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    #247808 - 12/08/20 01:08 PM National Merit advice
    ultramarina Offline

    Registered: 08/24/10
    Posts: 3428
    Hi all,

    I used to post here, but it has been a long time! We just got my DD16's PSAT scores and she should easily qualify for National Merit Scholar (750 M/740V--our state is middle of the pack for cutoffs). She has not been an unusually outstanding HS student, though her grades and course rigor are also not terrible by any means. In other words, Ivy league or top 20 schools are not in the running, though there's no reason why she won't become a finalist. Does anyone here have experience with choosing from the schools that offer great packages for NMS? She has nothing clear in mind for a major, though science is on the table.

    #247809 - 12/08/20 01:41 PM Re: National Merit advice [Re: ultramarina]
    cricket3 Offline

    Registered: 11/02/09
    Posts: 681
    Hello there! Iím sorry, but I donít have any btdt advice- I mainly wanted to say congrats and best wishes to you and your DD as you navigate the upcoming months ahead. The college search process is complicated no matter what parameters one uses to narrow things down (but that is a very nice parameter to have in your pocket).

    #247810 - 12/08/20 01:46 PM Re: National Merit advice [Re: ultramarina]
    ultramarina Offline

    Registered: 08/24/10
    Posts: 3428
    Hi Cricket! smile

    Yes, complicated. We are kind of just thinking about schools that will offer a great financial package to NMS. Tbh this feels like an awesome windfall that is also a bit unfair, but since DD is not interested in grabbing the brass ring, so to speak, as a family we see no reason not to be practical about this opportunity.

    #247811 - 12/08/20 03:05 PM Re: National Merit advice [Re: ultramarina]
    NotSoGifted Offline

    Registered: 04/14/12
    Posts: 447
    Middle kid was an NMF. We looked at some places with good NMF merit, but our requirement was that she apply to at least one school that would give her good merit, NMF based or otherwise.

    She was going to apply to a nearby school that offered full tuition for a certain SAT & GPA, but before she did, she received full tuition from another school she liked better. It is a good solid school (not elite) and she ended up there. She had a great experience there, and is now at a top grad school program.

    College Confidential can give you some better information on NMF scholarships. They used to have a great list of NMF merit, but it hasn't been updated for a while. However, there are discussions of schools that kids are applying to, or attending, that provide good NMF scholarships. Go to Forums, Financial Aid & Scholarships, National Merit Scholarships.

    NMF scholarships can change from year to year, and given the pandemic, schools might be cutting back on merit. I don't know where you live, but if your daughter likes Florida, for the past few years they have had the Benaquisto Scholarship. Currently, it is available to both in-state and out-of-state students, and provides cost of attendance at UF, FSU and other schools. UCF has long had a NMF scholarship covering cost of attendance.

    #247815 - 12/09/20 01:37 PM Re: National Merit advice [Re: ultramarina]
    aeh Offline

    Registered: 04/26/14
    Posts: 3738
    No btdt advice here, either, although our DC also took a full scholarship from a nearby perfectly respectable non-name school (which turned out to be just as well, since everyone's in remote learning this year...). If I recall correctly, you can expect an influx of unsolicited offers from schools that subscribe to the College Board's mailing list. They're often more generous than name schools, but still provide a solid undergraduate education.

    I guess you could look them up in some of the ranking lists, probably with an eye to the schools with more options for majors, if she doesn't have a specific one in mind. And there's no shame in pre-sorting them by bottom line.

    And congrats to your DC!
    ...pronounced like the long vowel and first letter of the alphabet...

    #247816 - 12/09/20 06:39 PM Re: National Merit advice [Re: ultramarina]
    knute974 Offline

    Registered: 09/22/09
    Posts: 683
    Loc: controlled chaos
    My eldest was a NMF. She ended up getting a NM scholarship ($2500/year) from her school which then qualified her for a bigger merit scholarship that wasn't technically a NM scholarship. Except for the schools that sent her info through the mail, she found that you had to ask the admissions folks to get the real scoop.

    ETA: FYI, you have to notify the schools when you qualify as a NMF. My daughter didn't do this initially and her first offer letter gave her zero scholarship money. She contacted her admissions rep who informed her that they only had her down as a semi-finalist, not a finalist. The rep was helpful and told her to write an appeal letter that included that she was a NM finalist. She ended up getting their max merit scholarship which is worth six figures over the four years.

    Edited by knute974 (12/09/20 06:49 PM)

    #247818 - 12/10/20 06:45 AM Re: National Merit advice [Re: ultramarina]
    indigo Offline

    Registered: 04/27/13
    Posts: 4345
    My thought is to remain hopeful, yet not certain, that the scores qualify. I say this because the cutoff score can vary from year to year.

    Families whose students are a decade or so older may also remember when receiving the "Presidential Scholarship" was a big deal... until it became unfunded... no scholarship money awarded... just a title or designation as "Presidential Scholar."

    #247821 - 12/10/20 06:55 PM Re: National Merit advice [Re: ultramarina]
    ultramarina Offline

    Registered: 08/24/10
    Posts: 3428
    Knute--yes, this seems confusing. I'm a little intimidated by all the steps. It seems far from automatic. Feels like I need to amass notes.

    indigo--yes, cutoffs vary, but happily, her scores are high enough that it is very, very unlikely that she would not qualify. The highest selection index in any state ever was 224, IIRC, which has hardly ever happened. Most years and most states are a lot lower; her selection index is 223, and we are not in one of "those" competitive states. Glad we don't have to sit here and wait.

