right arrow
Examples: Monday, today, last week, Mar 26, 3/26/04
STUDENT GUEST OF THE WEEK: Ethan is a burgeoning tech enthusiast who got accepted into Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Duke, Brown. This week he's answering your questions on how to best craft your application and narrow down your college search/decision process. ASK HIM ANYTHING!
Have you helped students increase their financial aid chances or families plan how to pay for college? Are you a Financial Aid officer at your school? We are recruiting panelists for an upcoming webinar so Private Message CCadmin_Sorin for consideration.
Concerned about how to pay for college amid COVID-19 economic changes? Join us for a webinar on Thu, Apr. 9 at 5pm ET. REGISTER NOW and let us know what questions you have and want answered.
Most of the decisions are in by now. Connect with fellow students and share support for those who didn't get the best news.

FAQ for the PSAT/SAT NMSF/NMF process.... :)


Replies to: FAQ for the PSAT/SAT NMSF/NMF process.... :)

  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Forum Champion Financial Aid, Forum Champion Alabama 84311 replies1048 threads Forum Champion

    the above is the thread where the one time $2500 NMF recipients posted their stats.
    · Reply · Share
  • timu1996timu1996 67 replies23 threads Junior Member
    @mom2collegekids But that doesn't account for students who moved from one state to another during high school....like me. :/
    · Reply · Share
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Forum Champion Financial Aid, Forum Champion Alabama 84311 replies1048 threads Forum Champion

    Right, but rules don't usually take into acct the exceptions. Most kids don't change states during high school.
    · Reply · Share
  • ROCKFISHDGROCKFISHDG 329 replies12 threads Member
    Understanding 2012 PSAT/NMSQT® Scores:


    New for this year, 5000 more winners:

    Of the 1.5 million NMSC program entrants, about
    55,000 will earn 2012 PSAT/NMSQT scores high
    enough to qualify them for recognition.
    · Reply · Share
  • ROCKFISHDGROCKFISHDG 329 replies12 threads Member
    oops, I guess the extra 5000 are NHRP & NASP program achievers, sorry.
    · Reply · Share
  • DescarteszDescartesz 1711 replies29 threads Senior Member
    In anticipation of increased interest over the next couple of months I have updated content here and made some additions regarding SAT confirming scores and high school notice. I also deleted some dead links.

    NOTE: This is a Resource sticky thread intended to help members find the answers to FAQs about the NM process. This will hopefully aid members in finding answers quickly and cut down on the number of threads that ask the same question. Resource threads are only helpful if they stick to the subject and do not become too long.

    Please do not ask individual questions here, instead, start your own New Thread.

    This thread is dedicated to members providing GENERAL information concerning FAQs about the NM process, all other posts will be deleted.

    Some terms:
    PSAT - the Prelimary SAT, about half the length of the SAT and without the written essay.
    NM - National Merit
    NMSP - NM Scholarship Program
    NMSC - NM Scholarship Corporation, the sponsors of the NMSP
    NMSQT - NM Scholarship Qualifying Test - the NMSC has designated the PSAT for this role
    NMSF - NM Semifinalist, see below for details
    NMF - NM Finalist, see below for details
    NMS - NM Scholar, see below for details.

    What is the National Merit Scholarship Program?
    In brief, NMSP is a national competition which identifies high-potential students primarily on the basis of their PSAT scores and awards them scholarships either directly or indirectly through corporate sponsorship or through the colleges they choose to attend.

    When do I have to take the PSAT in order to be in the competition?
    The PSAT that is taken in October of your junior year is the one that is used. If you miss your school's PSAT date, then have your GC quickly contact NMSC and a SAT score taken shortly thereafter will be used. It is possible to take the PSAT as a sophomore or even as a freshman, but these scores will not qualify for the NMSP competition.

    How many people take the PSAT?
    As of 2011 the total number of junior testers exceeded 1.5 million. This represented almost 50% of number expected to go on to graduate in 2013.

    When do I find out my scores?
    Scores are received by high schools by about Thanksgiving week each year. High schools have their own schedules about notifying students of their scores. Some do so almost immediately and some wait until January. Neither the College Board (who administers the PSAT) nor the NMSC contact students directly about their scores.

    My school told me I am a "top-scorer". What is that?
    A top-scorer is among the 50,000 (top 3.3%) highest scorers among all junior testers. The qualifying score for this is set on a nation-wide basis and is usually around 200-202. Top-scorers are no longer notified directly by the NMSC. Instead high schools are notified in April of their junior year and it is up to the high school to relay that information its qualifying students. Some high schools have been remiss in this duty.

