The National Merit Scholarship Program 2023/2024

The National Merit Scholarship Program is one of the most prestigious and competitive scholarship programs in the United States. It recognizes and financially supports high-achieving high school students based on their performance on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT).

The National Merit Scholarship Program

Here’s a comprehensive overview of the National Merit Scholarship Program:


Program Overview

Recognition and Reward:

The National Merit Scholarship Program was established to identify and reward academically talented students. It serves as a recognition of their outstanding performance in standardized testing.

Administering Body:

The program is administered by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC), a not-for-profit organization that conducts the annual competition.

Stages of the Program


The journey begins with the PSAT/NMSQT, a standardized test typically taken by high school juniors. Students are automatically entered into the National Merit Scholarship competition by taking this test.

Commended Students:

Based on their PSAT/NMSQT scores, some students are recognized as “Commended Students.” Although they do not advance to the semi-finalist stage, they receive letters of commendation and recognition for their achievements.


The highest-scoring students in each state are designated as semi-finalists. They represent the top 1% of PSAT/NMSQT test-takers nationwide and move on to the next stage.


Semi-finalists must meet additional requirements, including submitting a detailed application, academic records, and endorsements from a school official. These materials are reviewed to determine who will be named National Merit Finalists.

Merit Scholarship Winners:

The National Merit Scholarship winners are selected from the pool of finalists based on their accomplishments, skills, and abilities. These scholarships can vary in value and may cover a significant portion of a student’s college expenses.

Types of Merit Scholarships

National Merit Scholarship:

This is the most prestigious National Merit Scholarship, which recognizes exceptional students for their high academic achievements.

Corporate-Sponsored Merit Scholarships:

Many corporations, including Fortune 500 companies, sponsor National Merit Scholarships to support students pursuing various fields of study.

College-Sponsored Merit Scholarships:

Some colleges and universities offer National Merit Scholarships to attract high-achieving students to their institutions.

Eligibility and Criteria


The primary eligibility criterion is the PSAT/NMSQT score. Students must achieve a high score to qualify as commended students, semi-finalists, and finalists.

Academic Records and Endorsements:

To become a finalist, students must submit academic records, write an essay, and obtain endorsements from a school official.

Benefits and Opportunities

Financial Support:

National Merit Scholars often receive substantial financial support to cover college tuition, fees, and other educational expenses.

Prestige and Recognition:

Being named a National Merit Scholar is a prestigious honor and can open doors to many opportunities, including acceptance to top colleges and universities.

Networking and Community:

National Merit Scholars join a community of high-achieving peers and gain access to resources, events, and networking opportunities.

Impact and Influence

Educational Impact:

The program has a significant impact on educational excellence and has motivated countless students to strive for academic success.

Promotion of Meritocracy:

The National Merit Scholarship Program is often seen as a celebration of meritocracy, recognizing students based on their abilities and achievements rather than financial need.

Inspiration for Academic Achievement:

The program inspires students to excel academically, contributing to a culture of academic achievement in high schools across the United States.

History and Evolution


The National Merit Scholarship Program was established in 1955. Its creation was driven by the goal of identifying and nurturing intellectual talent in the United States.

Decades of Recognition:

Over the decades, the program has evolved and expanded its recognition to commend thousands of students each year. It has consistently celebrated excellence in academics and promoted the pursuit of higher education.

A Catalyst for Academic Excellence

Encouraging Scholarly Pursuits:

The program’s emphasis on recognizing and rewarding academic achievement serves as a powerful motivator for high school students to excel in their studies and aim for intellectual excellence.

Diversity of Awardees:

National Merit Scholarship winners come from diverse backgrounds, demonstrating that academic excellence knows no boundaries. Students from various socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnicities, and regions of the country have been celebrated as scholars.

Inspiring Future Scholars:

The National Merit Scholarship Program has inspired generations of students to pursue higher education and aspire to be part of the select group of National Merit Scholars.

Educational Opportunities and Affordability

Access to Elite Institutions:

National Merit Scholars often gain access to some of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the United States. Their scholarships can make attending these institutions more affordable.

Financial Support:

The financial support provided by the program has relieved the burden of college expenses for countless families, making higher education attainable for students who may not have had the means otherwise.

Alumni Success Stories

Impactful Contributions:

National Merit Scholars have gone on to make significant contributions in various fields, including academia, medicine, law, technology, business, and public service.

National and Global Influence:

Many National Merit Scholars have not only excelled in their respective fields but have also made a difference on the national and global stages.

Promoting Fairness and Meritocracy

Merit-Based Recognition:

The program is often praised for being a merit-based system that rewards students for their abilities and hard work rather than their financial circumstances.

Supporting Educational Equality:

By providing opportunities for academic recognition and financial support, the National Merit Scholarship Program contributes to educational equality and access.

Adapting to Changing Times

Continuous Relevance:

The program remains relevant by adapting to changing educational landscapes and testing standards. It has evolved to meet the needs of students in different eras.

Global Recognition

Model for Other Nations:

The National Merit Scholarship Program is often cited as a model for other countries seeking to promote academic excellence and provide financial support for students based on merit.

Encouraging International Excellence:

The program’s emphasis on academic achievement serves as an inspiration for students and educational systems worldwide, emphasizing the value of striving for excellence.

National Merit Scholarship Corporation News

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Published: 11/6/2023 8:38 AM

Milind Natraj Muthiah, winner of a 2022 National Merit $2500 Scholarship, attends Vanderbilt University and is majoring in neuroscience. “I chose this field of study because my interest in neuroscience grew as I became more involved in it by shadowing neurologists and doing research,” he says. “Despite its importance to the body, the brain, curiously, is still one of the least understood parts of the body, and I want to [learn] what [more] there is to discover about the brain.” While he has already spent much time with neurological research and reading about groundbreaking developments in the field, Milind is excited to see what more he will be able to experience at Vanderbilt’s medical center. He reflects with confidence what else his future at Vanderbilt might entail, saying, “I would like to graduate with a perfect GPA, which is difficult for premed at Vanderbilt, but still doable, and receive admission to a top-tier medical school. Another goal of mine is to study abroad and become more culturally intelligent.”Read More…

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