USC National Merit Finalist Half Tuition Scholarship

I am a high school senior right now and am preparing to apply to college. USC is on my list partly because of the half tuition scholarship they give to students that are National Merit Finalists and mark USC as their top choice school. Since I got a 1490 on the PSAT last year, I think I have a chance at becoming a finalist. However, USC isn’t actually my top choice school and I don’t know if I’ll necessarily go there if I get into a better school. So my question is: if I mark USC as my top choice school on the National Merit Scholarship and am accepted to the school, am I guaranteed the scholarship? Also, does marking USC as my top choice college mean I HAVE TO attend the school if I’m accepted or can I reject the offer to go to another school?

Another question: would I still be able to get other USC scholarships if I am already selected for the National Merit Finalist scholarship?

To be eligible, you have to apply to USC by the December 1st deadline. If you get accepted (the acceptance rate for NSF is about 50%), you have to make sure that you select USC as your choice by May 1st if you wish to attend. Nothing is binding. Yes, you will be considered for other scholarships.

I think all of the dates are correct, but I am doing this by memory of premium Covid times. Also, USC is very cognizant of people only applying due to the scholarships. If you don’t do an excellent job at showing why USC and you are a fit, you will be rejected.

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@Eeyore123 I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to apply by the December 1st deadline as that’s for USC’s own scholarships (not NM which is automatic if admitted & list as your first choice as you say,) but is definitely RECOMMENDED given that it’s possible to be interviewed for USC’s full-tuition scholarships.

USC, however, is more of a reach than a match for most applicants with an acceptance rate of 15% this year and a ton of National Merit students applying than admitted. If anything, being NM probably makes it more competitive to get-in than w/o it, b/c they’ll only accept students who are as qualified as the candidates for USC’s non-NM Presidential Scholarship, given that they HAVE to give the scholarship to them if admitted (as @Eeyore123 states above.) Definitely take the time to show interest by working hard on your essays and applications, and don’t treat it as a guaranteed admission, that’s far from the truth. USC is also VERY much applied to due to its location in LA, which is a major reason why students go there (lots of opportunities.)

For an NM school that IS a guaranteed full-ride/acceptance, you should apply to the University of Central Florida, which offers an application fee-waiver, however, you have to submit official SAT/ACT and AP scores (check the admissions website for specifics) and apply via their own application (w/o any recommendations.)

Hope this helps! Good luck with admissions!

Interesting discussion. I had the same questions about USC.

@Eeyore123 - Can you share the source of your statement “the acceptance rate for NSF is about 50%”. I’m interested in finding out about this for other schools if that info. is available. Thanks!

@QQsubs I don’t think @Eeyore123 meant that the acceptance rate for National Merit students applying to USC is 50% (USC’s acceptance rate was ~15% this year) but that the percentage of students becoming a National Merit SCHOLAR from a FINALIST is ~50% (~7000-8000 scholars out of 15000 Finalists.) However, this is likely because a lot of NMFs don’t go to a college-sponsoring NM school, so unless you receive one of the 2,500 $2500 NM-sponsored scholarships or a corporate scholarship (usually for employee dependents etc,) you don’t become a NMS and stay a NMF.)

I don’t think that any school posts their NMF acceptance rate, but the University of Central Florida, for example, auto-admits any NMSF.

Hope this helps! Good luck with admissions!

@PikachuRocks15 no, I can’t find the source, but an AO once said that the admission rate to USC was about 50% for NMSF. Some people think that because they give a half tuition scholarship, that the acceptance rate should be near 100%. It isn’t.

@Eeyore123 I definitely agree that USC is not admitting every NMF that applies, but thought the acceptance rate would be the same or lower than the overall RD acceptance rate, given that they HAVE to give the scholarship to those admitted. The applicant pool might be self-selected in that case, due to cost (USC’s still 45-50K AFTER the scholarship) and NMFs with strong stats but weaker extracurrriculars/essays etc. might not be applying, so then that means (from the statistic you gave) that ~ half of those NMFs applying are meeting the same qualifications as USC’s own Presidential Scholars (non-NM.)

