Essay merit national scholar


Understanding the PSAT

The NMC is also looking at the skills and accomplishments shown in your application. Demonstrated leadership goes a long way--for example, leading in Student Council or other student organizations. Almost all activities are valuable if they show your commitment, leadership potential, and ability to work with and help others.

Recommendations go a long way.

More Than San Diego County Students Named National Merit Semifinalists

Make sure to ask for your recommendation at least three weeks in advance of the deadline, and follow up with your writer to make sure it'll be submitted on time. The earlier you notify them, the more ahead you'll be of your classmates, most of whom will need college application letters. The personal essay adds your voice to your application materials. Your essay is the place where you can share your unique story and perspective and make your application materials come to life.

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.

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Explain why this is meaningful to you. Use your own words and limit your response to the space provided. You should focus on two important components of the essay. First, the NMC wants to see that you can express yourself clearly and powerfully through writing. Make sure to proofread, edit, and revise for any spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, or weaknesses in syntax and diction.

Second, your essay reveals how you think about yourself , your accomplishments, and your goals. What do your experiences mean to you? What do they reveal about your identity? Spend some time brainstorming before you decide what aspects of your identity are most important to share with the NMC readers. For example, did a group science fair project show you the power of collaboration in making new discoveries?

Did a Student Council debate reveal the complexity of perspectives on a single issue? Did Lisa Simpson teach you the importance of sticking to your principles, even if your family may not always agree? The topics are endless, and there is no best answer, but whatever you choose should reveal something significant about who you are. Staying motivated and committing yourself to all these goals will put you in the best position toward becoming a National Merit Finalist. NSMC notifies students if they have become finalists in February of their senior year.

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Scholarship notifications go out in March. By that time, most of your college applications will be done and submitted. Now you just have to try to relax and wait for the decisions to come! Want more tips on how to get a top PSAT score? Check out our guide on how to get a perfect PSAT score for all the info you need to know.

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Of the about 1. Note that the Selection Index qualifying scores vary from year to year and state to state, as students are selected for NMSP recognition from each of the 50 U. Commended students are not eligible for National Merit scholarships. To view a list of the most recent qualifying scores by state, visit our National Merit Scores page. Once a student qualifies as a Semifinalist, he or she must complete the National Merit Scholarship Application and submit it to the NMSC in order to move on to the next round of qualifications Finalist and to be considered for a National Merit Scholarship.

Of the roughly 16, students who qualify as Semifinalists, about 15, of them will qualify as Finalists. Of those 15, Finalists, approximately 7, of them will be selected for Merit Scholarships. Scholarships are awarded based on skills, abilities, and accomplishments as exhibited through a student's application materials.

Anxious mailbox stalking continues until good news arrives for the 15, students who will become Finalists. One D or a couple of Cs, even if those grades were earned freshman year, is enough to knock a student out of the competition. Other students with such grades, however, do progress to Finalist.

Perhaps a compelling essay, an unusually rigorous course load, or a convincing recommendation from the guidance counselor, tips the scales. Naming Your First Choice College. Once the 15, Semifinalists have been selected, decisions must be made as to which students will receive official Merit Scholarship awards.

Otherwise, they will not be eligible for a college-sponsored Merit Scholarship award. National Merit Scholars. Of the 15, Finalists, approximately 7, will become National Merit Scholars. It is perhaps this moniker that is most confusing, as often the term National Merit Scholar is used for all students earning Commended Student, Semifinalist or Finalist status.

In fact, National Merit Scholar is a specific designation reserved for only those Finalists who are awarded an official Merit Scholarship award. The great news, however, is that this recognition is in the hands of the student. Official Merit Scholarship awards derive from three sources.

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National Merit Scholarships and the PSAT

The second source is corporations, which award approximately scholarships, usually to children of employees. Currently there are about corporate sponsors. The third source, and the one that is in the hands of the students, is colleges and universities. Approximately colleges and universities, eager to enroll National Merit Finalists, offer official Merit Scholarship awards to students each year. National Competition? What Do You Think? Each year, as the online forums buzz with news of the PSAT cutoff scores needed to progress to Semifinalist in each state, the National Merit naysayers complain about the broad range of qualifying scores.

It does not seem fair that a in Wyoming can become a National Merit Scholar, earning a 4-year full ride to college, while a in New Jersey is out of the competition at the Commended Student level.

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As a parent myself, in a state with a traditionally high PSAT cutoff score, I understand the frustration. The NMSC, however, is a private non-profit corporation, and is free to set rules as it sees fit. It is, after all, giving away money to lots of students, which is much better than not giving away money, right? The more graduating seniors in a state, the more Semifinalists that state will have. When all PSATs are graded, and listed from highest to lowest scores, a line is drawn at the score that will most nearly result in the correct number of Semifinalists from each individual state.


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Each state is equally represented on a per capita basis. Many believe a more fair process would provide one nationwide Semifinalist cutoff score, but that would result in a greater number of Semifinalists from the high-scoring states. New Jersey, California and Massachusetts would be brimming with Semifinalists, and ultimately, therefore, National Merit Scholars, while certain other states would have few.


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  • While hand-wringing is an excellent place to start, I have some other ideas. Stay tuned for the next installment. Vocabulary: Still Confused?

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