The PSAT/NMSQT: Gateway to College Scholarships

By Peterson's Staff updated on Thursday, April 10, 2014

Every year, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) awards college scholarships to more than 10,500 students -- and if you’ve got the right stuff, you could be one of them! On average, the student scholarships are worth $2,500 and are considered to be important and prestigious awards. Even students who apply but don’t win can earn honor and recognition and are able to use that to their benefit when it comes to getting into college.

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About the NMSC and their college scholarships

The NMSC, an independent, non-profit organization, sponsors the competition, evaluation, and recognition of students nationwide for the purpose of awarding two undergraduate scholarships: National Merit and National Achievement scholarships. The National Merit Scholarship Program was started in 1955 as a means of recognizing outstanding student achievement. In 1964, the National Achievement Scholarship program was initiated to recognize outstanding achievement among Black American high school students.

How to compete for these college scholarships

The NMSC programs are some of the best-known merit-based scholarships available and the competition begins when you register for and complete the PSAT/NMSQT in October of your junior year. The PSAT/NMSQT, co-sponsored by the NMSC and the College Board, serves as a screening tool for potential recipients of these student scholarships.

In addition to the NMSC-sponsored college scholarships, the PSAT/NMSQT also serves as a screening tool for additional Merit Scholarships, which are sponsored and funded by a variety of different organizations and colleges. The NMSC assists in identifying and awarding recipients for these university scholarships through the scoring process.

Your responses to specific NMSC-related items determine if you will be one of the top test-takers who will be invited to participate in the next stage of the National Merit Scholarship competition. If you are a Black student who also wants to compete in the National Achievement Program, all you need to do is request entry by marking the specific space provided on the PSAT/NMSQT answer sheet.

Getting started on the road to these merit-based college scholarships

Taking the PSAT/NMSQT is the first step towards winning one of these prestigious undergraduate scholarships. The competition occurs in several phases and it takes approximately a year and a half to complete the process. If your scores set you apart from the pack, you’ll be notified by letter and offered the opportunity to formally apply for one of the college scholarships.

Good luck!

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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