    Funding is a different matter, and colleges could yank NM money due to covid.

    Though we knew she was a good tester, the scores were a bit of a pleasant surprise and excellent proof of what she can do with a little work (she put in maybe 10 hours of review to increase her math score; verbal was already high, but went up a bit too). This opens doors for her, as she is motivated by the freedom of no debt.

    #247823 - 12/11/20 08:55 AM Re: National Merit advice [Re: ultramarina]
    mithawk Offline

    Registered: 11/25/11
    Posts: 255
    Hi ultramarina,

    I haven't posted much recently either, but nice to hear from you again.

    This is a couple of years old, so you should verify, but I would start with this list:

    #247824 - 12/11/20 11:22 AM Re: National Merit advice [Re: ultramarina]
    mecreature Offline

    Registered: 03/14/11
    Posts: 357
    College Kickstart is what I was going to recommend too.

    There is a conversation going on College Confidential right now about this. Seems like some schools in certain states are more generous with NMF than others.

    Congrats to your daughter.

    Keep in mind there is more than just the score to being a finalist. One is earn a score that confirms PSAT/NMSQT performance on the SAT or ACT.

    Go to and find the Student Guide and it is listed on page 8
    (To qualify as a Finalist, a Semifinalist must:)

    ETA: Nice to see you post again. smile

    Edited by mecreature (12/11/20 11:24 AM)

    #247825 - 12/11/20 02:30 PM Re: National Merit advice [Re: ultramarina]
    NotSoGifted Offline

    Registered: 04/14/12
    Posts: 447
    High schools are notified of NMSFs in early September. If your school has NMSFs every year, they will know the process for NMSF to NMF. It isn't that complicated, but it is a fairly short timeline to get the materials in.

    Our HS usually has 8-12 NMSF in a class of 300 (though eldest kid's class had 24). I think the confirming score was not required for this year's seniors, because of the pandemic impacts/test cancellations. May or may not be required next year, but the threshold is low, lower than the Commended score, so not usually a factor to prevent moving to NMF.

    If the transcript is all As and Bs, you are set. One or more Cs could prevent moving to NMF, but this is state dependent.

    There is an essay too, but just write something on the topic, and don't use obscenities, and you are fine.

    Congrats to your daughter. Whether she takes advantage of an NMF related scholarship, or some other merit, she'll do well. (I did not mean to imply in my prior post that my middle kid may have settled for a questionable school - school is in western PA, Dan Marino is an alum).

    #247830 - 12/15/20 08:18 AM Re: National Merit advice [Re: ultramarina]
    ultramarina Offline

    Registered: 08/24/10
    Posts: 3428
    Hi! I did find that list you posted, mithawk. Guess we need to confirm since it does seem a bit outdated. I think we will be looking closely at Florida.

    She took the ACT around the same time and though it's difficult to find a definitive answer, it looks like she earned a confirming score on that (they just started taking those scores as confirming) with a 33. She didn't prep for the ACT and is a little disappointed in her math score. I don't know anything about the ACT and am unsure whether she should study and retake. I would guess she could improve it.

    She doesn't have any Cs (though her UW GPA is not spectacular, probably 3.75) and will write a fine essay. If there is a concern, it would be that she has no relationship with the guidance counselor and very few extracurriculars. No awards or other fancy stuff. ETA: the school routinely has 5-10 NMSF so they know the drill.

    A college with sharp eyes might look at her record and either see a student with high potential who hasn't been sparked by school, or one who kinda isn't living up to potential. Another school with less time to review would probably just see, NMF, rubber stamp, $$$. I think we need the latter.

    It's my opinion that she just needs a little more time.

    Edited by ultramarina (12/15/20 08:20 AM)

    #247995 - 02/08/21 01:37 PM Re: National Merit advice [Re: ultramarina]
    Quantum2003 Offline

    Registered: 02/08/11
    Posts: 1432
    It has been years since I last posted but I seem to recall that your DD was a bit like mine - into art and writing. Even if she doesn't have too many creds yet, she still has almost a year to add to her resume/cv. That can open up more merit money opportunities, especially if she can present as both woman in STEM and humanities. From her early action applications, DD17 has full-ride merit at a top 10 public university as well as either full-ride or about tuition equivalent (awaiting decision) at our state flagship. However, she will likely select her SCEA (single choice early action) school (one of the HYPSM) instead because they offered her a financial aid package that was far more generous than FAFSA indicated so still affordable even if not free.

    As for NMSF schools, the ones that select through National Merit Corp require that you indicate that school as your first choice, which would eliminate the chance for the general $2,500 scholarship. Others like the highly ranked Georgia Tech, also require that you apply early (like November 1st?) to be in the running for their most prestigious merit scholarships. By the time that DS17 noticed that, it would have been too rushed so he did not apply even though that would have been a good safety/match for him. Some schools, like UT-Dallas actually has rolling admission and was still sending letters offering automatic full-ride in January - DS17 was tempted until our state flagship scholarship letter arrived. Your DD will be innundated by offers from a number of colleges in Texas, Arizona, Florida and Oklahoma. Off tbe top of my head, ASU and OSU seem to offer full rides but they weren't listed officially so on the National Merit website.

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