National Merit Scholarship Program 2024: How To Apply

What is National Merit Scholarship programs? Established in 1955, the National Merit Scholarship Program is an annual academic competition among high school students competing for college scholarships and recognition. The program is sponsored by National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC), a non-profit organization that operates without government assistance.

An Overview National Merit Scholarship Program

The National Merit Scholarship Program is an annual academic competition among high school students for recognition and college scholarships that was established in 1955.

The program is organizd by National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC), a not-for-profit organization that operates without government assistance or funding.

To enter the scholarship program, United States high school students enter the National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT), which serves as an initial screening of over 1.3 million entrants each year, and by meeting published program entry and participation requirements as listed below.

To qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program and compete for recognition and 7,880 scholarships to be offered in 2025:

  • Take the PSAT/NMSQT in October 2023.
  • Meet other program entry requirements.

The 2024/2025 Competition Begins in 2023: Entry Requirements

To be eligible for the 2025 National Merit® Scholarship Program, applicants must pass the 2023 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT). (The National Merit Scholarship Program will NOT consider applications based on the PSAT/10 and PSAT/8/9.)

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The competition will run roughly eighteen months, starting in the fall of 2023 and ending in the spring of 2025 with the awarding of scholarships for undergraduate studies at a college. In 2023, it is anticipated that 3.5 million students will take the PSAT/NMSQT, and 1.3 million of those will be eligible to enroll in this program.

Entry Requirements

To be eligible for the 2024/2025 National Merit Program, a student needs to meet all of the following requirements. Viz, a student must:

  1. be enrolled as a high school student (traditional or homeschooled), progressing normally toward graduation or completion of high school by 2025, and planning to accept admission to college no later than the fall of 2025;
  2. take the 2023 PSAT/NMSQT in the specified year of the high school program and no later than the third year in grades 9 through 12, irrespective of grade classification or educational pattern; and
  3. attend high school in the United States, District of Columbia, or U.S. commonwealths and territories; or meet the citizenship requirements for students attending high school outside United States;Students Attending High School Outside the United States.

Ccording to NMSQT “When to take the qualifying test Because a student can participate (and be considered for a scholarship) in only one specific program year, the year in which the student takes the psat/nmsqt to enter the competition is very important.

The test must be taken in the specified year of the student’s high school program, as described below.

1. Students who plan to spend the usual four years in high school (grades 9 through 12) before entering college full-time must:

take the psat/nmsqt in their third year (usually grade 11, junior year). They will be entering the competition that ends when awards are offered in the spring of their fourth high school year (usually grade 12, senior year), the same year they will leave
high school and enter college.

Some schools encourage their sophomore students to take the psat/nmsqt for guidance purposes; however, if these students are spending four years in grades 9 through 12, they must take the test again when they are juniors to enter the National Merit
Scholarship Program.

  1. Students who plan to leave high school early to enroll in college
    full-time after spending three years or less in grades 9 through
    12 usually can participate in the National Merit Program if they
    take the psat/nmsqt before they enroll in college. Such stu￾dents must take the psat/nmsqt in either the next-to-last year
    or the last year they are enrolled in high school.
    a) Those who take the psat/nmsqt in the next-to-last year of
    high school will be entering the competition for awards to
    be offered as they are finishing their final high school year.
    b) Those who take the psat/nmsqt in their last year of high
    school will be entering the competition for awards to be
    offered the year after they have completed high school.
  2. Students who are dual enrolled in both high school and
    college must take the psat/nmsqt in the fall of their third
    year of high school (grade 11, junior year) to enter the
    National Merit Program. The high school determines whether
    a student is dual enrolled and confirms the student’s status as a
    high school student.
  3. Students who plan to spend five years in grades 9 through 12
    usually can participate in the National Merit Program if they
    take the psat/nmsqt in both the third and fourth years of high
    school. A five-year student will not be eligible for the program
    until a written request for entry to the competition is approved
    by nmsc. The request should identify the student’s name, high school, and specific educational pattern (including the academic years spent in grades 9 through 12). The student’s highest possible level of recognition is deter￾mined by the qualifying score earned during the third year, the year in which all other competitors are considered. The student must qualify at or above that same level in the fourth year in order to compete in the fifth year, the year the student will leave high school and enter college. Note: If there is a question about whether a student can participate in the National Merit Program because educational plans do not fit one of the previous descriptions, or for any other reason, contact nmsc immediately. The student’s responses to National Merit Scholarship Program eligibility questions on the psat/nmsqt are used to determine whether the student meets requirements to participate in a particu￾lar year’s program. (More information about these questions can be found on page 32 in the nmsc section of the 2023 psat/nmsqt Student Guide.) Score reports provided to test takers and their schools indicate only whether or not the student is a program participant, not whether the student qualifies for recognition. Encourage your students to review this section of the score report carefully. A school official or the student should immediately write to nmsc regarding any error or change that may affect the student’s participation in the program”

Students Attending High School Outside the United States

To qualify for the 2025 National Merit Scholarship Program, a student attending high school outside the United States must:

  • be a citizen of the United States; or
  • be a U.S. lawful permanent resident (or have applied for permanent residence, the application for which has not been denied); and
  • Intend to become a U.S. citizen at the earliest opportunity allowed by law.

During the digital readiness check, applicants will be asked the following three questions to determine entry to the National Merit Scholarship Program:

  1. Are you enrolled as a high school student (traditional or homeschooled)?
    1. Yes
    2. No
  2. When will you complete or leave high school and enroll into college full-time?
    1. 2024
    2. 2025
    3. 2026
    4. After 2026
    5. Not planning to attend college
  3. How many total years will you spend in grades 9–12?
    1. 1 year
    2. 2 years
    3. 3 years
    4. 4 years
    5. 5 or more years

Moreso, students testing outside the United States will also be asked the following question:

  1. Are you a citizen of the United States?
    1. Yes
    2. No
    3. No, but I am a U.S. lawful permanent resident (or have applied for permanent residence, the application for which has not been denied) and I intend to become a U.S. citizen at the earliest opportunity allowed by law

Eligibility Verification

The NMSC section of the PSAT/NMSQT Score Report shows the student’s answers to the entry requirement questions and whether the student’s Selection Index score will be considered for the National Merit Scholarship Program. Students are urged to review this section of their Score Report carefully and contact NMSC immediately if any responses to their entry requirement questions are incorrect or have changed.

Steps in the 2024/25 National Merit Scholarship Program Application 

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