Experts’ Corner

Schools Offer FREE RIDE To Students Based on PSAT Scores

The $2,500 the National Merit Scholarship Corporation awards National Merit scholars is no small amount of money. However, compared to the rising tuition, fees and book costs of  most colleges and universities, it can seem like a drop in the bucket. Yes, there are additional corporate sponsorships and even school scholarships National Merit scholars qualify for, but some of these are for less than $1000 and some are one-time only gifts. So the question becomes, should students study hard for what most people consider just a preliminary SAT?

YES!

Besides the prestige you will have around the office water cooler when you brag about your progeny, scoring high enough on the PSAT to become a Scholar, a Finalist or a Semi-Finalist can equal big money at some schools—public and private. Read that last sentence again. I wrote Scholar, Finalist or Semi-Finalist. That means your student may only need to score high enough to make it to the last or penultimate round; he or she doesn’t even have to be the last one standing.

Below are tables that list schools and the awards they offer students at different levels of National Merit-ness. I’ve compiled this information from various Internet sources and believe most of it is current as of 2009. But as with all Internet information, please take it with a grain of salt. Consider it a guide, not a rule book. If you know of any additional information about any schools listed or schools left, please leave a comment. If you are interested in a particular school, we suggest you contact their Admissions Office and get the skinny from them.

A quick key to the language below:
Full ride: Tuition, room and board
Plus: May cover some or all of books, fees, etc.

Public Schools

School National Merit Finalist National Merit Semi-Final
University of Alabama Full ride plus Full tuition with 3.5 GPA
University of Alabama-Huntsville Full tuition plus Full tuition plus
Alabama State University Full ride guaranteed Full ride guaranteed
Auburn University In-state: full tuition plus with 3.5 GPA ($34,368); out-of-state: full tuition plus with 3.5 GPA ($80,000) In-state: full tuition with 3.5 GPA ($34,368); out-of-state: full tuition with 3.5 GPA ($48,000)
University of North Alabama Full ride plus Full ride plus
Troy University, AL Full ride competitive Full ride competitive
University of Arizona In-state: full ride plus ($15,000/year); out-of-state: full ride plus ($30,000/year) In-state: full ride ($10,000/year); out-of-state: fill ride ($15,000/year)
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
Southern Arkansas University Based on other aid, $5,500/semester Based on other aid, $5,500/semester
U of Central Florida Full tuition plus $9,000.00 guaranteed
University of Idaho Full ride plus
Ball State University $5,000 & Presidential scholarship or Academic Recognition Award, if eligible
Eastern Kentucky University Full ride plus In-state:  full ride; out-of-state:  full tuition guaranteed
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
Louisiana State University $3,000-$8,000 $2,000
University of Maine In-state: $8,000/year; out-of-state: $15,000/year In-state: $8,000/year; out-of-state: $15,000/year
Wayne State University, MI Full ride Full Tuition
University of Minnesota-Morris $4,000 over 4 years $4,000 over 4 years
Mississippi State University Full ride ($64,000) Full ride plus ($34,000)
University of Southern Mississippi Full ride Full ride
Southeast Missouri State University Minimum: $3,000, Maximum: $8,000 Minimum: $3,000, Maximum: $8,000
University of Nebraska, Lincoln Full tuition plus Full tuition plus guaranteed
New Mexico State University Full ride plus Full ride plus
Cleveland State University Full tuition guaranteed Full tuition guaranteed
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
Ohio State University Does not participate in the Merit Scholarship Program Does not participate in the Merit Scholarship Program
University of Oklahoma In-state: Full ride plus; Out-of-state: Full ride plus Full tuition plus guaranteed
Oklahoma State University In-state: $12,900/year; out-of-state: $25,500/year Full tuition plus guaranteed
University of Memphis, TN Eligible for entrance into the Honors Program and additional scholarship money Eligible for entrance into the Honors Program and additional scholarship money.
University of Houston Full ride plus Full ride guaranteed
University of North Texas Full ride plus Full tuition plus
University of Texas, Dallas Full tuition plus
Texas Tech University Out-of-state:  full tuition ($12,700.00) guaranteed Out-of-state:  full tuition ($12,700.00) guaranteed
University of Texas, Tyler In-state: full ride plus Full tuition plus
University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh In-state:  full ride guaranteed In-state:  full ride guaranteed

