What is the PSAT/NMSQT and the National Merit Scholarship Program?

In October of each year, 1.5 million high school Juniors will sit for the official PSAT/NMSQT test, administered by College Board.  Taking the PSAT/NMSQT as a Junior is the first step of the nearly 18 month qualifying process for the National Merit Scholarship Program.

SJA Juniors who choose to take the PSAT/NMSQT are automatically entered into the National Merit Scholarship Competition.  SJA also offers an optional Practice PSAT/NMSQT for Sophomores in October.

The following April, high schools are notified if any of their Juniors are among the top scoring 50,000 (about 3%) nationwide advancing forward in the competition.

In the fall of Senior year, around two thirds of these identified students will be named National Merit Commended students, a wonderful honor.  Although Commended students do not qualify for scholarships directly from the National Merit competition, the designation may qualify them for corporate or private scholarships, looks great on students’ resumes, and can be listed on college admission and scholarship applications.

The remaining 16,000 students or so—those whose scores put them in the top 99th percentile in their state—are identified at National Merit Semifinalists. Semifinalists can apply to become Finalists by completing some additional requirements, including taking an SAT test.  The National Merit Finalists are named in February of Senior year.

Separately, the College Board also recognizes academically outstanding Hispanic/Latino U.S. juniors through the National Hispanic Recognition Program (NHRP). Every year, the NHRP recognizes about 5,000 of the 250,000 Hispanic/Latino Juniors who take the test.  The College Board’s NHRP program is an academic honor that can be included on college and scholarship applications. It’s not a scholarship, but colleges do use this program to identify academically exceptional Hispanic/Latino students.