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So I took the PSAT, what next?

About 1.5 million students take the PSAT every year, and of those students, about 50,000 (3.3%) qualify for recognition in the National Merit Scholarship Program, either as commended, semifinalists, finalists, or winners. Each finalist is awarded the $2,500 National Merit Scholarship, and will also be considered for corporate- or college- sponsored merit scholarships. If you took the PSAT this morning and you were hoping for National Merit Scholarship recognition, what are the next steps?

Mostly, there’s a lot of waiting involved. We won’t know the semifinalists and commended students until September of 2014. The following chart shows the dates and events for this October’s PSAT:

Commended students

Late September 2014: If a student’s scores were not high enough to continue with the scholarship program, he/she may receive a letter of commendation for outstanding academic promise. While commended students will not continue in the NMS process, some will be candidates for scholarships provided by corporations and businesses.

Semifinalists

In early September 2014, about 16,000 students will be notified that they qualify as semifinalists. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation will supply scholarship application materials to these students. Students must meet the academic standards and requirements provided in the application materials.

Finalists

In February 2015, about 15,000 semifinalists will be notified that they have advanced to finalist standing. High school principals will be notified as well.

Winners

From March to mid-June 2015, winners of the Merit Scholarship awards, about 8,000 students, will be chosen from the finalist group based on information provided to the NMSC selectors: academic record, school curricula, the school’s grading system, test scores, written recommendation, student activities and leadership, and the finalist’s essay.

So what can you do? First of all, waiting can be an arduous process, so it’s probably best to set a note in your calendar and forget about NMS til next year. Second, if you are notified by the NMSC, make sure to fill out all the paperwork they provide. Third, to qualify as a finalist, semifinalists will need to demonstrate high academic performance in all of their high school courses, so do your best to keep your GPA as high as possible. Finally, keep the PSAT and NMS in perspective. It is a great honor to be part of the top 3.3% of PSAT takers in the country, but there are more meaningful experiences out there waiting to be had, so make sure to enjoy the next 11 months! For more information, make sure to visit www.nationalmerit.org.


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