to another college. Corporations sponsor approximately 1,000 awards for Finalists each year with a minimum one-time value of $2,500 or $1,000 renewable. Most of these awards are to Finalists who are the children of employees. Approximately 2,500 students receive awards of $2,500 directly from National Merit. These awards are highly competitive and are allocated proportionally by state. A list of sponsoring colleges and corporations can be found in the PSAT/NMSQT Student Guide .

I’ve heard about colleges that provide full-ride awards. Why are college-sponsored awards only listed as $500–$2,500 per year? Colleges can also choose to provide additional awards to National Merit Finalists. These are not technically National Merit Scholarships, but they can be the most important awards for many students. Which colleges offer these awards and how much they offer can change from year to year. In recent years, Florida has had a generous scholarship program for National Merit Finalists, and schools such as UT-Dallas and Texas A&M also provide substantial awards. Compass does not maintain a database of scholarships. The National Merit forum at collegeconfidential.com is a useful resource.

Are scholarships available to Commended Students and Semifinalists? Technically, these students cannot be National Merit Scholars, but approximately 1,100 of them will receive Special Scholarships from sponsoring corporations. As with other corporate-sponsored awards, these are predominantly for the children of employees, although companies can also identify students in a particular region or field of study.

When will I find out if I receive a scholarship? You will be notified of scholarship status sometime between March and June of your senior year. In order to receive a college-sponsored scholarship, you must note the college as your first choice on the National Merit application. It can be to your advantage not to immediately choose a first-choice college—you can leave it as “Undecided.” You do not want to miss out on a large scholarship because you have listed the wrong college. There is no reason to list a college that does not provide National Merit Scholarships. List your first-choice among college that do provide scholarships. You can update your choice via the Online Scholarship Application portal.

Art Sawyer

About Art Sawyer

Art graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University, where he was the top-ranked liberal arts student in his class. Art pioneered the one-on-one approach to test prep in California in 1989 and co-founded Compass Education Group in 2004 in order to bring the best ideas and tutors into students' homes and computers. Although he has attained perfect scores on all flavors of the SAT and ACT, he is routinely beaten in backgammon.

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Hello! I had a question about Alternative Entry. If a student took the PSAT/NMSQT as a 10th grader (as practice, with the rest of his class), would this then disqualify him from using the “Alternative Entry” method in 11th grade? I realize that to do Alternative Entry you can’t already taken the PSAT– but I wasn’t sure if that applied to just PSATs in junior year, when kids are eligible for entering the National Merit competition. [For clarification- I’m sure the test that the kids took was the PSAT/NMSQT, and NOT the PSAT 10.] Thank you!

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Steph, Only the junior year PSAT/NMSQT serves as a qualifier for National Merit. The sophomore year test your student took is, therefore, irrelevant. The Alternate Entry process specifically applies to students who are unable to take the 11th grade PSAT.

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Hi Art, For a 10th grader, would you recommend taking PSAT/NMSQT or SAT given that to qualify for NMSC, the child would have to re-take PSAT/NMSQT again in junior year.

Vivek, There is not a right or wrong answer here. Normally I would recommend that a student go ahead and take the PSAT. It’s convenient; it’s very similar to the digital SAT. That last part is important. If the student’s testing career is going to extend beyond this December (and that’s true for virtually all sophomores), they will be taking the digital SAT. If your student wants to get in a paper SAT, they have until December. For all but a very small number of sophomores, that seems like overkill. A fall sophomore is unlikely to be at a point where they’ll get a final score (the exception would be students already well into the 1500s). And it doesn’t have a practice benefit because the paper SAT is almost gone. So my soft recommendation would be to go ahead and take the PSAT.

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1. For the students who got selected to semi-finalists, they need to submit only one school of their choice (one of the questions) in the NMSQT finalist application – does the public/private school choice make a difference in getting the Corporate/NMSQT awards? 2. Do the parents need to be an employee of the Corporate Sponsors to receive any awards under the corporate awards category?

Thank you in advance. Best,

Neelahm, If a Semifinalist becomes a Finalist and has listed a school that sponsors National Merit, NMSC will generally match the student with a school award. If the student’s first choice is not a sponsor, then they will be eligible for a corporate or NMSC award. The student’s first choice school can be updated through April, I believe, but the matching process starts in March.

Most corporate awards are for the children of employees. You can find more info here on page 10 of the Student Guide .

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English Learners cannot take the NMSQT w/accommodations such as “extended time”; the system does not allow them. Is this a true statement?

Synde, That is a true statement. There is no accommodation specifically for English Learners on the PSAT, SAT, or ACT as far as I am aware.

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Hello Art If my ACT is 35 & translates to 228/230 ( twice taken ) and SAT is (229) , which do you think should I submit? Also if I do ACT should I just submit the superscore as it will include both. Would you also be able to chime in with regards to colleges which would be a better option to send SAT ( 1530 ) or ACT (35 both times) ?

As always thank you so much for your time & help Best MaryAnn

Mary Ann, Both your SAT and ACT are so strong that it doesn’t matter for National Merit which one you provide. Those scores are only used as a minimum qualifying standard — the “confirming score.” They are not used in the competition itself.

It’s very much a toss-up for colleges. As a single point to point concordance, a 35 is equivalent to a 1540. In the other direction, a 1530 is concordant with a 35. You might say that the ACT is ever so slightly stronger.

Thank you so much for your kind help and time! Best !

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My son is in his junior year and he has an SAT score of 1570 and a PSAT score of 1460. Do you think he has a chance to qualify to become a semi finalist for NMSQT Scholarship? Please let us know.

Thanks, Usha

Usha, Only his PSAT score matters for qualification as a Semifinalist. Actually, it’s the Selection Index that matters, not so much his 1460. The SI puts twice the weight on the Reading and Writing score. You’ll find his Selection Index on his score report. The cutoffs are determined by state. In some places he would probably qualify easily. In other states he might miss out. See our estimates in my other post here .

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I wanted to ask if you know what the typical cutoffs for the National Merit African American, Hispanic recognition, Rural recognition typically are? I know they’ve been making some changes the past few years? I’m a tutor who’s going to be doing some pro bono work at a Title I school in our county for some of their top sophs this coming fall and the admin asked if i knew what the typical cutoffs are for those programs!

Love your blog!

MG, I wish I could be more helpful here, but College Board doesn’t release the figures — at least not en masse. The cutoffs are set by state, and student must be in the top 10% of scores (they can also qualify via AP scores). You might want to call College Board and ask about your state.

Thank you for the kind words, and thank you for helping students in your local area!

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Jeff Widman

I enjoy hacking/optimizing systems. currently working as a software engineer focused on infrastructure/plumbing. founded/sold two companies., the magical 4.0–national merit finalist essay.

When I was a junior in highschool, I had to write a 500 word essay as part of the process of becoming a National Merit Finalist (remember the PSAT?). This is still o still one of my favorites:

——————————————————————————————–

The Magical 4.0

As I walked to the front of the class and began to read, I found it impossible to think; I could only read each word one at a time. It was the last day of finals, and I was presenting my narrative project to my English class. Only four days earlier, my dreams had been shattered. I had lost my 4.0. Struggling for an “A” throughout the quarter, it had come down to the very last test; I needed to get a 98. When the teacher returned my test, an 89.5 glared in red at the top of the page. Even more painful was the inner questioning that had immediately followed. My narrative project became my analytical tool as I struggled to make sense of my loss. Re-telling the event in the third-person, I shoved my emotions aside and asked the questions I previously had not dared to face.

