National merit scholarship qualifications: do you qualify?

Exam: PSAT Test - Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test: Math, Reading

Fundamentals of National Merit Scholarship Program

In the education system of the United States, the students studying in the 11th grade of any U.S. high school participates in the National Merit Scholarship programs arranged by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC). In this scholarship program the candidates from all over the U.S. compete for educational funding. Scholarships are generally awarded on the basis of the skills, potentialities and accomplishments that are exhibited through application materials of a student.

NMSC applies the PSAT/NMSQT test in the selection process of the students for the National Merit Scholarship Program. In other words, PSAT/NMSQT test serves as a preliminary screen of roughly 1.5 million candidates each year, and by fulfilling published program entry and/or obligatory requirements of participation. NMSC applies the Selection Index score (which is retrieved from the summation of the section-based scores including writing skills, critical reading and mathematics) on the PSAT/NMSQT as a preliminary screen of National Merit Scholarship Program entrants as well as in order to designate the groups of candidates to be honored or granted in the competition it carries out.

If you’re a high school junior or the parent of a high school junior, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the National Merit Scholarship qualifications, as most juniors will take the PSAT/NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) in October of their junior year.

Fundamentals of PSAT/NMSQT

The PSAT (Preliminary SAT) or NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) refers to a standardized test coordinately proctored by the NMSC (National Merit Scholarship Corporation) as well as College Board  in the United States. The PSAT or NMSQT scores are applied in determining the eligibility, qualification and potentiality of the candidates in the selection process of the National Merit Scholarship Program. The candidates need to follow some strategies to improve their PSAT or NMSQT scores.

The PSAT/NMSQT test is comprised of three sections. Those are: writing skills, critical reading and math. And the type of questions is mainly multiple-choice. The official site of the offers practice questions along with the answers as well as explanations for every sort of question. This site also offers essential tips to crack the PSAT/NMSQT with success.

Critical Reading’ section has been designed with the question items, including, Sentence Completion and Passage-Based Reading. The question type is multiple-choice item. The ‘Math’ section has been designed with the question items drawn from algebra & functions; number & operation; statistics, data analysis & probability; geometry & measurement; etc. The question type includes multiple-choice item and grid-in. the ‘Writing Skill’ section has been designed with the question items, including, Identifying Sentence Errors, Improving Paragraphs and Improving Sentences. The question type is multiple-choice item.

Around 3.5 million numbers of students attain in the PSAT/NMSQT exam each year. In the year of 2013, about 1.59 million numbers of high school sophomores as well as about 1.55 million numbers of high school juniors attain the PSAT. However, the younger students/candidates are also eligible for attaining the test. The PSAT/NMSQT scores are used as a determining indicator for the eligibility as well as qualification of the U.S. students to be selected in the National Merit Scholarship Program.

National Merit Scholarship Qualifications and Selection Process

In order to achieve the eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship Program, a candidate is obliged to fulfill some requirements, such as:

1) To appear in the PSAT/NMSQT exam, while the student is studying at the 3rd year or junior year in the high school

2) To continue the high school education and have further plan to take enrollment in a college, as a full time student by the fall session after successful completion of his or her high school level graduation

3) To be a citizen of the U.S. or a permanent resident of the U.S. along with the purpose of becoming a citizen of the U.S. 

If any student fulfills the above mentioned requirements, then s/he will automatically acquire the eligibility to take part in the National Merit Scholarship Program (NMSP).

Among the 1.5 million numbers of juniors, who attain the PSAT/NMSQT every year, about 50,000 numbers of juniors, who can achieve the top level Selection Index scores (or total scores) in the PSAT/NMSQT, meet the eligibility and qualifying requirements stated above to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program recognition.  In this process, roughly the top three percentages scorers among the 11th grade test-takers qualify, in general.  However, it should be noted that the Selection Index scores vary from year to year as well as state to state. In this procedure, the top-level students are identified for the National Merit Scholarship Program recognition from each state of the U.S. states as well as the District of Columbia. 

In the continuation of this process, each year about 50,000 students are invited by the PSAT/NMSQT administration on the month of April, in order to choice two colleges where the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) provides a reference.  On the September, about 2/3 of those previously selected 50,000 students receives Letters of Commendation – as a recognition of their academic abilities as well as potential – by the PSAT/NMSQT administration.  Commended candidates are not qualified for National Merit scholarships.  The remaining 1/3 students of the 50,000 students qualify as Semifinalists for the National Merit Scholarship programs.  To qualify as a successful Semifinalist, at least 201-222 PSAT/NMSQT score (out of 240) is required per year. However, this score might vary from year to year as well as state to state.

The Semifinalist students are required to submit the National Merit Scholarship Application to the NMSC along with SAT score to compete for the final round of National Merit Scholarship program.  Among the Semifinalists – approximate 16,000 students – about 15,000 candidates qualify as the Finalists.  Among these Finalists, ½ – roughly 8,200 – are finally selected for the National Merit Scholarship Program.    

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