Achieving Commended status in the National Merit Scholarship Program is a distinguished honor that opens doors to a variety of opportunities in the realm of academic excellence. Individuals named as Commended National Merit Scholars have demonstrated exceptional academic ability, and their accomplishments deserve to be recognized. Let’s look into the world of scholarships designed specifically for these deserving students.
Scholarships for Commended National Merit Scholars
Commended Scholars are those who have scored exceptionally well on the PSAT/NMSQT but did not qualify as Semifinalists or Finalists. Commended Scholars are those that have a high score, but their results are lower than the selection index in their state. They will be given a letter of commendation in recognition of their achievement, but will not be in the running for a scholarship. They may, however, be able to get money from a corporate award through a parent’s workplace.
The criteria for achieving Commended status are rigorous, emphasizing excellence in critical reading, mathematics, and writing skills.
Commended scholars are available for National Merit or Hispanic Scholars Commended ($1,000 per year for four years)
National Merit Scholarship Eligibility
There are three major factors in eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship:
- One, students must 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. This generally means that students should take the test during the fall of junior year.
- Two, students must be enrolled as full-time high school students (traditional or homeschooled), be in good academic standing, and plan to accept admission to college during the fall following completion of high school.
- Finally, eligible students must attend high school in the United States, the District of Columbia, or the U.S. commonwealth and territory; or be U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the United States attending high school abroad.
National Merit Scholarship Requirements
National Merit Scholarship requirements for finalists entail
- Enrollment in the final year of high school, with plans to enroll full-time in college the following fall
- Endorsement from your high school principal
- A record of high academic performance
- A completed National Merit Scholarship Application, including the submission of an essay
- An SAT or ACT score demonstrating continued excellence
How to Become a National Merit Scholar
While the PSAT/NMSQT is the starting point for receiving a National Merit Scholarship commendation or becoming a semifinalist or finalist, it’s not the end of the process. There are a few stages to the process that are important to keep in mind:
Get a Great PSAT Score!
Of course, the most important thing is to ace the PSAT/NMSQT as a junior. In order to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship, most students need a PSAT score within the top 1% of their state. That means the score cutoff will change depending on where you reside, and how well others in your state did on the PSAT. You’ll find out in September of your senior year if you scored well enough to become a semifinalist.
At this stage, you might be named either a Commended Student or a Semifinalist. Both are impressive markers that are worth putting in your college application. Less than 5% of test takers receive any commendation from the National Merit program.
Write a Strong Application
If you are named a National Merit Semifinalist—congratulations! Now it’s time to apply to become a Finalist. Only a small percentage of semifinalists move onto finalist standing and receive the award, so this scholarship application is a crucial part of the process. You can find more information about this below, under “National Merit Semifinalists.”
Score Well on the SAT
Your test-taking isn’t over; in addition to doing well on the PSAT, National Merit Finalists are also high scorers on the SAT. As part of your scholarship application, you’ll also have to submit official SAT scores from the College Board.
The NMSC and College Board don’t suggest a cutoff score for the SAT, only that it would be “high enough to confirm your PSAT/NMSQT performance.” Thus, it’s very important that if you do score well on the PSAT, you should keep studying for the SAT, so that if you advance to Semifinalist standing, you’ll be in a good position to apply to become a Finalist.
Scores Needed for National Merit Scholarships
Once you’ve taken the PSAT, the NMSC calculates your overall score. They calculate selection index scores to evaluate PSAT scores each year. These selection index scores vary by state.
The average cutoff score is approximately 215, but if you live in Wyoming or Montana, you might qualify with a lower score, whereas if you live in areas like Massachusetts, New Jersey, or D.C., 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.
The Commended National Merit Scholar Selection Process
High PSAT/NMSQT scorers may be named Commended Students by the NMSC in September of their senior year. In general, the top 2%-3% of PSAT scorers, or approximately 34,000 students, are designated as commended students. This is an impressive achievement, but it means that these students did not receive high enough qualifying scores to be named semifinalists this cycle, as semifinalists typically score in the top 1% of PSAT takers.
Commended Students, on the other hand, receive letters of commendation from the NMSC to recognize their significant academic achievement for performing so well on the PSAT. While Commended Students are not eligible to compete for the official National Merit Scholarship, as semifinalists are, they frequently become candidates for special merit scholarship awards offered by statewide agencies and corporate sponsors as a result of being recognized in this way. More information can be found below under “Special Scholarships.”
Top tips for Applying for National Merit Scholarship
1. Start early
Standardized testing is a learned skill, and ample evidence suggests that studying for a standardized test is strongly correlated with higher scores. Therefore, the earlier you begin studying, and the more effort you put in, the more successful you will be.
2. Practice for the PSAT
Familiarize yourself with the contents of the PSAT so that there are no surprises when you take the exam. You should also take advantage of the many practice tests available online. This will give you a sense of your base score, as well as where you have the most room for improvement.
3. Take the exam more than once
In order to be eligible for National Merit Scholarships, you must be in your junior year of high school when you take the PSAT. However, you can, and should, also take the PSAT in your sophomore year to get hands-on experience sitting for the exam. This will not impact your eligibility for the merit scholarship.
In conclusion, being a Commended National Merit Scholar is a remarkable achievement that extends beyond scholarships. It signifies a commitment to academic excellence, paving the way for future success.
1. Is National Merit Commended good?