    How do I make NMSF and when do I find out?
    NNSF's are selected from the pool of top-scorers. Each state has a qualifying "cut-off" score. So, if your junior year PSAT score is "at or above" your state's cut-off score (boarding schools have other cut-offs based on regional groupings), then you'll make NMSF. You'll find out around mid-September of your senior year. However, many schools will tell you in late August.

    Is the cut-off determined by the top 1% of scorers in the state?
    Only approximately and on average. The cut-offs are determined by allocations based on a state's number of graduating seniors, not by number of PSAT testers. (Note that a group consisting of 1% of scorers is also a group consisting of 0.5% of high school graduates.) Additionally the NMSC does not appear to allow any state to have a cut-off lower than the national score for Commended Scholars.

    What happens if I have moved to another state since taking the test?
    Qualifications are based on the location of the high school you attended when you took the test, even if you lived in another state when the test was taken or go to school in another state after the test has been taken.

    What is the highest PSAT cut-off score of any state? The lowest?
    The highest cut-off score has been a 223. The lowest has been around 200 in some years. (Boarding school cut-offs are equal to that of the highest state in their region.)

    2012 cutoff scores
    AL 209; AK 204 ; AZ 212; AR 202; CA 220; CO 212; CT 218; DE 215; DC 221; FL 211; GA 214; HI 211; ID 207; IL 213; IN 211; IA 207; KS 212; KY 208; LA 209; ME 210; MD 219; MA 221; MI 207; MN 213; MS 204; MO 210; MT 203; NE 207; NV 208; NH 211; NJ 221; NM 208; NY 215; NC 213; ND 200; OH 212; OK 206; OR 213; PA 214; RI 211; SC 208; SD 204; TN 210; TX 216; UT 205; VT 214; VA 217; WA 216; WV 200; WI 207; WY 200; New England Boarding Schools 221; International 221; Commended Scholar 200

    Why isn't there a national NMSF cut-off? Why do this state-by-state?
    That is a question that should be directed at the NMSC. Suffice to say it has been done this way for many decades. Speculative reasons for this approach by the NMSC: (1) an attempt to compensate for education inequalities across the country; (2) a marketing strategy designed to elicit more regional interest and, thus, more regional sponsorship.

    What happens to the other top-scorers?
    The 34,000 top-scorers who do not qualify as NMSF are recognized as "Commended Scholars" but do not advance beyond this level. Some colleges will grant merit aid to Commended Scholars.

    What are the qualifications to go from NMSF to NMF?
    After you've been named NMSF, you'll have some paperwork to fill out (now done online). You'll have an essay to write as well. YOUR SCHOOL will have to fill out a recommendation and include a copy of your grades/transcript. If you have good grades (usually no more than 1 or 2 C semester grades), you haven't been a discipline problem, you have a confirming SAT over the minimum (1960+), you've sent your SAT to the NMSC, you write a decent essay, then you'll make NMF.

    I have a few C's on my record. Will that hurt me?
    Difficult to say. The NMSC has not disclosed its evaluative policy. Posted accounts here suggest even two C's can mean advancement is blocked, but whether this accounts for school competitiveness, course difficulty or content (academic vs. non-academic, advanced vs. normal) cannot be reliably ascertained. It also is not clear whether allowance is made for 9th grade grades, although anecdotal evidence suggests it is not if they appear on the transcript.

    Where are my application forms?
    Application is now entirely on-line here: https://osa.nationalmerit.org/
    Your school should supply you with your log-in credentials.

    Note that you should leave a little time to do this. An essay is required and parental sign-off is also part of the process.

    When are students named NMF?
    Students who have been named finalists will be notified in February of their senior year.

    When are rejected students notified?
    Rejection letters are sent out the first week in January of senior year.

    How many students go from NMSF to NMF?
    16,000 students are named NMSF. 15,000 are named NMF. So, usually the 1000 who don't make NMF have CAUSED the problem by....not getting the SAT score, having bad grades, writing a rude essay, being a discipline problem at school, not doing the NMSF paperwork, not sending SAT score in.

    Does my SAT score need to "match" my PSAT score.
    NO. It only has to exceed the minimum required SAT score....which is usually around 1960. However, to be safe, try to have at least a 2000.

    Keep in mind that the "confirming" SAT score is calculated by excluding the essay contribution to your "normal" SAT score. In other words to get the confirming score (1) find the writing multiple choice subscore on you SAT score report (this will be a two digit number likely 60-80 for most NMSF's), (2) multiply it by 10 and (3) add it to your math and critical reading scores. As a formula the confirming calculation looks like this: CR + M + (W(mc)*10) = confirming score.

