It’s 2019 and The National Merit Scholarship Program recently announced its cutoff scores per state, which are used to determine both Semifinalists and Commended Students.
We have the 2019 National Merit Scholarship cutoff scores listed below, as well as some basic information about the scholarship program itself.
Success on the PSAT is also a great indicator of success on the SAT. If you don’t think you performed well on the PSAT, we highly recommend signing up for one of our SAT prep courses
2019 National Merit Scholarship Cutoff Scores
|State||Class of 2019 Score|
|U.S. Citizen Students Studying Abroad||223|
|Commended Student (National Score)||212|
This year’s scores showcase a number of simple trends for both educators and parents to be mindful of:
- This year’s highest cutoff score ended up being 223, with California, Maryland, and Massachusetts hitting it after New Jersey and Washington DC (which hit it in previous years).
- For most states, 45 in total, their scores stayed within their 1 point or so of their 2018 scores.
- 3 states saw 2 point increases, 2 other states saw 2 point reductions
- Rhode Island saw a 4 point increase from its 2018 score, making it the biggest outlier in this year’s class.
For comparison, click here to check out our post on 2018 scores.
Commended Students, Semifinalists & Finalists
Let’s break down the differences between Commended Students, Semifinalists, & Finalists.
Commended students are recognized on their academic performance, but do not advance in the formal competition for National Merit Scholarships — that is, scholarships officially given out by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC). However, a commended student status is still helpful in college applications, since it shows your academic commitment and focus.
Semifinalists (approximately 15,000 students) are the highest-scoring test-takers in each state. Every state has its own specific cutoff score that can fluctuate every year. These competitors then qualify to become Finalists by completing their NMSC by showing that they meet all of the organization’s academic standards.
The information requirements are provided by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation as soon as the Semifinalist announcements are made. Here are the basic requirements for 2019:
- Continue to meet all program entry requirements (published in the 2017 PSAT/NMSQT® Student Guide).
- Be enrolled in the last year of high school and be planning to enroll full time in college in the fall of 2019 or be enrolled in the first year of college, if you completed grades 9 through 12 in three years or less.
- Be a citizen of the United States; or be a U.S. lawful permanent 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.
- Be fully endorsed for Finalist standing and recommended for a National Merit Scholarship by your high school principal (or school official designated by the principal).
- Have a record of consistently very high academic performance in all of grades 9 through 12 and in any college coursework taken. Your school must provide a complete record of high school courses you have taken, grades earned, and coursework you will take in grade 12. The school should also notify National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) of any noticeable decline in your academic performance during the current year.
- Submit the completed application to your designated high school official as soon as possible using NMSC’s Online Scholarship Application (OSA). The school official will complete the school’s sections of the application for final transmittal to NMSC by October 10, 2018.
- Take the SAT® and earn scores that confirm your 2017 PSAT/NMSQT performance. You must take (or have taken) an administration of the SAT between October 2016 and December 2018. It is your responsibility to file a request with the College Board SAT Program to have an official report of your SAT scores sent to NMSC (code 0085).
- Provide any additional documentation and information that NMSC requests.
For 2019’s essay, here is the NMSC-provided prompt for reference to see what kind of information the organization looks for in general: “To help the reviewers get to know you, describe an experience you have had, a person who has influenced you, or an obstacle you have overcome. Explain why this is meaningful to you. Use your own words and limit your response to the space provided.”
Typically, about 95% of National Merit Semifinalists go on to become Finalists; so making that Semifinalist list is really the biggest achievement that usually predicts Finalist success. While Commended and Semifinalist Students may still receive “Special Scholarships” from other external organizations, only qualified Finalists receive official NMSC scholarships.
Of the roughly 15,000 Finalists, around 8,000 will receive Merit Scholarships and various awards.
These Finalists are chosen statewide based on a combination of skills, the potential for success, and above all, academic achievement. The NMSC is very poignant about this as well, stating that: “All winners of Merit Scholarship awards (Merit Scholar designees) are chosen from the Finalist group based on their abilities, skills, and accomplishments—without regard to gender, race, ethnic origin, or religious preference.”
The scholarship opportunities that the winning group of students receives is substantial. The total number of scholarships is just shy of $35,000,000, which is around $4,500 per student selected and comprise less than 1% of the total group of students who took the PSAT.
Additional Program Information
If you’ve yet to take the PSAT and want to qualify for a National Merit Scholarship, remember that in order to do so, you must:
- Take the official PSAT no later than in your junior year of high school.
- Be fully enrolled in high school with no issues and a normal path towards graduation (keep in mind this can involve being homeschooled).
- Be a citizen of the United States or have an application for residency in America with the intention of attaining permanent citizenship.
- There are also ways for students who are not citizens of the US to start the application process. For these students, please visit the NMSC’s website and browse the qualifications for the Scholarship Program.
Remember though that the National Merit Scholarship leans heavily on your SAT score to make sure your PSAT score was not a fluke; therefore it is important to prepare for the SAT as thoroughly as possible.
At Prep Expert, our team of 99th percentile-scoring instructors, coupled with the very strategies company founder Shaan Patel used to achieve his perfect score, are available to you year-round.
Whether you prefer an in-person, live online, or in-demand course, depending on your schedule, we have options available across the board designed to fit everyone’s needs. If you have any specific questions, then be sure to email us directly or call us at 1-877-345-7737.
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National Merit Scholarship Cutoff Scores FAQ
How much scholarship money do Finalists receive?
The total number of scholarships is just shy of $35,000,000, which is around $4,500 per student selected and comprise less than 1% of the total group of students who took the PSAT.
How are Finalists chosen?
All winners of Merit Scholarship awards (Merit Scholar designees) are chosen from the Finalist group based on their abilities, skills, and accomplishments—without regard to gender, race, ethnic origin, or religious preference.
When do I take the PSAT to qualify?
Take the official PSAT no later than in your junior year of high school.
What are Semifinalist Students?
Semifinalists (approximately 15,000 students) are the highest-scoring test-takers in each state. Every state has its own specific cutoff score that can fluctuate every year.