National Merit Scholarships


National Merit Scholarships

The National Merit Scholarships Program is world-renowned for their college merit scholarships since its beginning in the 1950s. Because of their prestige, these merit scholarship awards are supported by numerous businesses, foundations, professional societies, and colleges or universities who have connections and are able to judge the criteria so a proper award can be given to a winner every year. High school students involved with this program must take the SAT and PSAT for initial screenings and to see if students are truly academically inclined and even qualify for the National Merit Scholarship. Once the student takes one of these preliminary, standardized tests as well as fill out proper application requirements, he/she will be informed as to whether or not they are eligible to go to the next step in the process. It’s a step by step process designed to weed out those students who don’t qualify.

When going on to the final round of the selection process, the winner of a National Merit Scholarship will be chosen based on their scores on the tests they’ve taken in the preliminary, their academic record, a written recommendation from their teacher, principal, coach or counselor, students activities at school, their leadership skills and of course in their own words, why they should feel they are worthy of such a prestigious merit scholarship and what their plans are once they get it. As you can see they are looking for students worthy of this prestigious scholarship award.

The National Merit Scholarship is open to virtually all high school students but specifically to those who are studying in their junior year and have plans to graduate high school and go to college the following year. They can be a natural-born or a non-US citizen who must fill out proper paperwork so it will be legal for them to win the award. Awards are usually given out from March until June of the same year.

Students for these National Merit Scholarship Awards must follow a strict schedule of guidelines that will make them eligible to be a finalist/winner. In order to complete the whole application for the National Merit Scholarship Application, everything must be filled out by September 11 (or a date set by the school attended). The school official then must mail the completed application form by filling in their own information by October 13. Usually finalists for the National Merit Scholarship will be announced in March of the following year with the winners announced from April – May.

As for the types of the awards that a student can win, there are a number of various possible types of scholarships that are associated with the National Merit Scholarship award and not just one kind of award.

Those that win the official National Merit Scholarship are awarded based on the state they represent and regardless of family situation, college, major, or career plans. For them it is the luck of the draw. There are usually about 800 Finalist that are officially contacted to receive such a merit scholarship contest that comes in one of two forms. There is the National Achievement Scholarship in which $2500 is awarded annually as a single payment to at least 700 winners.

Then you have what is known as the Corporate-sponsored Achievement Scholarship Award in which the criteria are determined by the company that the National Merit Scholarship Committee recognizes in a community where a company has operations. Anyone who has children within that company are winners as well as those finalists that the company would like to represent based on their background and qualifications. They can be one-time or renewed every four years of their graduate study. There are at least 100 of these awards valued at $2500 that are given out every year.

In addition to these two scholarships mentioned, there is also a third lesser known scholarship known as the College and University Sponsor of Merit Scholarship Award. Winners of this scholarship award are based on what the sponsored college that the finalist selects to attend. The finalist would have to be accepted for admission into the college as well as be informed that the college chosen was the number one choice for their studies. The awards are renewable and given every year to those Finalists who notify the National Merit Scholarships Committee of their plans to attend college for these awards.  There are 4,800 of these scholarships available that offer a renewable stipend of $500 to $2,000 every year so take the time to apply for them because many are awarded every year.


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