Private Schools

School National Merit Finalist National Merit Semi-Final
Abilene Christian University Full tuition Full tuition
Alfred University Full ride or full tuition Full ride guaranteed with top 5% class ranking, otherwise full tuition/ride competitive
Alma College Invited to apply for a limited number of scholarships up to full tuition. Full tuition guaranteed, full ride competitive (first 15 to commit)
Andrews University Full tuition plus Full tuition guaranteed
Baylor University Full tuition Full tuition guaranteed
Birmingham Southern College Ask your admission counselor (not on website) Ask your admission counselor (not on website)
Bradley University Full tuition guaranteed (Call school for details, not on website) Full tuition guaranteed (Call school for details, not on website)
Denison University Minimum: $500, Maximum: $2,500 Full tuition competitive
University of Evansville Full tuition 75% tuition guaranteed
Faulkner University Full ride plus Full tuition
Fordham University Full tuition Full tuition
Harding University Minimum award is full tuition Minimum award is full tuition
Liberty University Full ride Full tuition
Lipscomb University 10 selected – Full ride plus; Not selected – Full tuition Full tuition
Long Island University, C.W. Post Full tuition Full tuition competitive
Northeastern University $30,000 & invited into The University Honors Program Full tuition competitive
Oakwood University Full ride Full tuition
Oklahoma Christian University Full ride Full ride guaranteed
Pacific Union College Full tuition 33.3% tuition
Roberts Wesleyan College Full tuition Half tuition guaranteed
Spring Arbor University Two selected for full tuition; Others – 60% tuition 60% tuition
Sterling College Full tuition Full tuition guaranteed
University of Tulsa Full ride Full ride competitive
Wesleyan College $19,750 Full tuition competitive
Westminster College, UT Three selected for full tuition Half tuition guaranteed

Additional Awards

School Award
University of Central Arkansas $12,000.00 guaranteed with 3.25 GPA
California State University, Fullerton In-state only: full tuition plus guaranteed
California State University, Long Beach In-state only: full ride competitive
University of Florida Out of state tuition waiver plus $4,000.00 guaranteed
New College of Florida $17,500.00 guaranteed
Iowa State University In-state full ride
University of Kansas In-state only:$ 10k guaranteed
University of Louisiana-Lafayette Check with school
University of Massachusetts, Amherst 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
University of New Mexico Approximately &13,000.00, competitive
University of Akron, OH $4,000.00 guaranteed plus
University of Cincinnati, OH In-state full tuition plus; out-of-state: add $14,000.00
Wright State University In-state only: NMF full ride guaranteed, NMSF/Commended full tuition guaranteed
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 Vermont In-state NMF full tuition; out-of-state $10,000.00 guaranteed
University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire Full in-state tuition guaranteed
Calvin College $10,000.00 guaranteed
Concordia College $14,000.00 guaranteed
University of Dallas NMF: $14,000.00; NMSF $12,000.00 guaranteed
Franklin and Marshall College NMF $10,000.00 guaranteed
Hope College $17,000.00 guaranteed
North Central College 3/4 tuition guaranteed
Rochester Institute of Technology $15k guaranteed
University of Sioux Falls Full ride competitive (Only one given)
University of Southern California Half-tuition Presidential Scholarship guaranteed upon admission
Southern Methodist University Half tuition plus $2,000.00 guaranteed)
St. Olaf College $7,500.00 guaranteed


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  • John Plotts

    We wanted to bring to your attention that the University of Dallas offers a full tuition only scholarship to NMF and no awards to NMSF. Thank you for making the update to your records.
    - John Plotts
    University of Dallas
    Associate Provost/Dean of Enrollment

  • Ruth Joachim, North Shore College Consulting

    Hi, Jed-

    The University of Minnesota Twin Cities offers two NMS-related scholarships. The lesser of the two is for $1,000 annually, and it offers the possibility of another $1,000 based on financial need.

    The greater of the two is as follows (cut and pasted from the U of M site):
    “Gold Scholar Award – $10,000 each year for four years
    Preference given to National Merit Finalists who list the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities as their first-college choice by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation deadline.”

  • Luke

    Are The dollar amounts listed the minimum the student receives per year.

  • Linda

    I believe the the amounts listed are only merit-based and don’t include any need-based aid. However, I strongly suggest you contact each university you are interested in and make sure you get the info from the horse’s mouth. If you learn anything new, please add it to the comments so everyone can benefit. Thanks!

  • joe

    University of Arizona Full ride guaranteed Full ride guaranteed

    maybe tuition guaranteed but not much more based on web site

  • Ppchao

    Ohio state only gives $1000-4000.00. NO full tuition!

  • Parent

    Please note — Bradley definitely no longer gives full tuition for National Merit

  • College

    These schools are all mediocre