As the quarter had progressed everything else had faded except this goal of maintaining my 4.0. Every spare moment had been spent studying Chemistry, or revising my World Literature essay. My friends had become strangers. Because I had been consistently going to bed after midnight, my performance in Track had suffered–I no longer had any chance of running in the State meet.

But how could I distill this experience into a narrative? Could I adequately describe the effort that had gone into my 4.0, or how close I had come to getting an A, only to see it pulled just out of my reach on the very last test? Would my audience even care? Would they understand how hard I worked for perfection, how I expected perfection–how I was used to perfection? Would they understand what it meant to lose perfection?

I labored over my narrative to shorten it–every time I started typing it would just grow and grow. The ending was the biggest challenge; it wasn’t until I started typing the last paragraph that I came up with the idea of a happy-ever-after ending, the ending I almost had, where I scored a 99 instead of an 89.5.

Not until after my presentation, as I shared my reflections on the experience, did I reveal to the class that I had really gotten the 89.5. Afterward my English professor would write, “This was one of my favorite moments of last year, Jeff. Maybe best of all was the brilliant move to have the ending different than what actually happened in your life, and then reveal that ‘real’ ending in your comments. The entire room was transfixed by your revelation; I could feel it. You both criticized yourself and elevated yourself by so bravely doing that.”

The contrast between the two endings–the dream and the reality–underscored what my narrative project had made me realize was my only question: Had I overvalued perfection? Even if I had achieved the 99, would my 4.0 have been worth so much sacrifice?

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National merit scholarship requirements: the complete guide.

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Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 11/29/23

With tuition prices seemingly rising yearly, students can seek out scholarships to help ease the financial burden of attending college. To learn more about the National Merit Scholarship, read on!

Scholarships are an excellent type of financial aid to cut tuition costs and make your college experience more affordable. And the best part? There are tons of different scholarships out there designed to fit various backgrounds, interests, and academic achievements. 

This guide will teach you everything you need to know about the National Merit Scholarship requirements, how to win, and what scores you'll need to have a fighting chance. Read on to learn how to get the National Merit Scholarship and cut your tuition costs!

What Is the National Merit Scholarship? 

The National Merit Scholarship is a prize and recognition awarded through the National Merit Scholarship Program. The program began in 1955, and approximately 1.5 million high school students enter annually. 

Students who achieve exceptional scores on the PSAT/ NMSQT are typically notified in early September that they qualify as semifinalists for the National Merit Scholarship. National merit qualifying scores are based on “Selection Index scores (calculated by doubling the sum of the Reading, Writing and Language, and Math Test scores).” 

In February, approximately 15,000 were informed they were finalists. From March to mid-June, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) will decide which finalists (approximately 7,500) will receive a Merit Scholarship. There are three types: 

  • National Merit $2,500 Scholarships
  • Corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards 
  • College-sponsored Merit Scholarship Awards 

National Merit Scholarships are single-paid scholarships awarded to high-achieving test-takers on a state-representational basis. Though it’s not a full-ride scholarship , it can significantly contribute to your college expenses. 

Female student celebrating with fists in air

National Merit Scholarship Requirements

You’ll be asked questions on PSAT/NMSQT test day to gauge your eligibility for the program by making sure you adhere to the following requirements: 

  • Take the PSAT/NMSQT “in the specified year of the high school program” and no later than your third year in grades 9 through 11 (your junior year). 
  • Must be enrolled in high school (traditional or homeschool) and be making good progress toward graduation 
  • You plan to go to college right after high school
  • You attend school in the U.S., the District of Columbia, or a U.S. commonwealth/territory

If you do not meet the last National Merit Scholarship requirement and attend school outside of the U.S., you may still be eligible if you’re: 

  • A U.S. citizen 
  • Lawful resident 
  • Applied for a permanent residence and haven’t been denied 
  • Intend to become a U.S. citizen as soon as possible

Make sure to read the eligibility requirements on the National Merit Scholarship website before applying to ensure you have met each standard. 

How to Get the National Merit Scholarship

If you’re wondering how to get the National Merit Scholarship, these steps can help you become a finalist and a winner. 

Ace the PSAT/NMSQT

The first step to winning the National Merit Scholarship is acing the PSAT/NMSQT. Taking the PSAT 8/9 or the PSAT 10 will not make you eligible: it must be the PSAT/NMSQT. 

An excellent PSAT score can help you become one of the approximately 50,000 students selected from over a million test-takers to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship: PSAT scores are your first step. 

Score Highly on the SAT or ACT

If you’ve been named a semifinalist, you must take the SAT or ACT to become eligible to be a finalist . Your scores from either test are used to confirm your performance on the PSAT/NMSQT. These scores can help you become a finalist but won't be used to determine whether you're a National Merit Scholarship winner. 

Remember to request your scores from the College Board or ACT be reported to the National Merit Scholarship Program. The NMSC will calculate your Selection Index score based on your performance. You can see how this is done through your Online Scholarship Application (OSA). 

Maintain Good Academic Standing

Good academic standing is key to becoming a National Merit Scholar. To be eligible, you must have a consistently impressive academic record from grades 9 through 12. Remember, your work isn't finished, even after submitting your ACT or SAT scores. 

Your school will supply your transcripts to the program, and they are required to report any decline in your academic performance to the NMSC. 

Have a Strong Application

A strong OSA includes: 

  • High SAT or ACT scores 
  • An endorsement for your standing as a finalist by your school’s principal or a principal-designated school official
  • A well-written essay  

Once you’ve finished, your principal or school official will fill in school-specific information. The National Merit Scholarship essay prompt can change annually. One past prompt is: 

“ Describe an experience you have had, a person who has influenced you, or an obstacle you have overcome. Explain why this is meaningful to you. ”

While prompts can change yearly, general steps to writing a good essay include: 

  • Brainstorming relevant anecdotes, people, and places relevant to the prompt. 
  • Maintain your writer’s voice, but be professional and avoid slang. 
  • Don’t just state the what: state the why and how. How did an event make you feel? How did it change you? Ensure your essay shows the depth of your reflection. 
  • Edit, edit, and edit again: you don’t want grammar and spelling mistakes to distract your reader! 

If you’re wondering, there’s no need to partake in an interview to qualify for a National Merit Scholarship. These scholarships are primarily based on your academic performance and academic achievements. 

What Score Do You Need for the National Merit Scholarship? 

You'll need to achieve a high PSAT score for the National Merit Scholarship. Approximately 1% of the top test-takers are named semifinalists. The NSMC compiles your scores from each section (8-38) and multiples the sum by 2 to get your Selection Index score. 

Unlike the international Fulbright Scholarship , the National Merit Scholarship is specifically geared towards recognizing exceptional American high school students on their path to pursuing undergraduate education in the United States, District of Columbia, or U.S. commonwealths and territories. 

Take a look at the National Merit cutoff by state range from 207 to 224, based on the Recent Selection Index: 

When Does National Merit Finalist Come Out?

Finalists will get a letter in the mail at their home addresses in early February. Or, they can check their Finalist letter on their Online Scholarship Application account. You can find more details about the National Merit Scholarship Competition in the information provided.

Female graduate wearing cap and gown throwing confetti

National Merit Scholarship: FAQs 

If you still have questions about how to get a National Merit Scholarship, these FAQs can help. 

1. What Qualifies You to Be a National Merit Scholar?

National Merit Scholarship winners are chosen out of finalists based on: 

  • Academic performance 
  • Information about the school's curriculum and grading system
  • PSAT/NMSQT Selection Index score
  • Written recommendation from the principal or school official 
  • Information about the student's activities and leadership
  • A personal essay

2. What PSAT score do you need to be a National Merit Scholar?

National Merit Scholars are in the top 1% of all PSAT test-takers. This means your PSAT score on each section should average about 36-37 for your best chance of becoming a National Merit Scholar. This converts to a total PSAT/NMSQT score of about 1460 to 1520. 