Thanks for clarifying! :smile:

@Eeyore123 and @PikachuRocks15 Thanks for the clarification!

If you apply by Dec 1, you may be considered for the full-tuition scholarships. If not awarded $2500 through NMSC, USC gives $4000 to the National Merit Finalists who are not half-tuition Presidential scholars.

@lkg4answers Just to clarify, USC will provide their own college-sponsored scholarships to ALL NM who don’t receive their own NM scholarship to designate them as National Merit Scholars (idk if this is included in the half-tuition or if it stacks,) and it’s automatic to become a Presidential Scholar as long as you list USC as your first-choice by May 31st and follow all other requirements.

The only way to be an NM who isn’t a Presidential Scholar or above at USC would be if you didn’t meet the May 31st deadline and USC’s other requirements for some reason, and USC would probably remind you in that case. :smile:

@lkg4answers has a child who is an NMS at USC so I’m sure she knows the ropes there already.?

@amsunshine It was probably a typo then in @lkg4answers original post. Just wanted to clarify for OP. Sorry! :sweat_smile:

My daughter is a NMF and Spring admit to USC for 2020-2021 year. I believe you have to apply to USC by December 1. You do not have to put any school down as #1 (with National Merit Foundation) until May 1. It is definitely not guaranteed admit to USC as a NMF. My daughter had a 4.6 GPA, NMF status, all AP/Honors, lots of activities and leadership. She was accepted for Spring and was the only NMF from her school accepted at all. I don’t think we knew exactly how competitive it was when she applied. She just loved the school when we visited. I hope she gets there in person this year. Spring admit turned out to be a good thing for her.

Trying to figure out what typo you are referring to. Are you questioning whether or not your title changes from NMF to NMS if you receive the half-tuition Presidential scholarship at USC?

The USC $4K is awarded after NMSC awards their $2500, so if you receive $2500 NMS through NMSC, you don’t receive the $4K from USC. The $4K is divided over 4 years so it is $1K/yr or $500/semester.

@amsunshine you know better than I do. There is a small list of schools that have a March “first choice” deadline. Otherwise, I don’t know that there is a reason to list a school as first choice before May.

@Yellowfellow999 you wrote,

Keep your options open. You never know when a program or opportunity will be offered that will change your opinion of a school.

@lkg4answers It was the following: “USC gives $4000 to the National Merit Finalists who are not half-tuition Presidential scholars.” You must have mistakenly said the “not half-tuition Presidential scholars,” part and wanted to confirm that every USC admit who is NM will get at-least Presidential scholar status. :smile:

Sorry, yes you are correct. If a NMF is admitted to USC and states that USC is their #1 before the May deadline, they are guaranteed at least the 1/2 tuition scholarship.

I was focused on the additional $4K that USC offers in addition to the half or full tuition scholarships. I believe if one does not receive the NMSC $2500 that both the half and full tuition scholarship recipients will receive $4K from USC but I don’t know that for sure. It does apply to Trustee scholars but I cannot confirm that it applies to Presidential. Maybe someone else on this board is a Presidental scholar who received the additional $4K and can confirm.

With re: colleges which require “first choice” designation earlier than the May deadline, I believe Boston College and Boston University both require this. I recall a discussion on the National Merit thread last year about this. However, it is always best to do one’s due diligence in searching for the specific policies/deadlines for each college to which one is applying. When in doubt, call and ask. I’ve learned that sometimes the information on college websites is lacking and/or just plain confusing in this regard. Further, policies can change from year to year, so it’s best to make certain. It would be a shame to lose out on a scholarship opportunity solely because of a missed deadline.

Does Boston college have a large scholarship like BU? On their website they only talk about a $1000 National Merit Scholarship…

@QQsubs Looking at their website, the only large merit scholarship they offer is the Presidential Scholarship, which is a competitive scholarship that’s not tied to NM.

However, they do offer the $1K for NM to 7 students every year, but ONLY choose these students from the first roster NM sends them in early March per the FA website: https://www.bc.edu/bc-web/offices/student-services/financial-aid/undergraduate/faqs.html

Hope that helps!

Yes. Thanks for confirming!