National Merit Scholarship 2021: Everything You Need to Know

Filed in Scholarships In USA, Study in USA by on 25th April 2021

What is the National Merit Scholarship Program?

The National Merit Scholarship Program (NMSP) is an annual scholarship competition for college undergraduate students. This scholarship is being organized by the National
Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC).

The main aim of the National Merit Scholarship Program is to identify and honor intelligent USA high school students and encourage them to pursue rigorous college studies.

The National Merit Scholarship was established in 1955. NMSC, the body that organizes this scholarship is a privately financed not-for-profit organization that operates without any assistance from the US government.

The competition is open to all USA high school students who meet the participation requirements. The Scholarship winners are chosen on the basis of their abilities, skills, and accomplishments.

National Merit Scholarship

National merit scholarship Requirements

To apply for the NMSP 2021, you must meet the following conditions;

  • Be enrolled as a high school student, progressing normally toward graduation or completion of high school, and planning to enroll full-time in college no later than the fall following completion of high school.
  • Take the PSAT/NMSQT in the specified year of the high school program and no later than the third year in grades 9 through 12, regardless of grade classification or educational pattern; and
  • Attend high school in the United States, District of Columbia, or U.S. commonwealths and territories; or meet the citizenship requirements for students attending high school outside the United States.

To be eligible for the 2021 National Merit Scholarship Program (NMSP), a student attending high school outside the United States must be a citizen of the United States; or be a U.S. lawful permanent resident (or have applied for permanent residence, the application for which has not been denied) and intend to become a U.S. citizen at the earliest opportunity allowed by law

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Applying for the National merit scholarship

You can apply for the National Merit Program Scholarship by taking the Preliminary SAT /National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/nmsq) and meeting other program entry requirements. The test, administered annually in the fall, is cosponsored by NMSC and College Board.

NMSC uses the PSAT/NMSQT as an initial screening of a large number of applicants. A particular year’s test is the entry vehicle for a specific year’s competition. For example, the 2019 PSAT/NMSQT was used for entry to the 2021 National Merit Program. Most 2021 program participants will enter college in fall 2021. The announcement of Semifinalists in September 2020 marks the midpoint of the 2021 competition; it will conclude in the spring of 2021 when winners of NMS are notified and their names are released to news media. The 2022 program begins with the PSAT/NMSQT administration in the fall of 2020 and ends in the spring of 2022. Each competition spans about one and a half years.

Different types of Awards

Three types of NM scholarships for undergraduate studies are offered each year namely;

  • National Merit $2500 Scholarships (Number of scholarships offered: 25,000)
  • College-sponsored scholarships (Number of scholarships offered: 2,100)
  • Corporate-sponsored Scholarships (Number of scholarships offered:4,100)

While the first two are offered only to finalists, the corporate-sponsored
awards may be reserved for Finalists or special scholarships offered to other outstanding students.

Key Dates in 2021

February 1Certificates of Merit for Finalists mailed to principals.
February 8Notification of advancement to Finalist standing mailed
to Semifinalists’ home addresses.
March 10Mailing begins of corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship® awards and Special Scholarships to winners at their home
addresses and confidential notices to their principals.
March 25Mailing of National Merit® $2500 Scholarships to winners
at their home addresses and confidential notices to their principals.
May 3Mailing begins of college-sponsored Merit Scholarship
awards to winners at their home addresses and confidential notices to
their principals.
Mid-MayFinalists not chosen to receive a National Merit Scholarship
are notified at their home addresses. Candidates not chosen as Special Scholarship winners are also notified.
April 21Corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship winners
May 12National Merit $2500 Scholarship winners
June 2College-sponsored Merit Scholarship winners
July 12Additional college-sponsored Merit Scholarship winners
A few additional National Merit $2500 Scholarship winners and
corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship recipients will be announced
individually during the summer.
April 1Postmark deadline for students who missed taking the
2020 psat/nmsqt to request consideration for alternate entry to the
2022 National Merit Program
Mid-AprilHigh school principals are notified if any of their students are among the 50,000 entrants with the highest psat/nmsqt
Early SeptemberPrincipals are notified of their Semifinalists in the
2022 National Merit Scholarship competition.
Note: Dates for completion of the 2022 National Merit Program will
be published in September 2021

List of National Merit Finalists

National merit scholarship semifinalist


Each state has an already determined number of Semifinalists, and once scores come in for students that determines the cutoff score for that year in that state. For example, if you live in California and took the PSAT in October 2017, you would need to have a Selection Index score of 223 in order to qualify as a Semifinalist. The Selection Index score is calculated by multiplying the sum of your Reading, Writing and Language, and Math Test scores y two (2). In addition to varying by state, this number can vary by year. Regardless of the exact cutoff for your state, all of the students who qualify earn high scores—less than the top 1% of high school students advance to become Semifinalists.

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Take a look at your score report if you have it. To calculate your Selection Index, add your 3 test scores together and double it. The College Board also includes this on your report if you’re eligible.

National Merit Scholarship Selection Index Score

Once you’ve taken the PSAT, the NMSC calculates your overall score. They calculate selection index scores to evaluate PSAT scores each year. The cutoff scores for last year’s PSAT/NMSQT are listed below. Note that these selection index scores vary by state, so find yours to see how competitive the National Merit Scholarship Competition will be in your area:

New Hampshire218
New Jersey223
New Mexico213
New York221
North Carolina219
North Dakota212
Rhode Island218
South Carolina215
South Dakota214
West Virginia212
Average Score218

From the information above, the average cutoff score is 218, but if you live in Wyoming or Iowa, you might qualify with a lower score, whereas if you live in Massachusetts, New Jersey, or DC, you will likely need a higher score. In general, your chances of becoming a Semifinalist are greatly improved by scoring 4-5 points above the average cutoff score for your state.

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The National Merit Scholarship Website is


National Merit Scholarship is one of the most prestigious scholarship awards for college students. In addition to becoming a National Merit Scholarship winner, there are some additional benefits to participating in the National Merit program. Reaching the status of Commended Student or Semifinalist is a strong indicator of your academic excellence to include in your application, and may enable you to apply for Special Scholarships.

We, therefore, advise you to take this application process very seriously. Do a lot of research and don’t forget to use the comment form below if you have any issues with your application.

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