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National Merit Competition

National Merit Competition

The National Merit Scholarship Program is an academic achievement competition that recognizes and honors outstanding students with scholarship opportunities each year. The University of Oklahoma awards eligible admitted students named National Merit Semifinalist or National Merit Finalist a competitive scholarship package to empower their academic journeys and potential at OU. To ensure you meet the necessary deadlines and criteria, please review the important step-by-step process outlined below.

National Merit Process Timeline

Students are offered the PSAT/NMSQT® during their junior year of high school, and it is the only qualifying entrance exam into the National Merit® Scholarship Program. Cutoff scores to achieve Semifinalist standing vary by state.

In early September of your high school senior year, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC®) announces approximately 16,000 Semifinalists of those who tested

Semifinalists will apply for Finalist standing around mid-October of their senior year. Approximately 95% of all Semifinalists will advance to Finalist standing in the competition.

The University of Oklahoma admissions application opens August 1. Students are encouraged to apply to OU in advance of the December 15 final scholarship admission deadline.

Apply to OU

NMSC® will accept your best composite score through the December test date of your senior year. Update or send new scores through the College Board at

You must have a record of consistent high academic performance in grades 9 through 12 and in any college courses you may have taken. Your SAT or ACT score must complement your PSAT/NMSQT® performance. Visit for more details. 


We encourage all students to schedule a visit to explore all that the University of Oklahoma has to offer. During your visit, you will learn about the Honors College, our academic programs, and scholarships for high-achieving students. 

To ensure you can take full advantage of your visit, we will set up an appointment that allows you to meet and learn from a professor, department chairperson, or college dean in the field you are interested in. Honors Personalized Visits are offered on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday during the fall and spring semesters. 

Schedule Your Campus Visit

In early February, NMSC® will mail notification letters to Finalists. Semifinalists who meet academic and other requirements will be notified that they have advanced to Finalist standing and will receive Certificates of Merit attesting to their recognition in the program. Those who do not advance to Finalist standing are notified in January. Colleges are not notified of who does or does not advance in the competition; therefore, please notify us if you advance to Finalist standing so that we can upgrade your scholarship award offer. Finalists may list a “school of choice” at by April 30 of their high school senior year. You may change the school listed for you as many times as you would like prior to the NMSC® “school of choice” deadline.

A Finalist could receive one of three sponsorship offers. Those receiving the Corporate or NMSC® sponsorships will be notified in late March or early April. Corporate sponsorships are generally given to students with family ties to a NMSC® partnering corporation. These corporations can be found at Roughly 10% of Finalists in each state will receive a $2,500 scholarship sponsored by NMSC®.

After you are admitted to OU, you will have a post-admissions checklist to complete. These steps include setting up your OU account, submitting the enrollment deposit, completing your housing application, and scheduling your New Sooner Orientation day. 

You will find information on all these steps in OU Bound, which you can access by logging in to the OU Bound portal. OU Admissions will email you when checklist items become available to complete. 

To be guaranteed OU’s National Merit scholarship, admitted Finalists must designate OU as their “school of choice” or list “undecided” with NMSC® by April 30. If you’re not sure of your college choice, list “undecided.” Students who list “undecided” have until May 31 to name OU as their college choice to receive our scholarship.

In early May, NMSC® will begin mailing the College Sponsored award letters from partnering institutions to Finalist recipients. OU is a sponsoring institution, but not all colleges are. Approximately 80% of Finalists will receive a College Sponsored award, and a college-sponsored scholarship is renewable for up to four years of undergraduate study at the sponsor institution.

Between late March and June, admitted Finalists are designated as National Merit Scholars upon accepting the award offer and naming OU as their “school of choice.” Over the summer, NMSC® will release the names of awardees to news media for public announcement.

By the end of May, students who previously listed “undecided” or who received a Corporate or National-sponsored award must designate OU as their “school of choice” at to receive OU’s National Merit financial package. For a complete list of competition rules, visit

From May to July, students will be able to schedule their New Sooner Orientation day, a day where you will meet with your academic advisor, enroll in your first semester of OU courses, and learn more about campus before you join the OU Family in fall. 

Those who complete a housing application and submit an enrollment deposit by May 1 can participate in room selection. Housing room selection access times will be determined by your enrollment deposit date. During room selection, you and your roommates can choose your room. Visit to learn more about your housing options and view our housing FAQ page. More information will be sent to your OU email over the summer about specifics on housing selection and move-in information. 


Students can review the academic calendar to note important dates and deadlines for the semester. According to OU’s National Merit Terms of Scholarship, in order to be eligible for National Merit funding a student must continue to be enrolled full-time for the fall and spring semesters and complete 24 OU credit hours each academic year.

Frequently Asked Questions

Please view the frequently asked questions below, and feel free to contact your admissions counselor with any additional questions you may have.

The first step in the process is to take the PSAT/NMSQT® in your junior year of high school. NMSC® will look at your Selection Index Score on the PSAT/NMSQT® to determine if you are a Semifinalist. Semifinalist scores vary by state. There is more detailed information about this process on the NMSC® website

You will learn of your Semifinalist standing in early to mid-September of your 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.

Here are a few things NMSC requires you to do to advance to Finalist standing (for a complete list, visit

  • 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 grades 9 through 12 and in any college coursework taken.
  • Complete the Merit Scholarship® Application and submit it to NMSC by mid-October of your senior year in high school.
  • Take the national SAT reasoning test and earn scores that "confirm your PSAT/ NMSQT® 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 December of your senior year in high school national test date to submit an SAT score.

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

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 by the deadline is the only school that can give you the College-sponsored Award.

You can select your college by submitting it online. You can change your college choice as many times as you would like before NMSC®'s and OU's end-of-April deadline. 

Our deadline is the same as the NMSC® deadline: April 30. Since NMSC® begins making College-sponsored awards on May 1, OU's priority deadline for finalists to receive our National Merit® scholarship is April 30. If you have "undecided" listed as your college choice before our April 30 priority deadline, or if you received a corporate or national-sponsored award, name OU as your college choice to receive our scholarship. For a complete list of competition rules, visit

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 children of parents/legal guardians 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 that 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: 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.

Students are not guaranteed they will receive a scholarship coordinated by NMSC®. If a student chooses to attend a university that does not sponsor or selectively sponsors (and the student is not among those selected), and the student does not receive the National Award or Corporate-sponsored Award, the student would remain a Finalist.