The National Merit Scholarship Program is an academic competition for recognition and scholarships that began in 1955. Approximately 1.5 million high school students enter the program each year.
How to Enter the Competition
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 2020 PSAT/NMSQT is the qualifying test for entry to the competition for scholarships to be awarded in 2022.
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: For the 2022 National Merit Scholarship Program, the PSAT/NMSQT will be administered in October 2020 and January 2021.
Student Entry Requirements
On test day, students are asked some questions to determine entry to the National Merit Scholarship Program. 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 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.