- How Much Are National Merit Scholarships?
- How Many Schools Offer Full Rides to National Merit Scholars?
- 22 Full-Ride Scholarships for National Merit Finalists
- Full-Tuition Scholarships for National Merit Finalists
- How Does Your PSAT Score Impact Your College Chances?
It’s no wonder why many colleges are excited to welcome National Merit Finalists to their campuses—they’re among the most sought-after students in the nation, having scored highly on standardized tests and having demonstrated academic excellence during their high school years.
Some colleges offer National Merit Finalists full-ride scholarships to entice them into attending their institution, and a few will even offer additional financial awards that can be applied to things like research, study abroad, and technology.
How Much Are National Merit Scholarships?
National Merit Finalists begin as National Merit Semifinalists—an honor earned by scoring highly on the PSAT/NMSQT. Just 16,000 students out of over 1.5 million test takers are recognized as Semifinalists! Semifinalists are selected by state, with each state having its own cutoff scores (which change annually) that a student must meet to become a semifinalist.
While being named a National Merit Semifinalist is a prestigious honor in its own right, such students are also given the opportunity to advance to the level of National Merit Finalist. Finalists can earn scholarship dollars through a process similar to completing a college application—earning a strong score on the SAT or ACT, getting great grades, receiving a persuasive recommendation, and composing a compelling essay.
At the completion of the process, over 15,000 students are named National Merit Finalists and become eligible to win one of three types of scholarships:
- The National Merit Scholarship: This is a one-time award of $2,500 based largely on a student’s academic record, essays, and written recommendations.
- Corporate-Sponsored Merit Scholarship Awards: These scholarships vary in multiple aspects, from value to length—some are one-time awards while others are renewable. They’re awarded to students who meet specific criteria, such as being children of the business’s employees, residing in a community where the business operates, or pursuing a particular career path.
- College-Sponsored Merit Scholarship Awards: Colleges and universities offer students renewable awards of varying values, provided that they’ve listed the school as their first choice and that they’ve gained admission.
How Many Schools Offer Full Rides to National Merit Scholars?
It’s uncommon for National Merit Colleges to offer full-ride scholarships—it’s almost possible to count the number on your fingers and toes. Full-ride scholarships are the most generous award a student can receive—they cover the total expenses of college, including tuition, housing, meals, fees, and books. They also often include stipends that can be used on anything from covering other living expenses to studying abroad.
Full-ride scholarships are as rare as they are generous—the website Investopedia says that “unless a student is an elite athlete, in the top 1% academically, or has accomplished some other notable feat, the likelihood of getting a full-ride scholarship is slim to none.” Don’t be discouraged, though! One notable feat that can earn a student a full-ride scholarship at select schools is becoming a National Merit Finalist.
22 Full-Ride Scholarships for National Merit Finalists
Numerous colleges offer full-ride scholarships to National Merit Finalists—a strong incentive to entice top students into applying to their programs.
Freshman applicants who are National Merit Finalists and list Faulkner University as their first-choice school with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation receive funding to cover full tuition, room and board, and mandatory fees. National Merit Semifinalists also receive an award—they’re given free tuition at the University.
Florida A&M will cover the total cost of attendance—which may include tuition, fees, on-campus room and board, books, supplies, travel, and other miscellaneous expenses—for in-state National Merit Finalists through the Benacquisto Scholarship Program.
Florida Atlantic University (FAU) provides in-state National Merit Finalists with awards that cover up to the full cost of attendance through the Benacquisto Scholarship Program. Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA and enroll for 12 credit hours per semester to continue receiving the award.
National Merit Finalists will find tuition, fees, housing, and a meal plan covered at Florida International University (FIU). They will also receive a stipend for books and, if they demonstrate financial need, a laptop as well.
To qualify for the award, students must choose FIU as their top-choice university with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.
Liberty University offers to cover the cost of tuition, as well as room and board, for up to four years for National Merit Semifinalists. Students must matriculate into Liberty University’s Honors Program to receive the award. National Merit Semifinalists also receive free tuition at Liberty University.
The National Merit Scholarship at Louisiana Tech University covers the cost of tuition, on-campus housing, and meals for four years for National Merit Finalists who list Louisiana Tech University as their first choice with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.
To continue receiving the award, students must take a full-time course load and maintain a 3.0 GPA.
National Merit Finalists at Murray State receive four-year free tuition, on-campus housing, and meal plans. Recipients are required to maintain a 3.2 GPA, enroll full-time, and participate in the University’s Honors College.
The New College of Florida offers to cover the full cost of attendance for National Merit Finalists who are residents of the Sunshine State through the Benacquisto Scholarship Program. To qualify, students must register the New College of Florida as their first choice institution with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.
