PSAT Semifinalist cutoffs being announced soon, so we want to detail the path towards becoming a full-fledged National Merit Finalist, and what that means exactly. Let us know in the comments if you qualified as a Semifinalist!
How Many People Earn National Merit Semifinalist? How Many Will Become Finalists?
Across the country, a total of 16,000 students will qualify for National Merit Semifinalist status. As you likely know, students qualify on a per-state basis, with each individual state having its own cutoff score. Of the 16,000 students, 15,000 will ultimately become National Merit Finalists, so overall, your chances of becoming a Finalist are high!
How do I become a National Merit Finalist?
Your school’s guidance counselor should guide you through this process, but the basic steps towards advancing to Finalist are:
- Completing the National Merit Scholarship application, which includes an essay.
- Have a consistently strong academic performance in high school.
- Receive a letter of recommendation from your school’s principal.
- Take the SAT, and score well on it.
Overall, the process isn’t terribly rigorous, and you will have an incredible amount of support to guide you through these application steps. As long as you don’t have any red flags in your academic performance, you can be pretty confident in advancing.
Do I have to take the New SAT for National Merit?
Since this year’s PSAT (administered October 2015) was in the new format, many students and parents have asked whether or not students must take the New SAT to fulfill the NMSC’s requirement. The answer is no! We called the NMSC, and for this year’s batch of students (Class of 2017), both the Old and the New SATs will suffice for the application, as long as your old SAT score has not expired (SAT scores expire after five years, so you should be fine if you took the old SAT last year).
What does it mean to be a National Merit Finalist?
Being a National Merit Finalist entitles you to a few options: First, if your parent’s company offers scholarships to Finalists (which is fairly common among larger national/international conglomerates), you can accept their scholarship offer. Next, if a school you’re applying to offers scholarships to Finalists, you can take that package. Finally, if neither of these applies to you, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation will award a one-time $2,500 scholarship.
In general, most of the schools out there award incredibly generous packages to national merit students, and it’s really only the Ivy Leagues and similarly competitive schools that do not . What this means is that by becoming a National Merit Finalist, you get access to a whole slew of financial resources!
What does National Merit Semifinalist mean?
If you are one of the 1,000 who does not advance to National Merit Finalist, don’t worry too much! While you might not qualify for additional scholarships, NMSF will still look great on your college application. The key to all this is that National Merit Finalist positions aren’t announced until the spring of your senior year. This means that colleges won’t have this information in front of them when making an admissions decision, so in essence, colleges view all semifinalists as finalists! Though you might not have a scholarship once admissions rolls around, you will still gain the benefit of being able to list this prestigious award on your application!