3. Does a 1400 PSAT Qualify for National Merit?

Based on the scores of real grade 11 students who took the PSAT, a score of 1400 puts you in the 97th percentile. You may not qualify for the National Merit Scholarship with this score: it also depends on the cut-off scores of your state. 

4. How Many Finalists Win a Scholarship? 

Approximately half of all finalists (7,500) win a scholarship, and 1,000 students who weren’t named finalists may be eligible for Special Scholarships through the NMSC. 

5. What Are the National Merit Scholarship’s Commended Students? 

Commended students represent more than two-thirds of the 50,000 top-scoring students. These students receive a Letter of Commendation but typically don't have a high enough score to be considered a semifinalist. 

Final Thoughts

If you’re already studying hard for the PSAT/NMSQT, your hard work could help you get a National Merit Scholarship. Remember that becoming a National Merit Scholar requires strong PSAT and SAT or ACT scores. If you become a semifinalist, you must submit your OSA for your chance at becoming a winner. 

Good luck on your quest to become a National Merit Scholar! 

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The Complete Guide: Becoming a National Merit Finalist

Years ago, I was a National Merit Commended Scholar. I forgot about that until today, when I dug up an old high school resume. In hindsight, nothing ever happened from that distinction.

Today, I’ll be breaking down the steps to becoming a National Merit Scholarship Finalist and the big question: is it even worth it to compete?

national merit finalist essay prompt

What is the National Merit Scholarship Program?

Simply put, National Merit Scholarship Finalists are students who’ve taken a standardized test at school during junior year, scored higher than almost everyone else, and gotten a scholarship as a reward for their performance.

The National Merit Scholarship Program manages all of this: the testing, the selection, and the scholarship distribution.

So let’s get down to the specifics.

What standardized test must I take to be a National Merit finalist?

It’s a test similar to the one that’s quickly losing relevance: the SAT. It’s so similar to the SAT that it’s called the PSAT, or “Preliminary” SAT. The PSAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test is shorter and easier than the SAT because it’s geared toward younger high schoolers. Both tests evaluate math and language arts.

Note: The PSAT 10 and PSAT/NMSQT are similar, but the PSAT 10 is taken in 10th grade to practice for the real SAT and the PSAT/NMSQT is taken in 11th grade to qualify for the National Merit Scholarships.

When and where can I take this PSAT/NMSQT?

October of junior year. If your school offers this test, you’ll hear about it from school. It costs $17 but most schools cover the entire test fee. If not, you’ll have to find a neighboring school that proctors it. Some schools will even ask students to go in-person to take it on a Saturday. Once you take the PSAT/NMSQT, your scores are automatically entered into the national competition. No need to apply separately.

How is the PSAT/NMSQT scored?

The PSAT score range is from 48 (lowest possible) to 228 (highest possible).

There are 3 sections: reading, math, and writing. Each of these sections are scored from 8 (lowest possible) to 38 (highest possible). To get your final qualifying score, you just add together the three scores from each of the three sections and multiple that number by 2.

For example, if you got a 30 on math, 31 on reading, and 32 on writing, your PSAT/NMSQT score will be (30 + 31+ 32) x 2 = 186.

What score do I need to qualify as a National Merit Semifinalist?

This number varies every year and it even varies by state. For Class of 2021, for example, students in California needed a 221 out of 228 to qualify. In New Jersey, 222. In North Dakota, 209.

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I want to qualify for the $2,500 national merit scholarship. how do i know if i’m eligible.

It’s a multi-step process.

  • You need to be a high school student with U.S. citizenship or lawful residency.
  • You need to take the PSAT/NMSQT in October of junior year. If your school asks you to take it in sophomore year, that score won’t qualify you for the competition, unless you’re planning on graduating from high school as a junior.
  • If you’re competing against 1.5 million test takers, you need to first make it to the Semifinalist round, which means the top 16k test scores. I can’t give you the exact score because the cutoff varies by year.
  • You need to get your principal to endorse you by demonstrating a transcript with good grades and a real SAT score that’s close enough to your PSAT/NMSQT score.
  • You need to write an essay and fill out a specific National Merit Finalist application.
  • If your application is approved, you’ll be one of 15k finalists out of 16k semifinalists.
  • Only 7,600 out of the 15k finalists get the $2,500 scholarship.

When do I get the scholarship?

If you take the PSAT/NMQST in October 2020, make it to the finalist round, and are selected to be one of the 7,600 recipients of the $2,500 scholarship, you’ll get the money in May 2022 right before college. So it takes about 18 months.

How does the National Merit Scholarship Corporation select winners?

Based on the latest data from 2021, among the 1.5 million competition entrants from the 2019 competition, 50k of the highest scores were recognized. Among those, there’s even more distinct recognition.

Commended: These are 34k of the 50k highest scores. These students do not advance to the next round. They get a “Letter of Commendation” a.k.a. a participation award. I was National Merit commended and I will just say that no one has ever cared about this. Not colleges, job interviewers, professors, or even my family friends.

Semifinalist: These are about 16k of the 50k highest scores. These students are eligible to advance to the next round to be considered a “Finalist.” The score cutoff to be a National Merit semifinalist varies by state and test takers are ranked by state.

Finalist: These are 15k of the 16k semifinalists whose submitted documentation get approved. To become a finalist, semifinalists must:

  • take the real SAT and prove a similar score to their PSAT/NMSQT score
  • get a recommendation and endorsement from their school principal
  • fill out an additional application, the “National Merit Finalist Application”
  • write an essay
  • maintain a high GPA

Semifinalists receive a letter in the mail if they make it as a finalist and a “Certificate of Merit” printout.

Scholarship finalist: Only 7,600 of the 15k finalists receive the $2,500 scholarship. As long as they confirm they’ll be enrolled full-time in college after graduating from high school, the scholarship finalists get the funds around May of senior year, so over a year and a half after taking the test.

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national merit finalist essay prompt

The Admissions Strategist

National merit scholarship (how to win it): the winner’s guide.

The National Merit Scholarship Program is an academic competition for scholarships and recognition that started in 1955.

Each year, approximately 7,500 Finalists receive scholarships. About 1,100 outstanding National Merit participants who are not Finalists also receive Special Scholarships annually.

Some colleges even offer free tuition or full-ride scholarships to National Merit Finalists.

Scholarship money is always great, but it isn’t the only benefit to the National Merit program. Becoming a National Merit Finalist is a prestigious honor that can give your chances of college admission a major boost.

So, how can you reap the benefits of becoming a National Merit Finalist? Read this guide to learn everything you need to know!

Odds of Winning a National Merit Scholarship

Before we get started, you should know that earning a National Merit Scholarship is even more competitive than earning acceptance to an Ivy League college.

  • Millions of students take the PSAT each year. About 16,000 students become Semifinalists, and 15,000 become Finalists.
  • Of the Finalists, about 7,500 receive scholarships.

Of course, even if you don’t win a scholarship, becoming a Semifinalist or Finalist is a great honor.

It can make you a more competitive college applicant and earn you additional scholarship money from some colleges.

So, let’s find out how to increase your chances of success.

How to Enter the National Merit Program

Entering the National Merit Program is simple: Take the PSAT (formally known as the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) during the fall of your junior year in high school.

The test is usually administered in October.

