The National Merit Scholarship Program is a competition which recognizes the top high school students in the country and rewards them with a financial scholarship. The program has been in existence since 1955.
To participate in the National Merit Scholarship Program, a student must be enrolled as a full-time high school student, be a U. S. citizen, and take the PSAT in October of his/her junior year of high school. Once a student is a senior, it is too late to participate.
The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) awards $2,500 for each winner’s freshman year of college. It is not renewable. Being a winner or a finalist is an impressive addition to a student’s college application.
In April following the fall test administration of the PSAT, the NMSC names the top 50,000 scorers who are in the running to become semifinalists. The student’s high school is notified and the student can select two colleges to be notified if he/she is named a finalist.
In September of the student’s senior year, 16,000 students are notified that they have qualified as semifinalists. These students will receive a National Merit Scholarship application. They must keep up their grades in their senior year, do well on the SAT Reasoning Test, write a letter describing themselves, and submit letters of recommendation from adults in their high school who know them well.
In February of the senior year, 15,000 students are named as finalists. The student’s high school and the two colleges named earlier by the student are notified of the finalist status.
Finally, about 7,600 students will receive National Merit Scholarships.
You may recognize the names listed here of prominent persons who have been National Merit Scholars. They are:
Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve System
Bill Gates, Former Chairman of Microsoft Corporation
John G. Roberts, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court
Jeffrey P. Bezos, Chairman and CEO, Amazon.com
Jerry Greenfield, Co-Founder of Ben & Jerry’s
I am proud also to say that my granddaughter Shannon, a junior in high school, has passed the first hurdle and is in the running to become a semifinalist.
Those who earn National Merit Scholarships have worked hard for the honor. It works in a student’s favor to be able to attend the college of his/her choice. Colleges are proud to boast of the number of National Merit Scholars who are on their campus.