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National Merit Competition - Frequently Asked Questions

How do I qualify to become a National Merit Scholar?

The first step in the process is to take the PSAT your junior year in high school. NMSC will look at your Selection Index Score on the PSAT to determine if you fall in the top one-half of one percent of students in your state. There is more detailed information about this process at the NMSC website.

I took the PSAT and scored well on it, now what?

If you are in the top one-half of one percent of students who took the PSAT in your state you will be named a National Merit Semifinalist. You will learn of your Semifinalist standing in early to mid September of you senior year in high school. NMSC will then notify your high school and provide them with application materials for the next stage in the process - becoming a National Merit Finalist.

Who becomes a Finalist in the National Merit competition?

NMSC requires you to do the following things to advance to Finalist standing:

  • Be recommended for a Merit Scholarship award by your high school principal (or school official designated by the principal)
  • Have a record of consistently high academic performance in all of grades 9 through 12 and in any college coursework taken
  • Complete the Merit Scholarship Application and submit it to NMSC by Oct. 8, 2014
  • Take the national SAT reasoning test and earn scores that "confirm your PSAT performance." It is your responsibility to file a request with the College Board SAT Program to have an official report of your SAT score sent to NMSC. You have through the Dec. 6, 2014 national test date to submit an SAT score

When will I find out that I have advanced to Finalist standing?

You will be notified in early February at your home address if you have advanced to Finalist standing.

What is 'college choice' and why is it important?

College choice is the school that you designate with NMSC as the school that you plan to attend. It is important because the school that you have designated is the only school that can give you the College-sponsored Award.

How do I change my college choice?

You can change your college choice with NMSC as many times as you would like between when you send your Merit Scholarship Application in to NMSC and the NMSC April 30, 2015 deadline to name a college choice. You may change your college choice to OU by submitting it online here.

What is the NMSC deadline to name my college choice?

As you are looking at the NMSC deadlines, you may notice a "priority" deadline of March 1, 2015 as well as the April 30, 2015 deadline and a deadline of May 31, 2015. If you have reported a college choice before March 1, that school will be notified soon after that date. If you have a college designated, the last day you can change your college choice with NMSC is April 30. If you have not made a college choice selection and are designated as "undecided" prior to/and on April 30, you have until May 31 to make that decision. To make matters more confusing, some universities may create their own deadlines which they use for you to name them as your college choice. Make sure to check with other schools you are considering. At the University of Oklahoma, our deadline to name OU as your college choice with NMSC is the same as the NMSC deadline: April 30, 2015.

What is OU's deadline for naming them as my college choice?

Our deadline is the same as the NMSC deadline, April 30, 2015. The exception to this would be if you have "undecided" as your college choice prior to/and on April 30, 2015. If this is applicable to you, you have until May 31, 2015 to make your decision.

What are the three types of awards NMSC coordinates?

Scholars receive one of the three types of awards which are centrally coordinated by NMSC. The first type of award is the National Award - a $2,500 scholarship, which is funded directly by NMSC. This award is portable, meaning that you can take it to any institution of your choice. The second type of award is the Corporate-sponsored Award, which is generally awarded to students who are sons/daughters of parents who work for a corporation that sponsors. This award is also portable. (Refer to your original information packet from NMSC for a list of corporations which sponsor.) The final type of award is the College-sponsored Award, which comes from the college that you designate as your college choice, provided that the college sponsors National Merit Finalists. Note that you will only be offered one of these awards, even if you qualify for all. You should accept the one award that is offered to you.

Why are there so many "National Merit Finalists" but not as many "National Merit Scholars?"

Students are not guaranteed they will receive a scholarship coordinated by NMSC. If a student chooses to attend a university which does not sponsor or who selectively sponsors and does not receive the National Award or Corporate-sponsored Award, they would remain a Finalist.

National Merit Process (PDF)