Oklahoma Christian University (OC) National Merit Scholar Award covers up to 17 credit hours per semester of full tuition, mandatory fees, housing, and a meal plan for up to eight semesters. To qualify, students must list OC as their first-choice university with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation and maintain a 3.0 GPA as an OC student.
The National Merit Finalist Scholarship from Texas Tech provides National Merit Finalists with funding to cover the full cost of attendance for four years of undergraduate study. To remain eligible to receive funding, scholarship recipients are required to enroll in 30 hours per academic year and maintain a minimum 3.5 GPA.
The University of Alabama has an enticing offer for National Merit Finalists—free tuition and housing. The school also provides National Merit Finalists with a supplemental scholarship of $3,500 per year, a one-time $2,000 allowance for summer research or international study, and $500 annually for books.
Both in-state and out-of-state National Merit Finalists have a good reason to put the University of Central Florida (UCF) at the top of their lists—in-state students have their total cost of attendance covered, while out-of-state students receive a waiver that allows them to pay the in-state tuition rate, and a UCF Merit Scholarship valued at $80,000.
National Merit Finalists also receive an expedited admissions decision, guaranteed admission into UCF’s Burnett Honors College, guaranteed on-campus housing, and a laptop.
National Merit Finalists at the University of Idaho receive an institutional award that covers tuition, fees, and room and board if they enroll at the University for their first semester of undergraduate studies. National Merit Finalists are also directly admitted to the University Honors Program.
Maine residents who are National Merit Semifinalists are awarded the UMaine National Merit Award, which provides free tuition, as well as room and board, at the University of Maine for up to 15 credits per semester. Students must maintain full-time status—at least 12 credits per semester—to continue receiving the award.
National Merit Finalists with a minimum 3.0 GPA are eligible for the Academic Excellence National Merit Semifinalist/Finalist Scholarship at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). The award covers the cost of tuition and housing—it also covers non-resident fees for out-of-state students. The award is renewable for up to four years.
In-state students who are National Merit Finalists qualify for free tuition, fees, and housing at the University of New Mexico. The award is renewable for four years, provided that recipients maintain a minimum 3.3 GPA and complete 15 credit hours in the fall and spring semesters.
The saying goes “everything is bigger in Texas,” and that’s true for National Merit Finalist awards—at least at the University of North Texas, where scholarship packages include the total cost of attendance. Both residents and non-residents of Texas have the cost of tuition, housing, meals, and books covered, along with a generous stipend.
The total value of the award for Texas residents is $128,000, while the value for non-residents is $177,000!
The University of South Florida (USF) provides National Merit Finalists with a strong incentive to attend the school. Both in-state and out-of-state students receive a scholarship covering 100% of the full cost of attendance along with a $2,000 scholarship for study abroad.
National Merit Finalists at USF also receive a tuition waiver for their first 30 credits of graduate study at the school if they immediately enter a graduate program at the University after earning a baccalaureate degree.
In-state and out-of-state National Merit Finalists receive exceptional financial support at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), including an award that covers tuition, fees, and on-campus housing. Students also receive stipends for books, supplies, and other educational expenses; research; and study abroad.
National Merit Finalists who designate the University of Tulsa (TU) as their first choice school with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation are awarded free tuition, fees, room and board, and books at the school. Recipients are also given membership in Leadership TU (led by the University’s President), guaranteed admission into TU’s Honors Program, and a $6,000 annual monetary gift.
The award is renewable for up to five years or until an undergraduate degree is earned. Students must maintain a minimum of 15 hours of coursework per semester to continue receiving the award.
National Merit Finalists who attend the University of West Florida (UWF) their first semester in college are awarded free tuition, fees, housing, and meal plan. Recipients are also given an $800 stipend per semester for books and a one-time stipend of up to $1,500 for research or study abroad.
National Merit Finalists are eligible for the Presidential Scholarship at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), a four-year award that covers the cost of tuition, fees, and room and board. The total value of the award is approximately $114,356!
Full-Tuition Scholarships for National Merit Finalists
While a number of colleges offer full-ride scholarships to National Merit Finalists, numerous others provide National Merit Finalists with free tuition.
National Merit Finalists who select Harding University as their first-choice school with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation receive free tuition and a $2,000 annual stipend. Recipients must maintain a minimum 3.25 GPA and live in campus housing.
Iowa State University provides in-state National Merit Finalists with free tuition scholarships that are renewable for four years of undergraduate coursework. To receive the award, students must maintain full-time status at the University and a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Mississippi State University provides National Merit Finalists with free tuition and housing through its National Merit Finalist Scholarship, which is open to both in-state and out-of-state students. The award is worth approximately $40,000 over four years for Mississippi residents and $100,000 over four years for non-residents!