National Merit Scholarship: How to Win

Click above to watch a video on how to win the National Merit Scholarship.

If you meet certain qualifications, taking the PSAT/NMSQT automatically enters you in the National Merit Scholarship competition.

These qualifications are:

  • Being enrolled as a high school student who is progressing normally toward graduation
  • Planning to enroll full-time in college the fall after you graduate from high school
  • Being a U.S. citizen or U.S. lawful permanent resident who plans to become a U.S. citizen

On your PSAT test form, you will answer four questions that determine whether you meet these requirements.

Next Steps: Qualifying for Scholarships

Of course, taking the test is only the beginning. To continue through the competition, you’ll need to:

  • Score in the top one percent of PSAT test-takers
  • Find out if you’re a Semifinalist or a Commended student
  • Complete an application (if selected as a Semifinalist)
  • Submit SAT scores
  • Find out if you’ve qualified for scholarship(s)

Let’s take a closer look at each step of this process.

Score in the Top One Percent

After you take the PSAT, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) receives and reviews scores.

  • If you meet the basic qualifications described above, they look at your Selection Index .
  • The Selection Index is calculated by doubling the sum of your Reading, Writing and Language, and Mathematics scores.

About 16,000 high scorers become Semifinalists.

  • This represents less than one percent of test-takers, meaning you’ll need to score in the top one percent to qualify as a semifinalist.

However, scores are considered on a state-by-state basis, so that students from across the nation have a chance to qualify.

Students often ask what score they’ll need to become a Semifinalist. This is hard to answer, because it varies from year to year. It’s usually somewhere around 1400.

For more information, you can call the NMSC at 847-866-5100 and ask about the previous year’s cutoff in your state.

Get personalized advice!

Receive notification of semifinalist/commended status.

You’ll have a long wait before you find out if you’ve achieved Semifinalist status.

In late September of your senior year, about 34,000 students receive a Letter of Commendation. Commended Students are based on a Selection Index score that is slightly lower than the Selection Index score needed to become a Semifinalist.

  • Commended students don’t continue in the competition, but some do receive Special Scholarships.
  • It’s also something positive to mention on your college applications.

An additional 16,000 students are notified that they have qualified as Semifinalists, usually in early September. All Semifinalists will receive application materials from NMSC through their schools.

Complete an Application

To advance from Semifinalist to Finalist, you will need to complete the NMSC application. 15,000 of the 16,000 Semifinalists become Finalists.

These applications are usually due in early October. The application is similar to a college application.

It includes:

  • Information about your activities and leadership roles
  • A recommendation letter from the principal or a school official designated by your principal
  • Information about your school’s grading system and classes

To become a Finalist, you must:

  • Have excellent academic performance all four years of high school (preferably a 3.5 GPA or higher)
  • Have SAT scores that “confirm your PSAT performance”
  • Continue meeting basic qualifications, including being enrolled in the last year of high school and planning to enroll in college in the fall

In the “Tips” section at the end of the article, we’ll discuss how to put your best foot forward with an impressive application.

Submit SAT Scores

SAT scores are part of the NMSC application. You’ll have to take the SAT on approved dates, usually during the fall of senior year.

  • The NMSC must receive your scores by December 31 of your senior year.
  • Although the NMSC doesn’t give a specific cutoff score for the SAT, they do say that your score should confirm your PSAT score.

Basically, your score should be close to your PSAT score to demonstrate that your PSAT performance wasn’t a fluke. You should aim for around 1400 or better.

Qualify for Scholarships

In February, about 15,000 Semifinalists receive a letter that they have advanced to Finalist standing.

Your high school principal will receive a certificate and present it to you.

From the Finalist group, winners of Merit Scholarships are selected. These selections are based on abilities, skills, and accomplishments.

Between March and mid-June, 7,500 Finalists learn that they have been awarded Merit Scholarships. There are three types of scholarships:

  • National Merit $2500 Scholarships: Every Finalist is considered for these single payment scholarships, which are awarded on a state-by-state basis. Selections are not based on financial circumstances, major or college choice, or career plans.
  • Corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards: Corporate sponsors designate awards for children of employees or members, residents of communities where the company operates, or Finalists with career plans the sponsor wishes to encourage. These awards are usually $500-$2000 and may be one-time awards or renewable for all four years of college.
  • College-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards: Officials of sponsor colleges select winners from Finalists who have been accepted for admission and have informed NMSC that the college is their top choice. These awards are renewable for four years of undergraduate study.

Schools that offer free tuition or free-ride scholarships to National Merit Scholars include:

  • Texas A&M
  • University of Oklahoma
  • University of Arizona
  • Auburn University
  • University of Tulsa
  • Baylor University

In addition, about 1,100 excellent National Merit Program participants who are not Finalists receive Special Scholarships.

These may be one-time awards or renewable for four years of study. Students must meet the sponsor’s criteria and submit an entry form to the sponsor organization.

Tips for Winning a National Merit Scholarship

Now, we’ll look at tips that will help you qualify for a National Merit Scholarship.

These tips fall into two categories: earning a high score on the PSAT and submitting a top-notch NMSC application.

How to Earn a High Score on the PSAT

  • Answer PSAT practice questions or take practice tests on the CollegeBoard’s website. Becoming familiar with the structure, format, and question types is extremely helpful.
  • When you get a question wrong, take the time to read the right answer and understand why it’s correct. Why did you get the question wrong? What steered you in the wrong direction? What’s a better strategy you can use in the future?
  • Based on how you perform on practice tests, determine your strengths and weaknesses. As you continue preparing, focus on improving in your areas of weakness.
  • This may mean drilling math questions, studying vocabulary words (along with roots, prefixes, and suffixes), brushing up on grammar, or practicing with reading passages.
  • If you need a lot of help in a subject area, consider hiring a tutor or working with a teacher at your school.
  • Continue taking practice tests/answering practice questions to ensure that you’re improving and getting closer to your target score.

How to Submit a Competitive NMSC Application

  • Have a GPA of at least 3.5 or better. You should have performed consistently well throughout high school, and you should have taken challenging courses. Of course, you can’t change your previous performance and schedule, but do your best to earn the highest grades possible now.
  • Earn a high score on the SAT (preferably 1400 or better). You can prepare for the SAT in much the same way you prepared for the PSAT.
  • Show deep extracurricular involvement in a few areas you’re passionate about, along with leadership experiences whenever possible.
  • Cultivate positive relationships with your principal and other school officials. Ask for your recommendation at least three weeks ahead of time. Provide a list of qualities, experiences, and accomplishments they can mention in your letter.

Writing an Excellent Personal Essay for Your Application

Your NMSC essay must be 500-600 words.

The personal essay topic varies each year. Here’s one example from a previous year:

To help the reviewers get to know you, describe an experience you have had, a person who has influenced you, or an obstacle you have overcome. Explain why this is meaningful to you. Use your own words and limit your response to the space provided.

Like your college application essay, this essay is intended to showcase your unique personality and perspective.

Follow the same guidelines you should follow when writing your college application essay:

  • Brainstorm what aspects of your life, personality, and values you’d like to share with the NMSC.
  • Write in your authentic voice and be honest. The committee wants to know who you are as an individual.
  • Open with an anecdote that introduces the topic you’d like to address. Use specific details that make the story yours.
  • Be reflective. What did you learn from the experience you’ve described? How did it help you grow or influence your life? Why does the topic you selected matter to you?
  • Proofread and edit. Make sure you’ve conveyed your ideas clearly and using appropriate conventions. Cut unnecessary fluff and clarify confusing parts.
  • Have a parent, friend, and/or teacher read your essay and provide feedback.

