The scholarship was established in 1955 and identifies and honors academically talented U.S. high school students.
About 34,000 of the approximately 50,000 highest scorers on the PSAT nationally fall into the category of Commended Student. The remaining portion become semi-finalists.
Semi-finalists are then required to fill out an application and take the SAT or the ACT by December of their senior year. Students that score well enough to confirm their PSAT performance become finalists. In February, approximately 8,200 seniors advance to the final stage of the competition and receive a certificate from school principals.
The ~8,200 finalists are then awarded one of three Merit Scholarships based on their abilities, skills, and accomplishments evaluated through the following factors:
- Academic record in the context of a school’s curriculum and grading system
- Two sets of test scores—the PSAT and either the SAT or the ACT
- A school’s official recommendation
- Information about extracurricular activities and leadership
- The finalist’s personal essay
There are three types of Merit Scholarships a student could be awarded, and students will be notified if they have won between March and mid-June of their senior year.
- National Merit $2,500 Scholarship: Every finalist competes for these single payment scholarships, which are awarded on a state representational basis
- Corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship Award: Corporate sponsors designate awards to finalists that are either: 1) finalists with career plans the sponsor wishes to encourage, 2) children of employees or members, 3) residents of a community where a company operates
- College-sponsored Merit Scholarship Award: Officials of each college select winners of their awards from finalists that have been accepted and previously designated that college or university as their first choice; these awards are renewable for up to four years of undergraduate study
For more information about the National Merit Scholarship Program, visit their website here.
The 2021-2022 PSAT registration fee is $18, although some schools may charge an additional fee to offset some of their cost to administer the test. PSAT fee waivers are available, but only for a student’s 11th grade test. If you need scholarship support, contact your school’s college counselor or principal.
The PSAT provides a variety of accommodations: extended time and multiple-day testing, large print test booklets and large block answer sheets, computer-based testing, and accommodations for additional physical disabilities. You can find the full list of possible accommodations here.
It can take up to seven weeks for the College Board to approve accommodations requests, so start working with your school counselor early to submit your request. You can find more information about requesting accommodations on the College Board’s Accommodations page here.