National Merit Finalist

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: National Merit Finalist
By John123 (John123) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 09:42 pm: Edit

I recently found this information:

School Percentage who were
1998 Merit Scholars*

Harvard 22.4
Caltech 17.7
Stanford 12.5
Rice 12.1
Yale 11.2
Princeton 10.6
MIT 9.8
Swarthmore 8.7
Harvey Mudd 6.9
Dartmouth 5.1
Brown 4.8
Amherst 4.5
Duke 4.3
Williams 3.9
Northwestern 3.7
Columbia 3.6
Pomona 3.0
Case Western Reserve 3.0
Haverford 2.8
Penn 2.3
Davidson 2.2
Vanderbilt 2.1
Carnegie Mellon 2.1
Carleton 1.9
Chicago 1.9
Johns Hopkins 1.8
Kenyon 1.8
Notre Dame 1.8
Rhodes 1.7
UC-Berkeley 1.6
Hendrix 1.6
Wm & Mary 1.5
Washington U 1.5
Claremont McKenna 1.5
Wheaton (IL) 1.4
Bowdoin 1.4
Grinnell 1.3
Virginia 1.3
Bryn Mawr 1.2
Cornell U 1.2

*This analysis excludes college-sponsored merit scholars.

Are these national merit scholars? My son will probably have his scholarship sponsored by his college -- does this mean he would not be as one of these on this list I found?

Also, where can I find a list of colleges with their number of national merit scholars enrolled?

And lastly, from looking at the list, it seems that the more national merit scholars, the better the school. Does this mean my son will have a good chance at a great school, if he has decent grades/extracurriculars/test scores?

Thanks :>

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 09:57 pm: Edit

>>Are these national merit scholars? My son will probably have his scholarship sponsored by his college -- does this mean he would not be as one of these on this list I found? >>

Yes, and yes.

>>it seems that the more national merit scholars, the better the school.>>

Highly debatable. Few would claim that Wheaton is better than Cornell. Despite the fact that Princeton has half the proportion of NMS of Harvard, there are many who would claim it is at least as good as, and possibly better than Harvard.
In fact, these figures are highly skewed by the fact that many of the NMS apply to multiple colleges of similar quality. For one reason or another, some colleges have a higher yield, and Harvard traditionally has had the highest yield. But the fact that an NMS, having been admitted to both Harvard and Cornell, chooses Harvard, does not make Harvard ipso facto better than Cornell. It could be that the student decided that Boston-Cambridge was a better location than Ithaca. The same kind of calculus does not seem to apply to some of the colleges on the list. In other words, not many students make a choice between Harvard and Wheaton. So Wheaton has a better chance of hanging on to those NMS who did apply and were admitted.

>> Does this mean my son will have a good chance at a great school, if he has decent grades/extracurriculars/test scores?>>

Yes, but it's just a chance. As well, he will need more than just decent grades and test scores. They will have to be stellar.

By Simba (Simba) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 10:03 pm: Edit

In terms of absolute numbers, the order was: Harvard, Stanford, UT-Austin, Berkeley....

By Mini (Mini) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 10:17 pm: Edit

MIGHT mean something about the quality of the entering students (or the relative wealth of their families, or their relative drawing power, based upon the relative wealth of some of the families), but it doesn't ncessarily tell you anything in particular about how good the school is. All it tells you is what it says it tells you -- that lots of entering students had NMS scholarships.

It's a good sign if your son has one.

By Dolce (Dolce) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 10:32 pm: Edit

Is there a difference between "National Merit Scholar" and "National Merit Finalist"? My son was a finalist, and got a $2000 NM scholarship---so would he be considered a NM Scholar? (not that it matters, just curious after reading this thread).

By Strick (Strick) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 11:33 pm: Edit

2003 Numbers:

1 Harvard University-378
2 University of Texas-258
3 Yale University-228
4 University of Florida-224
5 Stanford University-217
6 University of Chicago-182
7 Arizona State University-176
8 Rice University-173
9 University of Oklahoma-170
10 Princeton University-165

By 2dsdad (2dsdad) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 12:46 am: Edit

Strick - what is the source for your numbers, and are they NMFs or NMSs or a combination?

By Sac (Sac) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 12:51 am: Edit

If this is a measure of National Merit Scholars (that is, finalists getting scholarships from National Merit) it can also be a measure of how much a college values test scores. Harvard sends an application in the Spring of junior year to a list that is based on PSAT scores and always reports on what percentage of their ultimate admits came from these Spring recurits. Other Ivies do not all put the same weight on these scores.