Final Thoughts: National Merit Scholarship (And How to Win It!)

If you become a National Merit Scholar, it’s a huge honor that can qualify you for several scholarships (and even a full ride at some schools).

  • Winning a National Merit scholarship is a long and highly competitive process, but it’s doable with practice and dedication.

The steps you must take to win a National Merit scholarship—earning good grades, participating in leadership and extracurricular activities, preparing for and performing well on the SAT, building relationships with teachers and administrators, and crafting a personal essay—are also essential for applying to college.

  • So, aiming for a National Merit scholarship is a win no matter what happens. Do your best, but don’t stress too much over the results.

You’ll learn a lot from the experience, and you’ll build the competitiveness of your college application. If you win a scholarship or two along the way, that’s icing on the cake.

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national merit finalist essay prompt

How to Write a National Merit Essay

Teresa j. siskin.

Semifinalists are notified in September each year, and finalist applications, including essays, are due the following month.

You’ve cleared the first hurdle once you’ve become a semifinalist for the National Merit Scholarship Competition. Continuing to compete as a finalist means completing an application, which includes an essay. While there is no one "correct” way to write this essay, you can help distinguish yourself from fellow semifinalists by offering a clear, concise 500-word piece that shares a perspective and leaves an impression.

Explore this article

  • Structure and Inspiration

1 Structure and Inspiration

You can approach the National Merit Scholarship essay as you would any other scholarship essay. According to Kansas State University and Dr. Kay Peterson from the University of Florida, one way to structure your essay is to focus on a life altering or defining moment. Draw from a simple occurrence, such as falling off your bike as a small child or a book you read, or from a much more intense event, such as losing a home in a hurricane, as long as you relay what lesson you took from that experience. Use the introduction of your essay to recount this defining moment, and conclude with a thesis that summarizes how that event affected your outlook on life. Then, use your subsequent body paragraphs to highlight how this moment continues to affect your life personally or academically, and conclude by relating this experience to your goals for college, your desire for college scholarships, or your passion for becoming a National Merit Scholar. You can always ask others for help both in brainstorming for essay topics and in editing your final product.

  • 1 University of Florida Office of Financial Aid: Writing the Scholarship Essay
  • 2 Kansas State University: Writing Scholarship Essays

About the Author

Teresa J. Siskin has been a researcher, writer and editor since 2009. She holds a doctorate in art history.

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national merit finalist essay prompt

22 Full-Ride Scholarships for National Merit Finalists

What’s covered:, how much are national merit scholarships, how many schools offer full rides to national merit scholars, full-tuition scholarships for national merit finalists, how does your psat score impact your college chances.

It’s no wonder why many colleges are excited to welcome National Merit Finalists to their campuses—they’re among the most sought-after students in the nation, having scored highly on standardized tests and having demonstrated academic excellence during their high school years.

Some colleges offer National Merit Finalists full-ride scholarships to entice them into attending their institution, and a few will even offer additional financial awards that can be applied to things like research, study abroad, and technology.

National Merit Finalists begin as National Merit Semifinalists—an honor earned by scoring highly on the PSAT/NMSQT. Just 16,000 students out of over 1.5 million test takers are recognized as Semifinalists! Semifinalists are selected by state, with each state having its own cutoff scores (which change annually) that a student must meet to become a semifinalist.

While being named a National Merit Semifinalist is a prestigious honor in its own right, such students are also given the opportunity to advance to the level of National Merit Finalist. Finalists can earn scholarship dollars through a process similar to completing a college application—earning a strong score on the SAT or ACT, getting great grades, receiving a persuasive recommendation, and composing a compelling essay.

At the completion of the process, over 15,000 students are named National Merit Finalists and become eligible to win one of three types of scholarships:

  • The National Merit Scholarship: This is a one-time award of $2,500 based largely on a student’s academic record, essays, and written recommendations.
  • Corporate-Sponsored Merit Scholarship Awards: These scholarships vary in multiple aspects, from value to length—some are one-time awards while others are renewable. They’re awarded to students who meet specific criteria, such as being children of the business’s employees, residing in a community where the business operates, or pursuing a particular career path.
  • College-Sponsored Merit Scholarship Awards: Colleges and universities offer students renewable awards of varying values, provided that they’ve listed the school as their first choice and that they’ve gained admission.

It’s uncommon for National Merit Colleges to offer full-ride scholarships—it’s almost possible to count the number on your fingers and toes. Full-ride scholarships are the most generous award a student can receive—they cover the total expenses of college, including tuition, housing, meals, fees, and books. They also often include stipends that can be used on anything from covering other living expenses to studying abroad.

Full-ride scholarships are as rare as they are generous—the website Investopedia says that “unless a student is an elite athlete, in the top 1% academically, or has accomplished some other notable feat, the likelihood of getting a full-ride scholarship is slim to none.” Don’t be discouraged, though! One notable feat that can earn a student a full-ride scholarship at select schools is becoming a National Merit Finalist.

Numerous colleges offer full-ride scholarships to National Merit Finalists—a strong incentive to entice top students into applying to their programs.

1. Faulkner University

Freshman applicants who are National Merit Finalists and list Faulkner University as their first-choice school with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation receive funding to cover full tuition, room and board, and mandatory fees. National Merit Semifinalists also receive an award—they’re given free tuition at the University.

2. Florida A&M University

Florida A&M will cover the total cost of attendance—which may include tuition, fees, on-campus room and board, books, supplies, travel, and other miscellaneous expenses—for in-state National Merit Finalists through the Benacquisto Scholarship Program.

3. Florida Atlantic University

Florida Atlantic University (FAU) provides in-state National Merit Finalists with awards that cover up to the full cost of attendance through the Benacquisto Scholarship Program. Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA and enroll for 12 credit hours per semester to continue receiving the award.

4. Florida International University

National Merit Finalists will find tuition, fees, housing, and a meal plan covered at Florida International University (FIU). They will also receive a stipend for books and, if they demonstrate financial need, a laptop as well.

To qualify for the award, students must choose FIU as their top-choice university with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

5. Liberty University

Liberty University offers to cover the cost of tuition, as well as room and board, for up to four years for National Merit Semifinalists. Students must matriculate into Liberty University’s Honors Program to receive the award. National Merit Semifinalists also receive free tuition at Liberty University.

6. Louisiana Tech University

The National Merit Scholarship at Louisiana Tech University covers the cost of tuition, on-campus housing, and meals for four years for National Merit Finalists who list Louisiana Tech University as their first choice with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

To continue receiving the award, students must take a full-time course load and maintain a 3.0 GPA.

7. Murray State University

National Merit Finalists at Murray State receive four-year free tuition, on-campus housing, and meal plans. Recipients are required to maintain a 3.2 GPA, enroll full-time, and participate in the University’s Honors College.

8. New College of Florida

The New College of Florida offers to cover the full cost of attendance for National Merit Finalists who are residents of the Sunshine State through the Benacquisto Scholarship Program. To qualify, students must register the New College of Florida as their first choice institution with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

9. Oklahoma Christian University

Oklahoma Christian University (OC) National Merit Scholar Award covers up to 17 credit hours per semester of full tuition, mandatory fees, housing, and a meal plan for up to eight semesters. To qualify, students must list OC as their first-choice university with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation and maintain a 3.0 GPA as an OC student.

10. Texas Tech University

The National Merit Finalist Scholarship from Texas Tech provides National Merit Finalists with funding to cover the full cost of attendance for four years of undergraduate study. To remain eligible to receive funding, scholarship recipients are required to enroll in 30 hours per academic year and maintain a minimum 3.5 GPA.