National Merit Finalists are eligible to receive a four-year award covering the cost of tuition at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). The award is renewable for four years, provided that recipients maintain full-time status and a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Both in-state and out-of-state National Merit Finalists qualify for a five-year tuition waiver at Oklahoma State University (OSU). The award is valued at up to $70,100 for in-state students and up to $147,700 for out-of-state students!
The University of Oklahoma (OU) won’t cover all the expenses of in-state and out-of-state National Merit Finalists; however, it does offer them particularly generous aid packages. OU waives tuition for National Merit Finalists and provides generous stipends to help offset the cost of room and board, books, technology, and fees. The University also awards stipends for study abroad and research.
The University of Houston (UH) offers National Merit Finalists a generous scholarship package if they attend the institution—they have the cost of tuition and fees covered. In addition, National Merit Scholars at UH receive a $2,000 stipend for study abroad and a $1,000 stipend for research.
National Merit Finalists at the University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) get complete tuition coverage for up to eight semesters. They also receive a stipend of $4,000 per semester to offset the cost of books, supplies, and other expenses; a housing stipend of $1,500 per semester; and a one-time stipend of $6,000 study abroad.
National Merit Finalists at UT Dallas also receive admission into the Collegium V Honors program.
National Merit Finalists with a minimum high school GPA of 3.5 can receive free tuition at the University of West Virginia along with a one-time $3,500 stipend for study abroad.
How Does Your PSAT Score Impact Your College Chances?
PSAT scores aren’t evaluated in the college admissions process; however, a high PSAT score is a strong indicator that an applicant will earn a high score on the SAT, which impacts your chances significantly. Standardized test scores and grades are used to calculate an applicant’s Academic Index—a single numerical score that many highly selective colleges use to screen applicants. If an applicant fails to meet a college’s Academic Index threshold, their application is likely to not receive serious consideration.
As mentioned above, becoming a National Merit Semifinalist is an impressive achievement in itself, since just the top 1% of scorers in a given state receive that recognition. National Merit Semifinalists will want to make sure to include it in the Awards and Honors section of the Common App, as it may improve their odds of college admission.
CollegeVine can help add clarity to your college admission odds. Our free chancing engine uses a variety of factors—ranging from grades to test scores to extracurricular activities—to estimate your odds at hundreds of colleges across the country! Rather than merely predict what college you may or may not get into, this powerful tool can also illuminate strengths and weaknesses in your college profile, giving you a chance to address underwhelming areas and improve your college admission odds.
In most cases, full-ride National Merit scholarships handle undergraduate tuition and on-campus housing. However, some institutions cover other expenses, such as meal plans and certain fees.Do National Merit finalists get full rides? ›
In most cases, full-ride National Merit scholarships handle undergraduate tuition and on-campus housing. However, some institutions cover other expenses, such as meal plans and certain fees.How many people get the $2500 National Merit Scholarship? ›
In each annual National Merit Scholarship Program, about 50,000 academically talented high school students are honored, but only some 16,000 of them are named Semifinalists.What percent of National Merit finalists get scholarships? ›
Approximately 95 percent of the Semifinalists are expected to attain Finalist standing, and about half of the Finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar title.How do you win the National Merit Scholarship as a finalist? ›
have a record of very high academic performance in all of grades 9 through 12 and in any college course work taken. be fully endorsed for Finalist standing and recommended for a National Merit Scholarship by your high school principal. take the SAT or ACT and earn scores comparable to your semifinalist PSAT score.How rare is it to get a full-ride scholarship? ›
Unfortunately, the reality is that many students who more than meet all of the requirements for a full scholarship will not get it. In fact, only 0.1% of students get a full-ride per year.Does National Merit finalist look good for college? ›
At the very least, doing well in the National Merit Scholarship Program can boost your odds in the college application process. Award amounts are the focus of many frequently asked questions about the scholarship program and its benefits, but dollars aren't the only measure of how Merit Scholars benefit.Does a 1400 PSAT qualify for National Merit? ›
To be competitive for National Merit Semifinalist status, students need to score about 1400 on the PSAT in less competitive states like Wyoming, Montana, and North Dakota . . . or about 1470 on the PSAT in more competitive states like Connecticut or New Jersey.How rare is it to be a National Merit finalist? ›
A finalist chances of winning
Of the 1.5 million applicants who submitted a PSAT score, there are only 7,500 National Merit Scholarship winners. This means you have a 0.5% chance of becoming a National Merit Scholar, making this one of the most competitive merit-based scholarships.