If the list also includes the National Merit finalists who get their scholarships from the individual colleges (this would be non-Ivies but would include University of Chicago and some of the publics), it would make sense that large numbers would go to those colleges that reward National Merit Finalists. Chicago, for example, often gives these students large amounts of merit aid in order to attract them from the Ivies. Arizona State, which is trying to build up an honors college, and University of Oklahoma, give some of these students a free ride. The object is to get on lists like this.

Does this mean that you can measure how "good" a university or college is by how many National Merit Scholars it attracts... no, not really.

By Webhappy2 (Webhappy2) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 01:12 am: Edit

Repost of this table made 6/26/2004

National Merit Scholars-Per capita enrollments

H 368 391 340 370 394 382 360 396 378
1635 0.225 0.239 0.208 0.226 0.241 0.234 0.220 0.242 0.231
Y 169 165 124 146 170 191 167 180 228
1325 0.128 0.125 0.094 0.110 0.128 0.144 0.126 0.136 0.172
P 124 95 120 124 111 106 156 149 165
1150 0.108 0.083 0.104 0.108 0.097 0.092 0.136 0.130 0.143
S 158 184 176 201 229 209 265 223 217
1640 0.096 0.112 0.107 0.123 0.140 0.127 0.162 0.136 0.132
M 129 103 113 103 133 148 165 139 151
1000 0.129 0.103 0.113 0.103 0.133 0.148 0.165 0.139 0.151
C 34 39 37 38 52 68 53 56 50
230 0.148 0.170 0.161 0.165 0.226 0.296 0.230 0.243 0.217
Duke 83 74 71 71 76 90 90 98 103
1625 0.051 0.046 0.044 0.044 0.047 0.055 0.055 0.060 0.063
Penn 30 38 41 56 68 70 80 87 101
2400 0.013 0.016 0.017 0.023 0.028 0.029 0.033 0.036 0.042
Brown 52 55 59 70 52 66 72 65 47
1427 0.036 0.039 0.041 0.049 0.036 0.046 0.050 0.046 0.033
Dartmouth 51 52 57 56 54 63 40 50 45
1050 0.049 0.050 0.054 0.053 0.051 0.060 0.038 0.048 0.043

The number underneath the letter/name represents the number of each entering class that was used to divide the # of NM Scholars. This list does not include institution-provided scholarships.

I made this list on a competing forum w/ the help of a Harvard troll there (he's NYCFan).

Oh yeah, these are 1995-2003 data.

By Webhappy2 (Webhappy2) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 01:14 am: Edit

WTF? I copy-pasted and this time the table gets formatted poorly... oh well, it's barely readable this time :(

By Strick (Strick) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 11:42 am: Edit

"Strick - what is the source for your numbers"

I found it on the University of Florida website after a quick google. Seemed authoritative enough. I would have posted the link but CC seems to prefer we don't.

The article just says "National Merit scholars". I've seen similar lists in the past and have always assumed in only include finalists (that is, semi-finalists who made the school their first choice).

By John123 (John123) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 02:21 pm: Edit

Found a more extensive list:

By Kdos (Kdos) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 04:38 pm: Edit


<Chicago, for example, often gives these students large amounts of merit aid in order to attract them from the Ivies. >

Is this true? I have never heard that...I hope you are right as my son will be at least a NMS..hopefully a NMF and his top school is Chicago.

By Texas137 (Texas137) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 05:26 pm: Edit

Chicago gives out a very small number of very generous merit scholarships. But it isn't based on NMS/NMF. You would have to be in the top dozen or so of their applicant pool to have a chance. And they have many, many times more NMS/NMFs in their applicant pool than they have big merit scholarships to give out.

By Piglette (Piglette) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 11:31 pm: Edit

This OPs list is strangely skewed by the distinction between "National Merit Scholars" and "National Merit Finalists." The issue of scholarship money and its source ("Scholar" versus "Finalist" status) is confounding the issue of high-scoring SAT-taking.

For example, last I knew, Carleton College kind of "specialized" in National Merit Finalists, and (again, last I knew) enrolled more of them than did any other liberal-arts college. The enrolled NMF students get some small amount of money from Carleton (similar to policies at many other top universities and LACs), but these enrollees may be FINALISTS and not "SCHOLARS." Yet, there are lots and lots of them at Carleton, and they are all at the top of the SAT/academic pyramid, at least by National Merit measure. (The percentage of enrolled National Merit Finalists at Carleton College vastly exceeds the 1.9% that is implied above. The actual percentage of enrolled FINALISTS -- including Scholars -- may be more like 15-25% of all Carleton students.)