11. University of Alabama

The University of Alabama has an enticing offer for National Merit Finalists—free tuition and housing. The school also provides National Merit Finalists with a supplemental scholarship of $3,500 per year, a one-time $2,000 allowance for summer research or international study, and $500 annually for books.

12. University of Central Florida

Both in-state and out-of-state National Merit Finalists have a good reason to put the University of Central Florida (UCF) at the top of their lists—in-state students have their total cost of attendance covered, while out-of-state students receive a waiver that allows them to pay the in-state tuition rate, and a UCF Merit Scholarship valued at $80,000.

National Merit Finalists also receive an expedited admissions decision, guaranteed admission into UCF’s Burnett Honors College, guaranteed on-campus housing, and a laptop.

13. University of Idaho

National Merit Finalists at the University of Idaho receive an institutional award that covers tuition, fees, and room and board if they enroll at the University for their first semester of undergraduate studies. National Merit Finalists are also directly admitted to the University Honors Program.

14. University of Maine

Maine residents who are National Merit Semifinalists are awarded the UMaine National Merit Award, which provides free tuition, as well as room and board, at the University of Maine for up to 15 credits per semester. Students must maintain full-time status—at least 12 credits per semester—to continue receiving the award.

15. University of Mississippi

National Merit Finalists with a minimum 3.0 GPA are eligible for the Academic Excellence National Merit Semifinalist/Finalist Scholarship at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). The award covers the cost of tuition and housing—it also covers non-resident fees for out-of-state students. The award is renewable for up to four years.

16. University of New Mexico

In-state students who are National Merit Finalists qualify for free tuition, fees, and housing at the University of New Mexico. The award is renewable for four years, provided that recipients maintain a minimum 3.3 GPA and complete 15 credit hours in the fall and spring semesters.

17. University of North Texas

The saying goes “everything is bigger in Texas,” and that’s true for National Merit Finalist awards—at least at the University of North Texas, where scholarship packages include the total cost of attendance. Both residents and non-residents of Texas have the cost of tuition, housing, meals, and books covered, along with a generous stipend.

The total value of the award for Texas residents is $128,000, while the value for non-residents is $177,000!

18. University of South Florida

The University of South Florida (USF) provides National Merit Finalists with a strong incentive to attend the school. Both in-state and out-of-state students receive a scholarship covering 100% of the full cost of attendance along with a $2,000 scholarship for study abroad.

National Merit Finalists at USF also receive a tuition waiver for their first 30 credits of graduate study at the school if they immediately enter a graduate program at the University after earning a baccalaureate degree.

19. University of Texas at Arlington

In-state and out-of-state National Merit Finalists receive exceptional financial support at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), including an award that covers tuition, fees, and on-campus housing. Students also receive stipends for books, supplies, and other educational expenses; research; and study abroad.

20. University of Tulsa

National Merit Finalists who designate the University of Tulsa (TU) as their first choice school with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation are awarded free tuition, fees, room and board, and books at the school. Recipients are also given membership in Leadership TU (led by the University’s President), guaranteed admission into TU’s Honors Program, and a $6,000 annual monetary gift.

The award is renewable for up to five years or until an undergraduate degree is earned. Students must maintain a minimum of 15 hours of coursework per semester to continue receiving the award.

21. University of West Florida

National Merit Finalists who attend the University of West Florida (UWF) their first semester in college are awarded free tuition, fees, housing, and meal plan. Recipients are also given an $800 stipend per semester for books and a one-time stipend of up to $1,500 for research or study abroad.

22. Virginia Commonwealth University

National Merit Finalists are eligible for the Presidential Scholarship at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), a four-year award that covers the cost of tuition, fees, and room and board. The total value of the award is approximately $114,356!

While a number of colleges offer full-ride scholarships to National Merit Finalists, numerous others provide National Merit Finalists with free tuition.

1. Harding University

National Merit Finalists who select Harding University as their first-choice school with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation receive free tuition and a $2,000 annual stipend. Recipients must maintain a minimum 3.25 GPA and live in campus housing.

2. Iowa State University

Iowa State University provides in-state National Merit Finalists with free tuition scholarships that are renewable for four years of undergraduate coursework. To receive the award, students must maintain full-time status at the University and a minimum 3.0 GPA.

3. Mississippi State University

Mississippi State University provides National Merit Finalists with free tuition and housing through its National Merit Finalist Scholarship, which is open to both in-state and out-of-state students. The award is worth approximately $40,000 over four years for Mississippi residents and $100,000 over four years for non-residents!

4. New Jersey Institute of Technology

National Merit Finalists are eligible to receive a four-year award covering the cost of tuition at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). The award is renewable for four years, provided that recipients maintain full-time status and a minimum 3.0 GPA.

5. Oklahoma State University

Both in-state and out-of-state National Merit Finalists qualify for a five-year tuition waiver at Oklahoma State University (OSU). The award is valued at up to $70,100 for in-state students and up to $147,700 for out-of-state students!

6. University of Oklahoma

The University of Oklahoma (OU) won’t cover all the expenses of in-state and out-of-state National Merit Finalists; however, it does offer them particularly generous aid packages. OU waives tuition for National Merit Finalists and provides generous stipends to help offset the cost of room and board, books, technology, and fees. The University also awards stipends for study abroad and research.

7. University of Houston

The University of Houston (UH) offers National Merit Finalists a generous scholarship package if they attend the institution—they have the cost of tuition and fees covered. In addition, National Merit Scholars at UH receive a $2,000 stipend for study abroad and a $1,000 stipend for research.

8. University of Texas at Dallas

National Merit Finalists at the University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) get complete tuition coverage for up to eight semesters. They also receive a stipend of $4,000 per semester to offset the cost of books, supplies, and other expenses; a housing stipend of $1,500 per semester; and a one-time stipend of $6,000 study abroad.

National Merit Finalists at UT Dallas also receive admission into the Collegium V Honors program.

9. University of West Virginia

National Merit Finalists with a minimum high school GPA of 3.5 can receive free tuition at the University of West Virginia along with a one-time $3,500 stipend for study abroad.

PSAT scores aren’t evaluated in the college admissions process; however, a high PSAT score is a strong indicator that an applicant will earn a high score on the SAT, which impacts your chances significantly. Standardized test scores and grades are used to calculate an applicant’s Academic Index —a single numerical score that many highly selective colleges use to screen applicants. If an applicant fails to meet a college’s Academic Index threshold, their application is likely to not receive serious consideration.

As mentioned above, becoming a National Merit Semifinalist is an impressive achievement in itself, since just the top 1% of scorers in a given state receive that recognition. National Merit Semifinalists will want to make sure to include it in the Awards and Honors section of the Common App, as it may improve their odds of college admission.

CollegeVine can help add clarity to your college admission odds. Our free chancing engine uses a variety of factors—ranging from grades to test scores to extracurricular activities—to estimate your odds at hundreds of colleges across the country! Rather than merely predict what college you may or may not get into, this powerful tool can also illuminate strengths and weaknesses in your college profile, giving you a chance to address underwhelming areas and improve your college admission odds.

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Scholarship Essays

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National Merit Scholarship Essay Example 1 - Influential Person or Obstacle

To help the reviewers get to know you, describe an experience you have had, a person who has influenced you, or an obstacle you have overcome. explain why this is meaningful to you.

"What's your box?" The speaker's words, amplified by the microphone, resonated in my mind. What is my box? I know what my box is, that is the thing that limits me, that keeps me from opening myself up to the world, and I am well aware of the fact that it exists. But why does my box exist? I didn't know, and that's why I couldn't stop mulling over those three words.

