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Inequity of score cut-offs for NMSF state-by-state?

umboFever09umboFever09 Posts: 87Registered User Junior Member
edited December 2011 in National Merit Scholarships
I'm curious as to why the cut-off to NMSF is so different from state to state? Idaho and Montana are 209 but Mass and DC are 223? Are the schools in the lower-ranked states that much worse? Students that much dumber? Is it academic socialism? Or is it all just a ploy by the not-for-profit NM to supply colleges with students from the states that historically produce farmers instead of academics?

Seems like it is skewed unnecessarily, but maybe I'mmissing the intent of the whole process.
Post edited by umboFever09 on

Replies to: Inequity of score cut-offs for NMSF state-by-state?

  • performersmomperformersmom Posts: 2,116Registered User Senior Member
    I am with you. They need to re-name the competition if they leave it as a state by state competition. They also separate out boarding schools, and by region, not state. Whatever...

    To me, this is a MERIT only competition, and one of the relatively few.
    (note: I am not disagreeing with the studies that say that environment and affluence can impact a student's test scores- I am just saying that maybe that is not an appropriate issue with THIS particular contest. And I am far from sour grapes- D made it in a state with the highest cut-off scores.)

    And even if social engineering is something that you agree with in this case, why are state borders accepted as the way to measure the differences???

    Re-name it or change it. And review the philosophy behind it, and if all agree that it is unfair, re-assess how to social engineer.
  • umboFever09umboFever09 Posts: 87Registered User Junior Member
    I think you hit on the core issue I have here, performersmom: There are so few MERIT related aspects to the whole college aid process that you would think that one calling itself MERIT would in fact be based upon MERIT.

    Sad fact is that the real world seems to reward adults based on MERIT. At what point does this lesson get conveyed, if not when students turn 18 and start their adult lives heading toward college?

    Just one more link in the "dumbing down to mediocrity" chain that we've wrapped around our national axle over the past 20 years.... And we wonder why the Chinese are on track to sink us by the end of the decade?
  • crazymomstercrazymomster Posts: 1,872Registered User Senior Member
    I think it is important to remember that the scores are a result of a percentage cutoff, not a number/score. We are all bound to the same rules of the same game. Education is clearly lesser in some states than other states and that needs rectified, but the idea I think with the percentage cutoff is to not punish a child for the quality of education in the state that their parents chose for them to live and be educated in.

    Yes, there are some issues that a 209 student can be rewarded the same as a 223 student, when their college preparation is not equal. However undoubtedly what they get from college isn't what their PSAT score was, but instead, what they did for their own education once they entered a college that they, the student, chose.

    A 209 student is probably also going to have lower SAT/ACT scores and with the NM scholarships, they get an opportunity that they may otherwise not have gotten.
  • freein2012freein2012 Posts: 57Registered User Junior Member
    My son is NMSF from WA. 220 cutoff. I am just thankful that this program exists. There are so few true(non-institutional) scholarships out there. I knew that the magic number for WA would be +/- 2 from the 218 of the year before. I would have been slightly disappointed if he did not qualify, but I would not have complained about the inequality of the program. We knew going in where our state's bar was set.
  • HeadrushHeadrush Posts: 5Registered User New Member
    If Massachusetts has a 223 cutoff and i got a 223, does that mean I missed or do I get semi-finalist? I have not heard anything but there is a reason (I have another thread on that issue).

    Does the 223 cutoff mean "above 223" or "223 and above"?

    thanks. this is important for me to know.
  • crazymomstercrazymomster Posts: 1,872Registered User Senior Member
    ^ headrush - if 223 is the definite cutoff, anyone with that score or above will be SF.. presuming all of the other qualifications are met (US citizen, 11th grader, etc). The deadline to submit the SF paperwork is long past. You should contact NM directly to determine your eligibility. Have you gotten any college mailings that say "congrats on being SF" ?