I have always looked at "Finalist" status as the "gold standard" for SAT scoring. Getting independent money ("Scholar" status) is a happy bit of luck if it happens.

Does this make any sense? It is very late, here...

-- Piglette

By John123 (John123) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 01:52 am: Edit

Unless you will graduate from high school a year early, only your junior year PSAT scores will be used. You must also be a US citizen or a permanent resident in the process of becoming a US citizen. Although taking the PSAT at one of the October administrations is the easiest way to qualify for the National Merit Program, the NMSC does provide alternatives to students who miss these dates. Contact the NMSC at 1-847-866-5100 for more information.

Selection Index
The initial stages of the Merit Program are judged entirely based on a student's selection index. The selection index is simply the sum of your 3 PSAT scores: Math, Verbal, and Writing. For example, a student with a 65M, 68V, and 63W would have a selection index of 65 + 68 + 63 = 196.

Commended Students and Semifinalists
In April 2002 50,000 students with the highest selection indices will be notified and made eligible for NMSC referral service. In September 2002 about 34,000 of these students will be named Commended Students and the remaining 16,000 will be named Semifinalists. Only Semifinalists are eligible to advance further in the competition for Merit Scholarships.

Semifinalists are determined on a state-by-state basis, and the selection index cut-off varies by state and by year. Each state's allotment of semifinalists is determined based on its percentage of the national total of high school graduating seniors. For California students, the 1998 Commended Students had selection indices from 199-214. Semifinalists had selection indices of 215 and above.

Semifinalist who meet eligibility standards (students must submit an application, high school record, and SAT I scores among other requirements) will be among the 14,000 National Merit Finalists named in February 2003.

National Merit Scholars
In March and April 2003 the NMSC awards 7,600 scholarships to students based upon their abilities, skills, and accomplishments. The three types of scholarships awarded are National Merit $2,000 Scholarships (2,400), corporate-sponsored scholarships (1,200), and college-sponsored scholarships (4,000).

Special Scholarships
Some corporations offer a number of scholarships to eligible students (for example, the children of employees) that are not filled entirely by Finalists. These 1,500 scholarships are called Special Scholarships and are chosen from applicants from among the qualified pool that the company has designated.

So, only about 1/2 the finalists receive scholarships from corporations/colleges/the national merit foundation.

And these are named "scholars."

Question: If you go to a college that will give you the money, you automatically become a "scholar," but if you go to a college that doesn't give the money, you aren't? How can NMSQT give 7,400 scholarships, when they actually only give a couple thousand and the others depend on the colleges?

By Bookworm (Bookworm) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 08:19 am: Edit

Helpful info. Still, I'm puzzled why skipping senior year should effect eligibility. If the HS and the student both fill out forms, couldn't one hope to win the $2000 to apply to 2, 3, and 4 years at their college?

By Marite (Marite) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 08:39 am: Edit


My S is skipping senior year. He took PSAT last fall and checked graduating year as 2005 as well as stating his grade as 10th. He qualified for NMS semi-finalist. Unless a student does as my S did, s/he will be considered as just taking practice PSAT and the score will not be counted.

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 09:12 am: Edit

Bookworm, when I was growing up the National Merit was given for all four years of college. Today, although some of the corporate- and university-awarded ones are renewable, the regular one given by NMSC is a one-shot $2500, given to 2500 students nationally for the first year only.

This information is from the NMSC website and I can anecdotally corroborate it because it is the amount both of my kids received.

By 2dsdad (2dsdad) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 01:46 pm: Edit

I'm still confused. My D is receiving $1,000 a year (renewable subject to meeting certain conditions) and was notified by the college with a letter that said, "Please accept my congratulations on being selected as a ____ College Merit Scholarship recipient through the National Merit Scholarship Program." The letter was signed by the Director of Financial Aid and enclosed was a certificate signed by a representative of the college and of the NMSC.

Does that make her a NMF and not a NMS? Or is it the other way around? Aside from the dollar amounts awarded, what difference does it make? And when colleges report the number of National Merit Scholars enrolled are they not counting NMFs?

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 01:52 pm: Edit

Your d is a college-sponsored NMS. When colleges report the number enrolled, I am not sure what they are counting, but lists like that in the original post state "*This analysis excludes college-sponsored merit scholars." The NMS sponsored by the NM corporation itself can be used at any college or university.

