“How will I ever pay for college?”
It’s a question on the minds of most students and their parents.
Imagine if your child could earn well-respected recognition to highlight his or her 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 in THIS article I want to talk more specifically about the scholarship money opportunities available to those students who work hard enough to do well on the PSAT test and qualify for them.
How the National Merit Scholarship Works
About 1.5 million students take the PSAT each year in October, which also serves as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT).
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.
Semifinalists are notified by EARLY September, Commended Students received letters of commendation in LATE September.
To be considered for a National Merit Scholarship, from there Semifinalists must advance to finalist standing in the competition by meeting high academic standards and all other requirements outlined by the NMSC.
Finalists: In February, about 15,000 semifinalists are notified that they have advanced to be named a finalist. High school principals are also notified and provided with a certificate to give to finalists.
*Keep reading & see chart below for colleges/universities who will give you scholarship money to attend their institution if you are a Finalist!
Winner Selection: All winners of Merit Scholarship awards are chosen from the pool of finalists based on their abilities, skills, and accomplishments with no attention paid to gender, race, ethnicity, or religion.
Criteria NMSC selectors evaluate includes:
- Academic records
- The school’s curriculum and grading system
- 2 sets of test scores
- The high school official’s written recommendation
- Information about the student’s activities and leadership
- An essay
HOW TO GET MONEY (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:
NOTE: Corporate-Sponsored “Special Scholarships” covered in next section although it appears on chart above.
- 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. (*See chart below for colleges/universities give lots of scholarship money to attend their institution)
HOW TO GET MONEY (Option #2): Other Award Opportunities
If you were part of the 2/3 High Scorers who received a letter of commendation, you’re not out of luck!
About 1,300 of awards are give out annually to students who were not finalists, but who meets the sponsor’s criteria and files the sponsor’s separate entry form.
A list of sponsoring organizations can be found in the National Merit Student Guide (updated each year): http://www.nationalmerit.org/student_guide.pdf
- National Achievement Scholarship Program (College scholarship money specifically for Black American high school students). Learn more here: http://nationalmerit.org/nasp.php
- The National Hispanic Recognition Program (NHRP) identifies outstanding Hispanic/Latino students and shares information about them with interested colleges and universities. Learn more here: http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/psat/about/nhrp.html
- Telluride Association: Offers scholarship money for summer seminars in the humanities and social sciences to gifted juniors. Learn more here: http://www.tellurideassociation.org/
HOW TO GET MONEY (Option #3): Scholarship Money from Colleges and Universities Given to Finalists and Semifinalists
…aka The “Big Kahuna”!
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.
Here is a list of some examples of schools that offer money to attend their undergraduate programs if you score well on the PSAT. Please check with the school for updated information and how to take advantage of these scholarships (some details may have changed).
Below, “full ride” refers to paid tuition, room, and board, and “plus” means they may give an additional stipend to cover some or all of book costs, fees, technology purchases, etc.
|Public College/University||National Merit Finalist||National Merit Semi-Finalist|
|Alabama State University||Full ride guaranteed||Full ride guaranteed|
|Arizona State University||In-state: full ride ($15,000.00); out-of-state: full tuition plus ($23,000.00)||In-state: full tuition plus ($9,000.00) & out-of-state: $10,500.00) guaranteed|
|Auburn University||Full tuition plus guaranteed||Full tuition plus guaranteed|
|Ball State University||Full ride guaranteed|
|Cleveland State University||Full tuition guaranteed||Full tuition guaranteed|
|Eastern Kentucky University||In-state: full ride; out-of-state: full tuition guaranteed||In-state: full ride; out-of-state: full tuition guaranteed|
|Louisiana State University||Full tuition||Full tuition|
|Mississippi State University||Full tuition plus||Full tuition guaranteed|
|New Mexico State University||Full ride||Full tuition plus guaranteed|
|Ohio State University||$1000-4000.00||$1000-4000.00|
|Oklahoma State University||Full tuition plus guaranteed||Full tuition plus guaranteed|
|Southeast Missouri State University||Full ride guaranteed||Full tuition guaranteed|
|Southern Arkansas University||In-state: full ride; out-of-state: full tuition||In-state: full ride; out-of-state: full tuition|
|Texas Tech University||Out-of-state: full tuition ($12,700.00) guaranteed||Out-of-state: full tuition ($12,700.00) guaranteed|
|Troy University, AL||Full ride competitive||Full ride competitive|
|U of Central Florida||Full tuition plus||$9,000.00 guaranteed|
|University of Alabama||Full ride||Full tuition with 3.5 GPA guaranteed|
|University of Alabama-Huntsville||Full ride||Full tuition plus guaranteed|
|University of Arizona||tuition guaranteed||tuition guaranteed|
|University of Houston||Full ride guaranteed||Full ride guaranteed|
|University of Idaho||Full ride competitive ($25,000.00)|
|University of Kentucky||Full ride first year & full tuition plus for remaining 3 years guaranteed||Full ride first year & full tuition plus for remaining 3 years guaranteed|