That assembly was unlike any that I had ever been to. The man who came to speak that day was unique. Instead of talking at us, it was like he was having a conversation with all six hundred of us. His message was simple: don't be scared. Don't be scared to break your box, to be yourself, and to get mad.

He asked us, the audience, to raise our hands if we had a box. The majority of the people sitting in the auditorium did, some reluctantly, others without hesitation. I kept my hands resting timidly in my lap. And that's when I realized. That was my box. I deny myself of the liberty of letting people in, and, in all honesty, I had no idea why it was there, barring me in almost every facet of my life.

That night, exhausted, I laid on my bed and squeezed my eyes shut, but sleep did not come as easily as I had hoped or expected. Instead, I found myself pondering over that one question: why does my box exist? Although my eyes were focused intently on the ceiling, I was looking at a slideshow of my life. I scanned through the years, looking for one particular event so profound that it altered the way that I presented myself to the public. And I found nothing. Sure, there were some sad moments in my life, but none where there was such a discernible difference in my attitude after it passed.

I found myself dismayed by my fruitless search. But in that time that I spent engrossed in my psyche, I took a close look at my mental processes and I learned more about myself than I ever had before. I know now that there is no single event that altered my development or defined me; I am who I am because of a multitude of factors and it is important that I come to accept these aspects of myself if I am to change.

In my opinion, it is essential that we get to know ourselves, even if we don't know what exactly makes us the people we are. if we hope to mature and develop, it helps to have an understanding of ourselves. In that one day of introspection, I learned a lot about myself. That assembly is significant to me because it prompted a single question that inspired a progression in my way of thinking.

Original Source: Essay Forum

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Five Dreher High students named finalist for 2024 National Merit Scholarship program

Five Dreher High School students were named finalists in the 2024 National Merit Scholarship Program.

The program recognizes academically talented high school seniors across the country.

More than 15,000 finalists were selected out of over 16,000 semifinalists. 

The finalists will compete for 7,140 National Merit Scholarships totaling to about $28 million. Winners will be announced in the spring.

Dreher’s National Merit Scholarship finalists include Aidan Dong, Larrabee Ellenberg, Charlotte Peavy, Lena Trask-Trafton and Naja Weinkle.

“We are proud of all five of Dreher's National Merit finalists. They are all deserving of this honor. Becoming a National Merit finalist is a culmination of several years of hard work and dedication to growth as a learner,” said Dreher Principal Dr. Joe Eberlin. “Each of these students has distinguished herself or himself as a scholar through achievement in the classroom and through their many talents. The Dreher family looks forward to their future endeavors!”

High school juniors entered the 2024 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2022 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT), which was the initial screen of program entrants. 

The nationwide pool of semifinalists, less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors, includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state. The amount of semifinalists in a state is proportional to the state’s percentage of the national total of graduating seniors.

To qualify as finalists, semifinalists must submit a detailed scholarship application which includes their academic record, evidenced participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, honors and awards. 

Also they must have an exemplary high school academic record, endorsement from a high school official, write an essay and earn an SAT or ACT score that confirms the student’s academic performance.

National Merit Scholarship winners are selected based on their skills, accomplishments and potential for success in college.

Five Dreher High students named finalist for 2024 National Merit Scholarship program

National Merit Semi-finalist Essay Prompt?

:confused:

<p>“In your own words, describe your personal characteristics, accomplishments, primary interests, plans, and goals. Your essay should be about 500 words.”</p>

<p>Just to let you know there is a physical space limitation on the essay (it needs to be tapes onto the application or written in by hand). The space provided is about 2/3 of a typed page.</p>

<p>Okay, thank you guys very much! :)</p>

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2 Thomas Jefferson seniors named National Merit Scholarship finalists

  • Oops! Something went wrong. Please try again later. More content below

Feb. 19—Two Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School seniors — Emalee Ro and Chengle "Lele" Qian — have been named National Merit Scholarship finalists.

Approximately 25% of each Thomas Jefferson graduating class is recognized by the National Merit Scholarship Corp. as either National Merit finalists or National Merit commended scholars.

In addition to this year's finalists, seniors Avery Hocker, Prithvi Nagarajan and Allison Ding were named National Merit commended scholars.

"We are so proud of Emalee and Lele for the prestigious accomplishment of being named National Merit Scholarship Finalists. In addition to being excellent students, they are also outstanding leaders and members of the TJIDS community," Laura McDonald, head of school, said in a statement.

To be eligible, students must score nationally in the top 1% on the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test. After this, they are named semifinalists by the National Merit Scholarship Corp. Finalists are selected from this group after completing an application, essays and further standardized testing.

National Merit Scholarship finalists across the nation will be competing for scholarships from three categories:

—National Merit $2,500 scholarships.

—Corporate-sponsored merit scholarships.

—College-sponsored merit scholarships.

Finalists will begin to be notified of their awards by late March.

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Two Thomas Jefferson seniors named National Merit Scholarship finalists

Tj Finalists 2024

JOPLIN, MO (Feb. 16, 2024) – Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School (TJIDS) seniors, Emalee Ro and Chengle “Lele” Qian, are now National Merit Scholarship Finalists.

With this year’s recognition, TJIDS continues a longstanding track record of producing National Merit Scholars annually.

Approximately 25% of each TJIDS graduating class is recognized by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) as either National Merit Finalists or National Merit Commended Scholars.

In addition to this year’s finalists, seniors Avery Hocker, Prithvi Nagarajan, and Allison Ding were named National Merit Commended Scholars.

“We are so proud of Emalee and Lele for the prestigious accomplishment of being named National Merit Scholarship Finalists. In addition to being excellent students, they are also outstanding leaders and members of the TJIDS community,” said Laura McDonald, Head of School.

High school seniors nationwide must undergo a rigorous application and selection process to be named National Merit Scholarship Finalists.

Students must score nationally in the top 1% on the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT). After this, they are named semifinalists by the NMSC. Finalists are selected from this group after completing an application, essays, and further standardized testing.

NMSC exists to identify and honor academically gifted high school students through PSAT scores. Students who qualify are among an exceptional group of individuals, and this honor enables students to be identified by top colleges and universities and become eligible for a select collection of additional scholarships, up to and including full tuition at several colleges and universities.

National Merit Scholarship Finalists across the nation will be competing for scholarships from three categories:

* National Merit $2500 Scholarships. * Corporate-Sponsored Merit Scholarships. * College-Sponsored Merit Scholarships.

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MOSCOW WIDENS NEW POLICY LINE; Essay, Scored During Rule of Khrushchev, Praised for View of Hard Rural Life

MOSCOW WIDENS NEW POLICY LINE; Essay, Scored During Rule of Khrushchev, Praised for View of Hard Rural Life

MOSCOW, Dec. 26—A growing reversal of the policies of former Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev, especially in agriculture, was‐extended today to the field of literary criticism.

The literary‐union newspaper Literaturnaya Gazeta published a laudatory review of Yefim Dorosh's essay “Half Rain, Half Sunshine,” which gives what is widely regarded as a realistic depiction of the countryside of central European Russia.

The essay, published last summer in the liberal literary monthly Novy Mir, was violently attacked in the Soviet press just before Mr. Khrushchev's overthrow in October as misrepresenting life in rural areas.

One critique, by L. Lebedev, a collective farm chairman from the Galich area northeast of Moscow, appeared in Selskaya Zhizn (Rural Life), the farm newspaper of the Communist party's Central Committee over whose content Mr. Khrushchev had direct control.