    Which SAT score is used?
    One that is taken between sophomore year and December of senior year. Score must be sent to NMSC...code 0085.

    Can my SAT be superscored (i.e., add the best section scores from multiple sittings?)

    Which NMF students are named NM Scholars?
    Any student who receives an "official" NM scholarship is named a NMS. That scholarship can be from 3 sources:

    a) a one time $2500 award from NMSC given to 2500 students

    b) a corporate award, usually awarded to the children of employees who sponsor NM scholarships.

    c) a NMF scholarship from a college that sponsors official NM scholarships.

    Does it matter if my school has a LOT of NMSFs? Will that hurt my chances of making NMF?
    NO. Sometimes, a school will get the odd idea that they can't recommend all their NMSFs. Those schools are wrong and they should be corrected.

    Will the NMSC use an ACT score instead of a SAT score to go from NMSF to NMF?
    NO. It must be a SAT score taken some time during sophomore year through December of senior year. If you have only an ACT score and find you have qualifed for NMSF, you will have the October, November, and December sittings of the SAT in which you can take the SAT in order to qualify for NMF.

    Do I have to name a "first choice school" before spring of senior year?
    Usually, you do NOT have to name a first choice school before April 30 of senior year. However, check with each of your schools to see if any have a deadline in order to be considered for a NMF scholarship. Some schools want to be named by January or February of senior year.

    What can I do to improve my chances of making NMSF?
    Use a College Board SAT practice book and practice during the summer. Sign up for the October SAT. It's given about a week before the PSAT. If you're a rising sophomore, see if your school will let sophomores take the PSAT. Also for sophomores, sign up for a spring SAT and get the detailed score report/answer sheet so that you can go over wrong answers. Some schools even permit freshman to sit the PSAT.

    My school doesn't offer the PSAT to all junior students. What should I do?
    In late August contact your school's GC and find out what you need to do so that you can take the PSAT. You may have to pay a small fee.

    Even though I have a qualifying score, my school (1) has not contacted me or (2) doesn't know anything about the National Merit or (3) says I am not on their "list". What should I do?
    Often high schools have many concerns, especially as the school year starts, that do not prioritize the interests of their higher-performing students. In particular if your school does not often have NMSF qualifiers they might not be aware of the significance of the notice they received. If there is no one familiar with the NMSP notice can get lost in the office shuffle. It is also possible you might have provided incorrect information about yourself when you took the PSAT last October.

    First be aware that only scores taken as a high school junior (or, more precisely, in the second-to-last year of high school) qualify for the NMSP. Sophomore and freshman scores do not count. Assuming you have already talked with your guidance counselor or school administration about your score, you should contact the NMSC directly about your status by calling their office on or after the press embargo date in mid-September. They will be happy to help you. National Merit Scholarship Corporation

    If you do confirm you qualify you will have to fill out an on-line form to advance to the NMF level. Your school will also have to provide information on your behalf, too, and you might have to supervise the process to make sure their part is completed in a timely fashion.

    Additional information

    National Hispanic Recognition Program, see this thread for FAQs, Regional cutoffs, scholarships, etc.:

    National Achievement Scholarship Program for African-American Students
    National Merit Scholarship Corporation - NASP

    Historic cutoffs

    Advice for NMSF qualifiers
    Carleton College: Admissions: Tips for National Merit Scholars

    Practice Tests
    2007 Practice Test (math sections only)

    (Previous links no longer in service.)

    For NM scholarships, please see this thread (go to the end for the most recently updated list):
    · Reply · Share
  • KCTaxguyKCTaxguy 168 replies9 threads Junior Member
    @Descartesz... any chance you can start an official Class of 2014 NMSF thread like the prior year?
    · Reply · Share
  • AlabamamotherAlabamamother 2 replies0 threads New Member
    How many times can you take the SAT between October and December for the National Merit Scholarship? There are 3 dates that the test can be taken. Can you take the test multiple times if your score is not as high as you might like?
    · Reply · Share
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Forum Champion Financial Aid, Forum Champion Alabama 84311 replies1048 threads Forum Champion
    Is your child a senior? If so, then he can take it all 3 times of Oct, Nov, Dec.

    What is your situation?
    · Reply · Share
  • DescarteszDescartesz 1711 replies29 threads Senior Member
    For future reference: boarding school regions for NMSF cutoffs.

