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College 101

National Merit Scholarships

Ever notice that tongue-twisting acronym stuck on the end of the name PSAT that nobody ever talks about: Want to guess what NMSQT stands for? Exactly. The National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Don’t worry, the PSAT and the NMSQT are the same test. You don’t have to take another one (until the SAT and ACT, that is). It’s just that the National Merit Scholarship Corporation uses your PSAT results (dirty buggers!) to award students with merit scholarships (nevermind, yeah!).

Now, let’s do a quick reality check so that most of you can be on your merry way to Shmoop Test Prep to get ready for the PSAT, SAT and ACT. Ready?

About 1.5 million students take the PSAT/NMSQT each October. Of those, the top 60,000 scorers will receive a letter telling them they are smart. Which is great, and nice to put on a resume, but you can’t put a letter in the bank. Of those top scorers, the Corporation will then go on to ruthlessly whittle that number down to the top 15,000 to receive scholarships. Quick math: 15 thousand . . . divided by 1.5 million . . . yep, that’s 1% of everyone who takes it looking at some cash. So, not to crush any dreams, but if you aren’t a pretty stellar student and test taker, we recommend moving on to preparing for the exams.

Still here? Great. You are either the cream of the standardized testing crop, or don’t follow instructions very well. Either way, know this: if you do make it to be a finalist, you will be contacted in the Spring with details of the type of scholarship you may have won. And everyone likes money.

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