Issue 3: The National Merit Finalist Process

Samuel Elliott, Staff Writer

Editor’s note: this piece was featured alongside a spread of Robinson’s National Merit finalists. To see it in context, visit Vol. 61 Issue 3 of Knight Writers.

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) is a not-for-profit organization that hosts the National Merit Scholarship Program each year, with the intent of identifying and providing opportunities for promising youth in the United States of America. The program has been running since the mid-50’s, and generally proceeds as follows:

High school students across the country take their PSAT/NMSQT during their junior year, and are automatically entered into the program, which ends in the fourth quarter of their following school year. Scores are automatically sent to the NMSC, who then calculates the some 50,000 highest scorers. These are then relayed back to the schools in Sept. of the following year, with the students being proclaimed as either commended students or semifinalists. Commended students, while not advancing in the competition, keep their titles and are often considered for unrelated scholarship opportunities, such as those from corporations or businesses.

The remaining, usually around 16,000, move on as semifinalists, and are the highest scoring students in each state. Of this pool another distinction is made, delineating around 15,000 of those students as National Merit Finalists. The names of these students are relayed to the principal of their respective schools, and receive a certificate of merit for making it into this incredibly selective group.

Finally, scholarships are awarded to Merit Scholar designees, chosen from the finalist group based on their achievements and accomplishments in their education and beyond, without regard to gender, race, or wealth. These students can receive anything of a selection of awards, including $2,500 scholarships from the NMSC itself, or corporate or college-sponsored scholarships from an affiliated third party.