National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Scores by State
Test-takers with a 207 or higher became either commended students or semifinalists. The scholarship program determines semifinalists on a state-proportional system.
|Rank||University||Total scholars (including college-sponsored)|
|8||University of Texas at Dallas||200|
|9||Texas A&M University, College Station||188|
Records broken: University of Alabama sees highest enrollment, most National Merit Scholars. Enrollment at the University of Alabama reached a record this fall. It includes some of the most academically talented students and a record number of National Merit Scholars.What is a good PSAT score for Ivy League? ›
In other words, if your main priority is getting into the Ivy League, you should aim for a composite PSAT score anywhere between 1280 and 1520. If you're looking at less selective institutions, then the 80th percentile is a good benchmark.Is National Merit finalist a big deal? ›
The National Merit Scholarship is only one of many merit scholarships that students can win in the college application process, but it is among the most prestigious.What happens after you become a National Merit finalist? ›
According to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, about 50-60% of National Merit Finalists receive funding as a result of their status. You could receive one of three types of awards: A one-time $2,500 scholarship from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.What GPA do you need for National Merit Scholarship? ›
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.
Since the minimum GPA for a full-ride scholarship is usually set at 3.5, a 4.0 is sure to always be above and beyond what's required. Keep in mind that while a strong GPA does help, it's not the only deciding factor.What is the hardest scholarship to get? ›
- Rhodes Scholarship.
- Fullbright Scholarship.
- Gates Cambridge Scholarship.
- Princeton Scholarship.
- Mitchell Scholarship.
- Churchill Scholarship.
- Marshall Scholarship.
- Jardine Scholarship.
Full-ride scholarships are awarded to only about 0.1% of students (Wignall, 2021). Nearly just as rare are full-tuition scholarships, which are awarded to only 1.5% of students (ThinkImpact, 2021). A regular high school student may have the qualifications for as many as 50 to 100 scholarships (Dickler, 2021).What are the benefits of being a National Merit finalist? ›
The National Merit Scholarship awards $2,500 to each National Merit Scholar. Every year, around 7,500 high school juniors receive a National Merit Scholarship. In addition to a National Merit Scholarship, students with qualifying PSAT scores can receive merit scholarships offered by businesses and colleges.
Ivy League schools don't award any merit scholarships, which includes National Merit Scholarships. These schools have the highest achieving students applying to their institutions and would rather award need-based financial aid to assist the most students in a fair and equitable manner.Does Harvard accept National Merit? ›
Like many of our students, you may receive scholarship funds from sources outside Harvard, such as secondary schools, civic organizations, your parental employers, corporations, the National Merit Scholarship Programs, VA Benefits, and the ROTC.What is the average PSAT score for National Merit Scholarship? ›
The average PSAT/NMSQT score is about 920. A score between 1210 and 1520 puts you in the top 10% of test takers. The PSAT/NMSQT and the SAT are very similar tests, so your score on the PSAT/NMSQT can give you an idea of how you'll do when you take the SAT.What's a good PSAT score for National Merit? ›
Each section is scored between 160-760, adding up to an overall score between 320-1520. A score in the 75th percentile is considered the benchmark — usually an 1150 overall. The top 1% of junior test-takers become semifinalists for National Merit scholarships.What index score qualifies for National Merit? ›
To determine who qualifies for National Merit, NMSC uses a scale called the Selection Index. To get this, NMSC adds your Math, Reading, and Writing section scores, which each fall between 8 and 38, and then multiplies that sum by 2. Thus, the PSAT NMSC Selection Index ranges from 48 to 228.What PSAT score can get you a scholarship? ›
|U.S. State||2023 Cutoff|
According to the College Board, the average PSAT score is about 920, while a score between 1210 and 1520 lands you in the top 10% of test takers. This converts to a predicted SAT score between 1310 and 1570.What is the difference between a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist and commended? ›
The NMSC uses its own Selection Index to determine which students qualify as Commended Students and Semifinalists. In general, students who score in the top 3-4% are named Commended Scholars, while students who score in the top 1% are deemed Semifinalists.What score do you need to be a National Merit Commended Scholar 2023? ›
|State||Class of 2024 (Est. Range)||Class of 2023 (Actual)|
|Arizona||214 - 219||214|
|Arkansas||209 - 213||210|
|California||219 - 222||220|
|Colorado||215 - 219||217|
To begin with, the PSAT score range is from 320 to 1520.
The average PSAT score is around 920 (460 in Math and 460 in Evidence-Based Reading and Writing), while an outstanding PSAT score (one that will qualify you as a National Merit Scholarship semi-finalist) is between 1420 and 1480.
