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How to Get Rewarded for Your Scores

The PSAT is not required for all students, but it should be considering the opportunities it offers. Every year, over 1.5 million students take the PSAT, which qualifies them for the National Merit Scholarship. The National Merit Scholarship Program (NMSP) awards nearly $35 million in scholarships to rising college students every year. There are only three basic requirements to qualify for these scholarships but less than one percent of entrants actually receive them.

To be eligible for the NMSP, a student must do the following: 1) take the PSAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test during his or her junior year, 2) be a high school student with intentions of enrolling in a college full time by the following fall, 3) be a U.S. citizen or have the intentions of permanently becoming one. Out of the 1.5 million students who take this test every year, 50,000 of them are selected to move on to the next qualifying round. These 50,000 contestants have to score in the highest selection index (the top 3% of all 11th grade test-takers), which varies from state to state and year to year. These qualified students are then offered the chance to select two colleges to which the NMSC will provide a reference.

The top third scoring students out of the 50,000 qualify as semifinalists in the NMSP, which requires a submission of the National Merit Scholarship Application to move onto the final round. After careful scrutiny of students’ skills, accomplishments and academic abilities based off the applications, approximately 8,200 students are finally selected for the Merit Scholarships. Less than 1% of students from the initial pool of entrants receive one of the following scholarships: National Merit Scholarship, College-Sponsored Merit Scholarship, or a Corporate-Sponsored Merit Scholarship.

The National Merit Scholarship Program has held over 58 competitions, awarding over $1.4 billion for undergraduate study. The different awards offer scholarships that range from $2,500 to $10,000 per academic school year to the winners. There is no entrance fee into this competition, but there is a lot to gain. Start preparing for your PSAT the summer before junior year for a chance to receive some scholarship money and to get a head start on your college entrance exam preparation.

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