Of the 1.6 million entrants, some 50,000 with the highest PSAT/NMSQT® Selection Index scores (calculated by doubling the sum of the Reading, Writing and Language, and Math Test scores) qualify for recognition in the National Merit® Scholarship Program. In September, these high scorers are notified through their schools that they have qualified as either a Commended Student or Semifinalist. In early September, about 16,000 students, or approximately one-third of the 50,000 high scorers, are notified that they have qualified as Semifinalists. To ensure that academically talented young people from all parts of the United States are included in this talent pool, Semifinalists are designated on a state-representational basis. They are the highest scoring entrants in each state. NMSC provides scholarship application materials to Semifinalists through their high schools. To be considered for a National Merit® Scholarship, Semifinalists must advance to Finalist standing in the competition by meeting high academic standards and all other requirements explained in the information provided to each Semifinalist.
In February, some 15,000 Semifinalists are notified by mail at their home addresses that they have advanced to Finalist standing. High school principals are notified and provided with a certificate to present to each Finalist. In March, the 15,000 are narrowed down to 7500 students from across the country who are eligible for special scholarships through National Merit, Corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarships or College-sponsored Merit Scholarships. NMSC's professional staff evaluates information about candidates' abilities, skills, and accomplishments and chooses winners of the sponsor's Special Scholarships. These scholarships may either be renewable for four years of undergraduate study or one-time awards.
In short, these kids are the national cream of the crop of graduating students for a given year. Even being commended is an honor and a boost to their college admission acceptance.
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