How To Become A National Merit Scholar

Flickr user Mark Bonica

Being awarded a National Merit Scholarship is not for the academically squeamish. Only the top 1% of students who take the PSAT / NMSQT achieve a score high enough to qualify. That does not mean you should give up all hope however.

With test preparation and a mindset for success, you can achieve a National Merit Scholarship or one of their Special Scholarships.

Early Preparation is Key

If you really want this type of scholarship, you need to start studying for the PSAT before you start to your junior year. You should take the PSAT in the fall of your junior year school. If you begin studying now, there may still be time to shoot for the score of 1400 or greater on the PSAT.

Apply Online

Portions of the PSAT / NMSQT test packet will help you begin the application process, but should you attain that 1400 or better score, the best way to apply is online, via Even if you don’t get a Semi-Finalist or Finalist position, you may still qualify for one of the Special Scholarships they offer.

Maintain That GPA

National Merit Semi-Finalist and Finalist students take their academics seriously. You must maintain a 3.5 or higher GPA to qualify for the application process and maintain that GPA throughout your four years of high school.

Practice Good Written Communications Skills

Part of the application process requires an essay in which the scholarship selection committee may get a chance to know the applicants. If writing isn’t your strengths, you might want to begin sharpening those skills right away.

Check out how your ACT / SAT scores affect your acceptance odds with College Raptor’s free match tool!