These schools give the rationale that because students have already showcased their academic or athletic merit to get into the school, they cannot receive any financial aid on top of simply being admitted. In fact, Ivy League schools only give out financial aid on the basis of need.Should you put National Merit Scholar on resume? ›
Should I put “I'm a National Merit Scholar” on my resume? It is not really important, it is better for you to put any other achievement that you have. But, if you still have a space in your resume, you could put it on your resume to give you an additional value.Which college gives the most merit scholarships? ›
|SCHOOL (STATE)||PERCENTAGE OF FULL-TIME STUDENTS AWARDED MERIT AID IN 2019-2020|
|Trinity University (TX)||53%|
|Samford University (AL)||50%|
|The University of the South (TN)||49%|
|Gonzaga University (WA)||48%|
Some colleges that do NOT sponsor scholarships for National Merit students include Harvard and other Ivy League schools, Middlebury College, MIT, Stanford, and Williams College. You must choose one of the sponsor colleges as your first-choice school on your application to be considered for a scholarship.What is the top 1% PSAT? ›
The data above tells us that the top 1% of test takers—about 16,000 juniors—scored between 1460 and 1520. Contrary to what many believe, you do not need a perfect PSAT score to get into the 99th percentile.Is 1390 a good SAT score for Ivy League? ›
The Ivy League, Top 10 universities, and other elite institutions attract some of the highest-performing students from across the entire country and world. As a result, a 1390 SAT score in this context is just average.Is 1310 a good PSAT score? ›
According to this chart, a good PSAT score for a junior is a composite score higher than 1140, an OK score is one higher than 1000, and an excellent score is anything higher than 1290.What happens if you win the National Merit Scholarship? ›
Students who are National Merit Finalists will nominate a college or university as their first choice. Some colleges award scholarship funding for renewable scholarships. Corporate-sponsored National Merit Scholarship.Can I negotiate merit scholarships? ›
Can You Really Negotiate Scholarships? The simple answer to this is yes! While it may not be talked about very often, it is definitely something that can be done. Colleges will make initial offers to a number of students during their first round of admissions.How many National Merit finalists are there 2023? ›
By the conclusion of the 2023 competition, more than 7,140 Finalists will have been selected to receive National Merit Scholarships totaling nearly $28 million.
To help the reviewers get to know you, describe an experience you have had, a person who has influenced you, or an obstacle you have overcome. Explain why this is meaningful to you. Use your own words and limit your response to the space provided. The space allows for about 500 - 600 words.What score do you need to be a semifinalist for National Merit Scholarship? ›
To be named a Semifinalist, you'll need a Selection Index score of 219. What score do you need on each section of the PSAT to achieve this score? As you read above, your Selection Index equals the sum of your three section test scores (each on a scale of 8-38) multiplied by 2.How do you know if you are a National Merit semifinalist? ›
When and how are students notified they are Semifinalists? Semifinalists are notified through their schools in early September. Semifinalists who are homeschooled are notified at their home addresses. See the National Merit® Scholarship Program page for additional information about the program.What do National Merit finalists receive? ›
What kinds of scholarships are awarded? In the National Merit® Scholarship Program, three types of Merit Scholarship® awards are offered to Finalists: National Merit $2500 Scholarships, corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards, and college-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards.How hard is it to become a National Merit finalist? ›
Taking the PSAT will put you in the running for the National Merit Scholarship. But in order to actually win recognition and scholarships, you need to get a score that puts you in the top one percent — or the 99th percentile — of test-takers in your state.What PSAT score do you need to be a National Merit finalist? ›
|U.S. State||2023 Cutoff|
Of the 15,000 Finalists, about 8,000 receive Merit Scholarship awards. All Finalists are considered for one of the 2,500 National Merit $2,500 Scholarships.What GPA do you need to be a National Merit finalist? ›
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.What's the difference between a National Merit Scholar and a National Merit Finalist? ›
Every Finalist in the National Merit Scholarship Program is considered for a National Merit Scholarship. Finalists are named Scholars (what the contest calls the scholarship winners) based on the strength of their applications.Which university has most National Merit Scholars? ›
Overall, the University of South Florida enrolled 79 National Merit Scholars for the fall 2022 semester, the highest number ever for an incoming class. Last year, USF's St. Petersburg campus welcomed a National Merit Scholar to its incoming class for the first time in school history.
Like many of our students, you may receive scholarship funds from sources outside Harvard, such as secondary schools, civic organizations, your parental employers, corporations, the National Merit Scholarship Programs, VA Benefits, and the ROTC.