Mr. Lebedev charged Mr. Dorosh with conveying a picture of “prerevolutionary dreariness, despondency, stagnation, and complete hopelessness drifting from every page.”

The farm chairman accused the author of concentrating attention “on an old monastery, an ancient lake, an abandoned grave of some count instead of writing, say, about the new widescreen moviehouse.”

Mr. Lebedev said Mr. Dorosh had misrepresented the cultural level of farm youth and the rural intelligentsia by depicting them as “primitive, uneducated people without interest in literature or the arts.”

Mr. Dorosh had written that the residents of his fictitious country town of Raigorod “read little, went, to be sure, to the movies, but had not been in the regional museum, in the picture gallery, in the theater or at the philharmonic concert.”

Today's review in Literaturnaya Gazeta by Vladimir Voronov, a critic, contended that Mr. Dorosh had performed a useful service by drawing attention to problems that continued to bedevil Soviet agriculture and life in the countryside.

The essay, published while Mr. Khrushchev was still in power, questioned the effectiveness of some reforms inspired by the former Premier and criticized the continuing close supervision of farm production and the imposition of output plans from above.

In an evident allusion to Mr. Khrushchev's style of running Soviet agriculture, Mr. Voronov wrote:

“Dorosh regards the struggle for a growth of the rural economy not as a short‐lived, noisy campaign but as a long, complicated haul.”

Mr. Voronov assailed the farm chairman for having judged the essay simply on the basis that his own area was more prosperous than the one pictured in “Half Rain, Half Sunshine.”

The reviewer said it was not literary criticism to say:

“We live better” and to tell “about a milkmaid who had obtained 800 quarts of milk more from a cow than in the previous year.”

The controversial essay is part of a series of “rural diaries” that Mr. Dorosh, a resident of Moscow, has been writing since 1956 on the basis of periodic visits to an unidentified small town and the surrounding countryside in central Russia.

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  1. National Merit Finalist

    Step 1: Meet the Entry Requirements The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) requires you to have a few qualifications to even be considered for the scholarship: You must be enrolled as a high school student, progressing normally toward graduation.

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    456 Comments Below we cover the the most frequently asked questions about the National Merit Scholarship Program. Please see our National Merit Semifinalist Cutoffs page for the latest information on actual and projected Selection Index cutoffs by state. What is the National Merit Scholarship Program and how do you enter?

  3. PDF Information about the 2024 National Merit Scholarship Competition

    • in notification to colleges and universities. To help enhance their educational opportunities, a list of Semifinalists (by high school) will be sent to four-year U.S. colleges and universities. WHAT IS THE NEXT STEP FOR SEMIFINALISTS?

  4. The Magical 4.0-National Merit Finalist Essay

    November 16, 2006 The Magical 4.0-National Merit Finalist Essay When I was a junior in highschool, I had to write a 500 word essay as part of the process of becoming a National Merit Finalist (remember the PSAT?). This is still o still one of my favorites: ——————————————————————————————- The Magical 4.0

  5. PDF Requirements and Instructions for Semifinalists in the 2024 National

    If you attend high school outside the United States and have not yet become a U.S. citizen, to become a Finalist you must submit with your completed National Merit Scholarship Application:

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    The National Merit Scholarship essay prompt can change annually. One past prompt is: ... When Does National Merit Finalist Come Out? Finalists will get a letter in the mail at their home addresses in early February. Or, they can check their Finalist letter on their Online Scholarship Application account. You can find more details about the ...

  7. The Complete Guide: Becoming a National Merit Finalist

    fill out an additional application, the "National Merit Finalist Application" write an essay; maintain a high GPA; Semifinalists receive a letter in the mail if they make it as a finalist and a "Certificate of Merit" printout. Scholarship finalist: Only 7,600 of the 15k finalists receive the $2,500 scholarship. As long as they confirm ...

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    June 12, 2023 How does a National Merit Semifinalist become a National Merit Scholar? S eptember rolls around, and you find out that your PSAT scores from nearly a year ago have qualified you to apply for National Merit. Great! You're probably excited and ready to jump right in, but you might feel a little confused.

  10. National Merit Scholarship (How to Win It!): The Winner's Guide

    Updated October 27, 2022 Do you need help finding best-fit colleges or writing essays? You can sign up for a free consult here . The National Merit Scholarship Program is an academic competition for scholarships and recognition that started in 1955. Each year, approximately 7,500 Finalists receive scholarships.

  11. How to Write a National Merit Essay

    How to Write a National Merit Essay TERESA J. SISKIN CLASS ... You've cleared the first hurdle once you've become a semifinalist for the National Merit Scholarship Competition. Continuing to compete as a finalist means completing an application, which includes an essay.

  12. Question on NMSQT Finalist Essay Prompt

    Question on NMSQT Finalist Essay Prompt. Financial Aid and Scholarships National Merit Scholarships. MB3000 September 29, 2010, 4:57pm 1. <p>Hello there! I was looking at the essay prompt for nmsqt, and I had a few questions. For the essay, it says we can talk about a person who's influenced us; can that be a historical figure?

  13. 22 Full-Ride Scholarships for National Merit Finalists

    1. Faulkner University Freshman applicants who are National Merit Finalists and list Faulkner University as their first-choice school with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation receive funding to cover full tuition, room and board, and mandatory fees.

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    What's up with the National Merit essay? Hey guys! So I was just told that I'm a national merit semifinalist (yay) but here's the thing: nobody in my school has gotten in 10+ years it so I have no clue what to do. My councilor pretty much just congratulated me, gave me the login and told me to get it in to her by next week. The essay prompt is

  15. National Merit Scholarship Essay Example 1

    National Merit Scholarship Essay Example 1 - Influential Person or Obstacle To help the reviewers get to know you, describe an experience you have had, a person who has influenced you, or an obstacle you have overcome. Explain why this is meaningful to you National Merit Scholarship Influential Person Essay Overcoming Obstacle Essay

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    Reese D. Borlin. Scholar, Eagle Scout, Volunteer, Athlete—Reese D. Borlin hopes to eventually add "Park Ranger" to the list of titles he has earned so far. As a forestry major at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Reese focuses his studies on forest recreation and park management, often venturing outside the classroom.

  17. National Merit Scholarship Corporation

    To compete for National Merit Scholarships, Semifinalists must advance to the Finalist level of the competition by fulfilling several additional requirements. A Semifinalist can become a Finalist and compete for a Merit Scholarship award in only one program year. Requirements for Finalist standing To qualify as a Finalist, a Semifinalist must:

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  20. GCISD Announces 2024 National Merit Finalists

    As National Merit Finalists, these academically talented students now have an opportunity to continue in the competition which will award an estimated 7,140 National Merit Scholarships worth nearly $28 million that will be announced in the spring of 2024. Congratulations to GCISD's Class of 2024 National Merit Finalists: Drake Arnett, GHS

  21. 2 Thomas Jefferson seniors named National Merit Scholarship finalists

    Feb. 19—Two Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School seniors — Emalee Ro and Chengle "Lele" Qian — have been named National Merit Scholarship finalists. Approximately 25% of each Thomas Jefferson graduating class is recognized by the National Merit Scholarship Corp. as either National Merit Finalists or National Merit Commended Scholars. In addition to this year's finalists, seniors Avery ...

  22. Two Thomas Jefferson seniors named National Merit Scholarship finalists

    Approximately 25% of each TJIDS graduating class is recognized by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) as either National Merit Finalists or National Merit Commended Scholars. In addition to this year's finalists, seniors Avery Hocker, Prithvi Nagarajan, and Allison Ding were named National Merit Commended Scholars.

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