As they say, it's all good...congrats to your d.

By 2dsdad (2dsdad) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 02:43 pm: Edit

Oh, agreed, it's all good. No complaints, just confused about the categories and the numbers. I can see that schools that don't give any merit money themselves will prefer a list that eliminates college sponsored NMS. Looks like another system of college rankings that has to be taken with a bag of salt.(g)

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 04:01 pm: Edit

I'm not sure that's the logic, 2dsdad. For the most part, the schools that don't sponsor NM Scholars don't give merit aid at all, though they are generous with financial aid. They already tend to attract a lot of the NMSC-funded NM Scholars. Students who are hoping to attend these schools will list them as their first choice on the NM form, even though they know they will not receive direct NM aid from them.

By Bookworm (Bookworm) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 04:08 pm: Edit

Same situation. My S checked 2005 as graduation year, but is skipping senior year (will our boys end up together? What fun to meet you!). He assumes he will be notified in fall, and HS will forward information. My S took as junior, not 10th grader.

By 2dsdad (2dsdad) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 10:18 pm: Edit

Well, I guess if you want to know where the NMSC-sponsored students went, then the above list shows you. Schools that give merit scholarships might attract both NMSC-sponsored and college-sponsored finalists. Deleting the latter makes the super selective schools that do not give merit aid look even better than the rest of the pack.

2.9% of my D's college's students are National Merit one-or-the-others. The list indicates that only 1.8% of enrolled students are NMSC-sponsored. Are NMSC-sponsored students superior to college-sponsored? Since the methodology by which scholarships are awarded by the NMSC is not obvious, I would have to say I don't know. College-sponsored students don't count literally or figuretively. Or so it seems.

Where's the salt shaker?

By Marite (Marite) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 10:24 pm: Edit


Where is your S headed?

By Bookworm (Bookworm) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 10:35 pm: Edit

I'm afraid to say, since he'd be upset I've already disclosed so much. Is there a private way to e-mail you?

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 10:57 pm: Edit

Marite and Bookworm, I believe your kids can take the PSAT again this year as this is technically their junior year. I have discussed this with Susan whose daughter is in the same boat. Take a look at the National Merit Scholarship site and maybe give them a call. I worked with a girl who actually missed her PSATs entirely, and they permitted her to use her SAT1 scores and SAT2 writing score to qualify.

By Bookworm (Bookworm) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 11:21 pm: Edit

My S did take it last year, and did great. My S only skipping senior y, but I think Marite's S is skipping 2 years.
This is first time someone is leaving S's HS early, so GS thinks results will come in fall, then he'll apply like any other senior would. Never occurred to me to give NM a phone call, so thanks for suggestion.

By Marite (Marite) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 11:32 pm: Edit

Bookworm and Jamimom:

My S is only skipping one year. He'll graduate at the end of junior year, which is June 2005. He also did well on the PSAT, so no need to retake. The big point was for my S to make sure to note that he was graduating in 2005 and not in 2006, although he did put down his grade as 10th.

Soozie's D missed the PSAT because of going to see her grandfather. But I believe her SAT scores are high enough to qualify.

By Bookworm (Bookworm) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 11:41 pm: Edit

You may not trust yourself to drive, but you certainly can plan. My S decided in middle of his junior year. Your S has time to visit schools, obsess over essays, and meet deadlines before New Year's.

By Sac (Sac) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 02:04 pm: Edit

I was wrong to say Chicago "often" gives National Merit Scholars large merit aid. However, unlike the Ivies, Chicago does give merit scholarships. If a student lists Chicago as first choice on National Merit, the university sends an e-mail that says such students often qualify for further merit awards from UC. I didn't know the information Texas 137 supplied, that they also need to be in the top dozen or so of their applicant pool to get UC's big awards.

Chicago's a great school. Good luck to your son!

By Marite (Marite) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 02:12 pm: Edit


That's the problem: I'm planning while I drive, instead of planning how and where to drive

By Idler (Idler) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 03:17 pm: Edit

I'm not following this thread too well, but I believe there is a distinction made between "external" and "internal" N M scholars, external referring either to the finalists named N M winners by the NMSC, or those awarded corporate sponsored scholarships on the one hand, and on the other the "internal" scholars, who are awarded scholarships by certain schools if they attend. When you become a finalist you receive many such offers. They are held in lower esteem, but the awaards are significantly higher.

