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Tips for National Merit Scholars

The National Merit Scholarship Program is a well-established and highly recognized program among students and colleges. It is an honor to be selected and considered for this special award. Due to the size of this program and number of students involved (nearly one million students take the PSAT), the National Merit Corporation has procedures and a process that must be followed if a student is to be considered for this program. What follows are some tips and hints that may be helpful as you work with National Merit. We draw on our experience as a major college sponsor of National Merit Scholarships and the advice we have given numerous students who have been contenders in this program. Please note that these tips are not sanctioned by National Merit and reflect the opinions of Carleton's Admissions staff.

  • Tip #1: Read everything National Merit sends you. Although sometimes technical, their information is important for those moving to Semifinalist and Finalist status.
  • Tip #2: Note that not all colleges offer National Merit Scholarships. Some schools elect not to offer these scholarships because of their policies, but still enroll National Merit Finalists. Ask those schools you are considering if they sponsor National Merit Scholarships.
  • Tip #3: When indicating a college choice to National Merit, make sure it is a school you will likely attend. If you are not sure, indicate "undecided" to protect yourself. Once a National Merit Scholarship offer is made by a college, it is assumed that you will enroll there. Indicating "undecided" gives you the option to change your mind at the last minute. Note the April timeframe to make your final college choice.
  • Tip #4: Check to determine if financial need is a factor in the amount of your Merit Scholarship. Some schools will award a minimum amount regardless of need and larger scholarships depending on your need. Other schools will award a scholarship for a set amount of money regardless of need.
  • Tip #5: Inquire about the conditions for renewal of your scholarship. No one likes surprises.
  • Tip #6: If you are selected for a one-time "National" National Merit Scholarship, ask the school you are considering if they will renew this award in subsequent years.
  • Tip #7: When in doubt, call the National Merit office. They will be happy to answer your questions and explain their procedures more fully.
  • Tip #8: National Merit's address is:

    National Merit Scholarship Corporation
    1560 Sherman Avenue, Suite 200
    Evanston, IL 60201
    Phone: 847/866-5100
    National Merit Website

  • Tip #9: As you have probably experienced, many schools will be encouraging you to enroll. Think through your options and don't let yourself be bought by the highest bidder. Pick a school where you will be comfortable, challenged and have peers who understand your goals for college.
  • Tip #10: Enjoy your recognition as a National Merit Contender. It is truly an honor and an accomplishment.