    edit - it looks like you are a junior this year, is that right? Are you graduating at the end of this year? If you are following a typical course of instruction (graduating after 12th), then your 10th grade PSAT score is irrelevant to becoming a semi-finalist, only your 11th grade score can be used.
  • smwhtslghtlydzedsmwhtslghtlydzed Posts: 1,555Registered User Senior Member
    headrush- if you're a junior and just got your psat score, you won't find out about national merit until next fall.
  • HeadrushHeadrush Posts: 5Registered User New Member
    No I am a senior. That is why when I found this site on Google I got worried. The NM site has nothing but i think I have to call them.
  • tommykirkpatricktommykirkpatrick Posts: 543Registered User Member
    Headrush- check the full list of semifinalists for your state to make sure you did indeed qualify.
  • DescarteszDescartesz Posts: 1,738Registered User Senior Member
    To my knowledge the NMSC has never explained the reasons behind their methodology. But it has been doing things this way since the Eisenhower administration so it if you choose to see in its method some kind of decline in American standards you will have to locate its origin in that era.

    It is my contention that, far from allegedly misguided notions of social equality, what is behind this approach is good old-fashioned free enterprise marketing. The NMSC wants to encourage schools and private businesses to sponsor scholarships in its program. These entities, by-and-large, are locally-focused and want their gesture of goodwill to have a local impact and local recognition. Hence the NMSC makes sure that they allocate finalist slots in a way that is more geographically diverse than a pure "score-only" policy will allow. It is entirely possible that the program would be much less attractive and its current scope greatly reduced in lower cut-off states if this were not the case.
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Posts: 59,918Registered User Senior Member
    NMSC wants to encourage schools and private businesses to sponsor scholarships in its program.


    that's a good point.

    If there were a national cutoff, then most of the NMFs would come from 2 regions (the NE and Calif) and the rest of states' corporations and univs would not feel motivated to donate/participate.

    Also, there is probably a belief that lower cut-off states have mediocre K-12, so a child who scores a 20X in those states would likely have a better score if educated in a high cut-off state.
  • DescarteszDescartesz Posts: 1,738Registered User Senior Member
    Rather than attribute test performance differences to K-12 education I would conjecture that test exposure has much to do with it. Here are the top 10 cut-off states, their 2010 sophomore participation counts, and their 2010 junior participation counts:

    4,748 4,686 DC 223
    37,871 52,043 MA 223
    55,458 70,535 NJ 223
    172,477 178,084 CA 221
    60,578 44,908 MD 221
    26,839 33,715 CT 220
    60,875 54,159 VA 220
    19,818 33,356 WA 220
    112,973 154,675 NY 219
    243,028 205,659 TX 219

    Totals
    794,665 831,820 96% soph./jr. ratio

    Although this is only a proxy for a true count of repeated test exposure, it is pretty clear that sophomore testing is quite commonplace in these states. (Indeed in four of them it is more common than testing juniors!) For comparison here are the 10 midwestern states in which SAT participation is less than 50% (i.e., not MI, not IN).

    15,860 42,485 IL 216
    5,095 22,931 MN 215
    6,114 10,502 KS 214
    29,561 51,275 OH 214
    8,282 14,068 MO 213
    2,712 8,466 IA 210
    2,078 6,260 NE 209
    3,632 20,098 WI 209
    553 2,556 SD 206
    409 1,851 ND 204

    Totals
    74,296 180,492 41% soph./jr. ratio

    You can see that in all of these states sophomore exposure is much less frequent than in the high cut-off states. (In fact the PLAN test, the ACT PSAT-analog, is quite popular for testing sophomores in many of these states.) Since prior exposure to the test is a demonstrably important factor in raising test scores I suggest some difference in performance arises from this difference alone.
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Posts: 59,918Registered User Senior Member
    That definitely contributes as well, but I don't think you can negate the influences of K-12. Another issue is that some states are more ACT-favored. Also, there is the influence of parents' education. Perhaps the students in states with higher cutoffs have more parents with educations beyond K-12.
  • perazzimanperazziman Posts: 2,214Registered User Senior Member
    Since, the system is designed to have lower cut offs in states where participation in SAT/ PSAT testing is lowest, it would seem NM is trying to encourage us, to get the word out, to parents of high school children in low cut off states to get their kids to take the test.
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