    I have done some research with the aim of determining how the NMSC groups boarding schools in each state into regional groups. As I posted on another thread I have found some press references to these groups and these citations are included in my list below. In addition I have used a Website to determine the distribution of boarding schools across the country. I believe there are five.

    According to Boarding School Review, the following states have no boarding schools.
    AL, AK, LA, NE, NV, ND, OK, SD, WY

    Here are the cited regions:
    IN, IA, KS, MI, MN, MO, OH, TX, WI

    AZ, CA, CO, ID, NM, OR, UT, WA, WY
    Fountain Valley School of Colorado ~ Standardized Testing

    AR, FL, GA, MS, NC, SC, TN, WV
    McCallie School ~ Ten Named National Merit Semifinalists

    I conjecture that the New England region consists exclusively of the New England states where there are high concentrations of boarding schools.
    New England (?)
    CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, VT

    This leaves 10 states unaccounted for. Here are seven that can be reasonably grouped into another region:
    Mid-Atlantic (?)
    DE, DC, MD, NJ, NY, PA, VA

    Leaving three without a definite home:
    IL, HI, KY (HI has one boarding school, KY two, IL two)

    I am inclined to think, in spite of the news releases, that KY belongs to the Southeast or Midwest region, HI to the West, and IL to the Midwest.

    Of course there is no guarantee that in the future these regions won't be re-grouped without notice by the NMSC.
    · Reply · Share
  • Parent46Parent46 131 replies39 threads Junior Member
    OK, I think I scanned all the FAQs and didn't see this one.

    We never got a high-scorer letter or notification, from the school or individually.

    Do students get letters sent to their home address at, or is all the notification up to the school?

    My daughter was well above the historic cutoffs for our state, and I called the National Merit people in the spring and they confirmed she was a high-scorer and eligible.
    · Reply · Share
  • celesterobertscelesteroberts 2307 replies25 threads Senior Member
    They used to send letters home to the top-scorers in April with a one-time login used to notify 2 colleges of your status, if you wished. That's been changed. This year is the first time letters were mailed to schools instead of home, for those not home-schooled. And I think the 2 college notification option has been discontinued.

    Here's a link to some discussion about that this spring:
    · Reply · Share
  • Parent46Parent46 131 replies39 threads Junior Member
    Thanks for the answer, celeste. So does that mean we also will not receive individual letters for the actual NMSF status?
    · Reply · Share
  • NaperMomNaperMom 182 replies2 threads Junior Member
    Students who make NMSF status should receive a letter from the NMSC through their school, not mailed directly to the home from NMSC. That letter would contain how to access the scholarship application, and contain a temporary username and password. It is my understanding that principals are allowed to share this information with a student and family before the official media release date, but are not required to do so.
    · Reply · Share
  • Parent46Parent46 131 replies39 threads Junior Member
    OK, got the letter from the school. Daughter is away at college already and I just want to tell her the essay prompt and approximate length to get her started. Does anybody have a rough idea of how long an essay that space accommodates?
    · Reply · Share
  • DescarteszDescartesz 1711 replies29 threads Senior Member
    Last year's prompt is probably this year's prompt, too:
    To help the reviewers get to know you, describe an experience you have had, a person who has influenced you, or an obstacle you have overcome. Explain why this is meaningful to you. Use your own words and limit your response to the space below.
    I recall, but am not certain, that there was a 500 word limit. Perhaps someone with current access to the application will know more.
    · Reply · Share
  • CAFremontDadCAFremontDad 4 replies0 threads New Member
    The maximum character count is 2400.
    · Reply · Share
  • CAFremontDadCAFremontDad 4 replies0 threads New Member
    Does anyone notice in the online scholarship application (OSA), applying for National Merit Finalist, in section Applicant Information, the field "Name and Relationship of Guardian" is not fillable?
    · Reply · Share
  • TexasSNHTexasSNH 1 replies0 threads New Member
    Where did you see the character count referenced, or how did you determine that? The application doesn't say anything about word or character count, just says to preview the essay and confirm that the essay fits in the space above the red line. My son typed his essay in Word then pasted it into the space in the online application. According to Word, the essay is 527 words, 2406 characters without spaces, and 2935 with spaces. He previewed it in the online application and it fits in the space with lots of room to spare. I'm thinking of calling National Merit on Monday to get a direct answer.
    · Reply · Share
  • NaperMomNaperMom 182 replies2 threads Junior Member
    CAFreemontDad, I could be wrong, but I assume that one has to check the guardian box, rather than a parent box, to activate that field. Just a guess, though.
    · Reply · Share
This discussion has been closed.

Recent Activity