By 2dsdad (2dsdad) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 06:06 pm: Edit

"They are held in lower esteem, but the awaards are significantly higher."

From the NMSC web site (
Merit Scholarship awards are of three types:

National Merit® $2500 Scholarships
Every Finalist competes for these single payment scholarships, which are awarded on a state representational basis.

Corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards
Corporate sponsors designate their awards for children of their employees or members, for residents of a community where a company has operations, or for Finalists with career plans the sponsor wishes to encourage. These scholarships may either be renewable for four years of undergraduate study or one-time awards.

College-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards
Officials of each sponsor college select winners of their awards from Finalists who have been accepted for admission and have informed NMSC by the published deadlines that the sponsor college or university is their first choice. These awards are renewable for up to four years of undergraduate study.

From the description alone I cannot tell why one class of award would be held in higher esteem than another.

By Optimizerdad (Optimizerdad) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 08:11 pm: Edit

I agree with 2dsDad. Both my daughters are National Merit Scholars - one with the $2500 NMS, the other with a corporate-sponsored, 4x $2000 scholarship. I've talked at length with the people at NMSC, and one of their big peeves is this 'guidance-counselor myth' (their exact words) that one type of scholarship is more prestigious than the other.

Incidentally, there are several colleges that will duplicate the $2500 NMSC scholarship with equal amounts in years 2,3 and 4. If your child gets one of these, *call* his/her college of choice and ask about this. All it takes is one phone call...

By Idler (Idler) on Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 10:30 am: Edit

Agree with all the above, but the third category, college awarded scholarships, are not selected from among finalists, but pretty much available to any finalist who agrees to attend the college. They are a tool for colleges to attract top students, and allow them to claim a significant number of NM Scholars. Arizona State, FL State, and many others pay $80k and more over 4 years to attract these students, thus they are much richer awards than type 1 or 2, above. The lower esteem part is because they are internally awarded to all finalists, as a recruiting tool. HYPSMC and other top schools don't offer them. Thus there is some confusion in the lists above. Most ranking lists use only type 1 and 2 to define the category of NM scholars attending a given school, rather than the "internal" ones, which fall into another category.

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 10:51 am: Edit

Yes, as Idler says, once a student is named a finalist, she or he is bombarded with letters bearing invitations to name particular schools as their first choice in exchange for a generous scholarship or even a full ride.

By Idler (Idler) on Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 10:58 am: Edit

Optimizerdad: also agree there is a "guidance counselor myth" re the corporate sponsored scholarships, so they don't get the same recognition as the $2500 one: there are actually fewer corporate ones awarded.

By 2dsdad (2dsdad) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 02:29 am: Edit

"HYPSMC and other top schools don't offer them."

Now I understand. HYPSMC doesn't offer them so they can't be as good.

By Geniusash (Geniusash) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 02:53 am: Edit

You know what, college-sponsered ones really aren't as prestigious. But hey colleges will offer tons of money, I certaintly won't pout over my 90,000+ and free education! Corporate-sponsered scholarships apply to a smaller pool of applicants.

By Idler (Idler) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 10:03 am: Edit

2dsdad: well, it's not only HYPMSC, but just about every college and university in the top tiers of everybody's list. That's not to say it isn't a wonderful achievement to win one.

By Marite (Marite) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 10:17 am: Edit

Do the NMSC scholarships go to the very top group among the finalists only? I am a bit confused about the relationship between the awarded by NMSC and the college-sponsored ones. For example, if my S were to put on his NMS questionaire that he is only interested in colleges that do not award scholarships to finalists, how would that affect the probability of his getting one from NMSC? Or would it not? And if it does, what does it say about the quality of the students who receive one from either the NMSC or from colleges?
A bit confused here.

By Idler (Idler) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 10:41 am: Edit

The NMSC scholarships do go to the very top group, as defined by selection index (total score)and the application all semifinalists who choose to submit: a little essay, a school rec, grades,SAT scores. The corporate sponsored ones come from the same group,according to NMSC, but there is some sort of connection to the sponsoring corp. My son was awarded one based on the fact that his mother worked for the sponsor in 1981-83!

The college-sponsored awards go to finalists who list the sponsoring institution as their first choice, either when taking the test or after being named a finalist, i.e., if they say they want to attend the sponsoring school. All finalists recieve a good number of solicitations, starting from the time they are named semi-finalist (Sept), since something like 90% of semis become finalists.Some estimable scools are included in this group, many with separate "honors colleges."