|University of Maine||Full tuition||Full tuition|
|University of Memphis, TN||$9,000.00 plus out-of-state fee waiver, full tuition plus guaranteed||$7,500.00 plus out-of-state: fee waiver, full tuition plus guaranteed|
|University of Minnesota-Morris||Full tuition guaranteed||Full tuition guaranteed|
|University of Nebraska, Lincoln||Full tuition plus guaranteed||Full tuition plus guaranteed|
|University of North Alabama||Full ride||Full tuition plus guaranteed|
|University of North Texas||Full ride||Full ride|
|University of Oklahoma||Full tuition plus guaranteed||Full tuition plus guaranteed|
|University of Southern Mississippi||Full ride||Full ride|
|University of Texas, Dallas||Full tuition guaranteed||–|
|University of Texas, Tyler||Full ride||Full tuition plus guaranteed|
|University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh||In-state: full ride guaranteed||In-state: full ride guaranteed|
|Wayne State University, MI||Full Tuition||Full Tuition|
|Youngstown State University, OH||Full ride with ACT score of 30 or higher or 1300 SAT or higher||Full ride with ACT score of 30 or higher or 1300 SAT or higher|
||National Merit Finalist||National Merit Semi-Finalist|
|Abilene Christian University||Full tuition guaranteed||Full tuition guaranteed|
|Alfred University||Full ride guaranteed with top 5% class ranking, otherwise full tuition/ride competitive||Full ride guaranteed with top 5% class ranking, otherwise full tuition/ride competitive|
|Alma College||Full tuition guaranteed, full ride competitive (first 15 to commit)||Full tuition guaranteed, full ride competitive (first 15 to commit)|
|Andrews University||Full tuition guaranteed||Full tuition guaranteed|
|Baylor University||Full tuition guaranteed||Full tuition guaranteed|
|Birmingham Southern College||Full tuition competitive||Full tuition competitive|
|Bradley University||Full tuition guaranteed (Call school for details, not on website)||Full tuition guaranteed (Call school for details, not on website)|
|Denison University||Full tuition competitive||Full tuition competitive|
|Faulkner University||Full tuition guaranteed||Full tuition guaranteed|
|Fordham University||Full tuition plus competitive||Full tuition plus competitive|
|Harding University||Full tuition guaranteed||Full tuition guaranteed|
|Liberty University||Full ride||Full tuition guaranteed|
|Lipscomb University||Full tuition plus guaranteed||Full tuition plus guaranteed|
|Long Island University, C.W. Post||Full tuition competitive||Full tuition competitive|
|Northeastern University||Full tuition competitive||Full tuition competitive|
|Oakwood University||Full tuition plus||Full tuition|
|Oklahoma Christian University||Full ride guaranteed||Full ride guaranteed|
|Pacific Union College||Full tuition guaranteed||Full tuition guaranteed|
|Roberts Wesleyan College||Full tuition||Half tuition guaranteed|
|Spring Arbor University||Full tuition||Half tuition plus one-time $5,000.00 award guaranteed|
|Sterling College||Full tuition guaranteed||Full tuition guaranteed|
|University of Evansville||Full tuition||75% tuition guaranteed|
|University of Tulsa||Full ride competitive||Full ride competitive|
|Wesleyan College||Full tuition competitive||Full tuition competitive|
|Westminster College, UT||Full tuition||Half tuition guaranteed|
|California State University, Fullerton||In-state only: full tuition plus guaranteed|
|California State University, Long Beach||In-state only: full ride competitive|
|Calvin College||$10,000.00 guaranteed|
|Concordia College||$14,000.00 guaranteed|
|Franklin and Marshall College||NMF $10,000.00 guaranteed|
|Hope College||$17,000.00 guaranteed|
|Iowa State University||In-state full ride|
|Michigan State University||$750-$2,000.00 plus in-state $2,000.00 & out-of-state: $4,000.00 and room/board, competitive|
|New College of Florida||$17,500.00 guaranteed|
|North Central College||3/4 tuition guaranteed|
|Rochester Institute of Technology||$15k guaranteed|
|Southern Methodist University||Half tuition plus $2,000.00 guaranteed)|
|St. Olaf College||$7,500.00 guaranteed|
|University of Akron, OH||$4,000.00 guaranteed plus|
|University of Central Arkansas||$12,000.00 guaranteed with 3.25 GPA|
|University of Cincinnati, OH||In-state full tuition plus; out-of-state: add $14,000.00|
|University of Dallas||NMF: $14,000.00; NMSF $12,000.00 guaranteed|
|University of Florida||Out of state tuition waiver plus $4,000.00 guaranteed|
|University of Kansas||In-state only:$ 10k guaranteed|
|University of Louisiana-Lafayette||Check with school|
|University of Massachusetts, Amherst||In-state- full ride|
|University of New Mexico||Approximately &13,000.00, competitive|
|University of Sioux Falls||Full ride competitive (Only one given)|
|University of South Carolina||In-state: up to $10,000.00, out-of-state: up to $6,000.00 plus out-of-state fee waiver|
|University of Southern California||Half-tuition Presidential Scholarship guaranteed upon admission|
|University of Vermont||In-state NMF full tuition; out-of-state $10,000.00 guaranteed|
|University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire||Full in-state tuition guaranteed|
|Wright State University||In-state only: NMF full ride guaranteed, NMSF/Commended full tuition guaranteed|
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.
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.
At Student-Tutor, we specialize in SAT Prep classes, and since the PSAT is a precursor and predictor of success on the SATs.
How young should your child start?
The sooner the better.
Co-authored and Graphics by Renae Hintze
Know a student who has benefited from taking the PSAT, or have any additional questions about what steps you should take? Let us know in the comments below!
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