High School students who meet published program entry and participation requirements enter the National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) at the specified time in the high school program, usually as juniors. Each year's PSAT/NMSQT is the qualifying test designated for entry to a particular year's competition. For example, the 2019 PSAT/NMSQT is the qualifying test for entry to the competition for scholarships to be awarded in 2021.
Registration for the test is by high school rather than individual student. Interested students should see their counselor at the beginning of the school year to make arrangements to take the PSAT/NMSQT at the school in the fall.
Note: The PSAT 10 and PSAT 8/9 will not be considered for entry to the National Merit Scholarship Program. The PSAT/NMSQT is the official route of entry to the National Merit Scholarship Program.
Student Entry Requirements
To participate in the National Merit Scholarship Program, a student must:
A) Take the PSAT/NMSQT in the specified year of the high school program and no later than the third year in grades 9 through 12, regardless of grade classification or educational pattern;
B) Be enrolled as a high school student (traditional or homeschooled), progressing normally toward graduation or completion of high school, and planning to accept admission to college no later than the fall following completion of high school; and
C) Attend high school in the United States, the District of Columbia, or U.S. commonwealth and territory; or meet the citizenship requirements for students attending high school outside the United States (see below).
Students attending high school outside the U.S.: To be eligible for the 2020 National Merit Scholarship Program, students attending high school outside the United States must be a citizen of the United States; or be a U.S. lawful resident (or have applied for permanent residence, the application for which has not been denied) and intend to become a U.S. citizen at the earliest opportunity allowed by law.