psat scholarships

Crazy Scholarship Money from PSAT

“How will I ever pay for college?” It’s a question on the minds of most students and their parents.

Imagine if you could earn well-respected recognition to highlight your college entrance application? + monetary rewards just for performing well on one test that takes under 2.5 hours? And might I add that this test could be prepared and studied for to increase the odds. Well, let me introduce you to the PSAT.

I wrote more generally about the logistics of the PSAT in a previous blog article. But this time we will focus on what scholarships or awards are related to the PSAT and how you can be able to receive one of them.

Table of Contents

How the National Merit Scholarship Works

About 1.6 million students take the PSAT each year in October, which also serves as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). The availability of many PSAT scholarships encourage students from different states to apply. 

The 50,000 students with the highest scores qualify for recognition. In September, the high scorers are notified through their schools that they have qualified as either a Commended Student or Semifinalist.

Commended Students

Based on the selection index score set by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC), two-thirds (34,000) of the 50,000 high scorers receive Letters of Commendation in recognition of their academic performance. Despite gaining high scores, being considered as a commended student means they are no longer qualified for the National Merit Scholarships. However, they can still receive PSAT scholarships from private corporations and businesses.


The remaining 16, 000 high scorers that weren’t given commendation letters are considered as semifinalists for the scholarship. To advance to the Finalist standing, these students should be able to meet the academic standards and requirements set by NMSC.


The 15,000 students who will advance to the finalist standing will be notified through the mail by February. They will also receive a certificate of merit from their respective school principals given by NSMC.

Scholarship Winners

After a thorough evaluation of the finalists’ academic records, PSAT score, and other requirements, the Merit Scholarship winners will be chosen.

How to get NMSC or PSAT scholarships

Option 1: Merit-based Scholarships

From March to mid-June, NMSC notifies Finalists if they have been selected to receive one of these types of Merit Scholarship awards:

  • National Merit $2500 Scholarships

Single payment scholarship money awarded on a state representational basis (no consideration given to family financial circumstances, college choice, or major and career plans.)

  • Corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards
    Single payment awards OR may be renewable for four years of undergraduate study. (About 1,000 are given annually).
    Corporate sponsors of these awards can designate qualifications such as children of their employees or members, residents of a community or finalists with career plans the sponsor wants to encourage.
  • College-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards
    Renewable for four years of undergraduate study. Winners selected from finalists who have been accepted for admission to their university/college and have informed NMSC by the published deadlines that the sponsor college or university is their first choice. 

Option 2: Special Scholarships

If you were part of the 2/3 High Scorers who received a letter of commendation, you’re not out of luck! There are still many PSAT scholarships available for you.

About 1,100 special scholarships are annually given to students who were not finalists, but were able to meet the sponsor’s criteria and filed the sponsor’s separate entry form.

A list of sponsoring corporate organizations related to PSAT scholarships can be found in the National Merit Student Guide. 

Option 3: Scholarship Money from Colleges and Universities Given to Finalists and Semifinalists

Here is where top scores on this one test can really pay off. Semi-finalists and Finalists are many times comped their entire undergraduate program’s worth of tuition. Sometimes they even get scholarship money on top of tuition for books, computers, other fees, housing, etc.

If you were able to be one of the semi-finalists and finalists, check out the website of the schools you are planning to attend. Chances are, they are offering scholarships for academically advanced students like you.


As you can see, there is a huge opportunity here for students to get incredible sums of money for their undergraduate careers! They just have to do well on one test that takes less than two and a half hours to complete and they will be able to clinch one of the PSAT scholarships.

While the test “counts” toward qualifying for the National Merit during the student’s second-to-last year of high school (usually junior year if on a ‘typical’ schedule), students can take the exam once a year, every year, in October prior to this for real practice!

Plus, there are classes available to help students study for the exam! This is an amazing opportunity for students and parents to invest a little time and money upfront for a potentially huge payoff later.

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Todd VanDuzer

Co-Founder & CEO at Student-Tutor
Hello! My name is Todd. I help students design the life of their dreams by ensuring college, scholarship, and career success! I am a former tutor for seven years, $85,000 scholarship recipient, Huffington Post contributor, lead SAT & ACT course developer, host of a career exploration podcast for teens, and have worked with thousands of students and parents to ensure a brighter future for the next generation. I invite you to join my next webinar to learn how to save thousands + set your teenager up for college, scholarship, and career success!

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