By Over30 (Over30) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 11:22 am: Edit

I have a question about this too. Last year a boy at our school had a 238 PSAT, 1580 SAT, 800,800,780 SAT II's, #4 in a very strong class at a very good public, 5, 5, 4 on AP's at end of junior year, student council officer 3 years, numerous awards in science, math, writing, on tennis team through high school, volunteer tutor, well-liked by faculty and students, and on and on. (His mother was discussing this with a few of us when we were discussing NM stuff.) I didn't read his essay or recommendations, but he's a great writer and I actually feel confident saying that he had great recs. So if the actual designation of NM Scholar, with their $2,500 scholarship, goes only to the top students, why didn't this kid get that designation? He just finished his freshman year at a school that doesn't give NM scholarships, so he ended up with nothing.

I understand that there may be something I don't know, but assuming all of the above is correct, does anyone have any ideas about why this boy didn't get the "Scholar" designation? Am I missing something here?

By Marite (Marite) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 11:50 am: Edit


Thank you for the information, but I still have a question similar to Over30's. Not that it matters personally.

But suppose, for the sake of argument, that my had stellar stats, GPA, recs,essay, enough, in other words to put him among the top of the 15,000+ who make it to finalist status. Suppose as well that he did not designate as his first choice a college that award NM scholarships, nor had a connection with a sponsoring institution. Would that play a role in whether to award him one of the 2,500 or so NMSC scholarships or is the decision entirely based on academic criteria (stats, essay, recs, GPA)? That is what I remain unclear about and why I wonder about the perception that one kind of scholarship is more prestigious than another.

By Idler (Idler) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 11:54 am: Edit

He certainly sounds deserving, I guess it's like wondering why somebody didn't get in to Harvard.My numbers may be a bit off, but they give something like 2500 awards for 1.3 myn test takers: thats .0019 of them.

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 11:58 am: Edit

Both of my kids were NM Scholars. Neither one designated as a first choice a school that awards NM scholarships. Neither one had a connection with a sponsoring corporation. So...out of, say, 14,000+ finalists, 6200 got awards from colleges or corporations, but those with no college or corporate affiliation like my kids competed for the 2500 awards given by the NMSC. I believe that this is the reason the latter are seen as more prestigious. However, prestige is not money in the bank. ;-) Or at least, it is not as much money in the bank.

By Idler (Idler) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 12:01 pm: Edit

Marite: it would not, there is no connection. As far as the prestige factor (I actually used the word "esteemed") I regret mentioning it, anyway it's in the eye of the beholder.

By Marite (Marite) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 12:10 pm: Edit


Thanks. It is not an entirely hypothetical case, though we don't lose any sleep over it. S did not open the envelope asking him to designate colleges until the deadline had passed, and none of them seems to award scholarships anyway.

Perhaps you recall the slogan at Harvard: "You can't eat prestige"? I would not mind a full ride as opposed to a $2,500 scholarship.

By Over30 (Over30) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 03:34 pm: Edit

On the NM site, it says the following:

"All winners of Merit Scholarship® awards (Merit Scholar® designees) will be chosen from the Finalist group, based on their abilities, skills, and accomplishments.

Merit Scholar® Designees

Beginning in March, NMSC will notify approximately 8,000 Finalists that they have been selected to receive a Merit Scholarship® award. Merit Scholarship awards are of three types (I omitted the paragraph explaining each of the 3 types of awards):

* National Merit® $2500 Scholarships

* Corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards

* College-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards

Merit Scholarship awards are supported by some 500 independent sponsors and by NMSC's own funds. Sponsor organizations include corporations and businesses, company foundations, professional associations, and colleges and universities."

I was confused as to whether a student, who was a finalist and was offered a NM scholarship from a participating college, would be considered a "NM Scholar" since they had been selected as one of the 8,000 to receive an award.

I just had a rather lengthy and somewhat convulated conversation with someone at National Merit. Here's what I was told.

My son, who was a finalist and was offered a NM scholarship from the school he listed as his first choice school, is not a NM Scholar. Had he chosen to go to that school he would be, but because he's going to a school that isn't part of the NM program, he is only a finalist.

Apparently, if he had decided to accept an almost full-ride of $65,000 from the Univ. of Oklahoma, which offers that package to every NM finalist, he would be a NM Scholar. Because he chose to attend a school that doesn't participate, even though he was offered a NM Scholarship at a gop 20 school but chose not to accept it, he is not a NM Scholar.

The woman I spoke to said that the NM $2,500, corporate and college sponsored awardees are all the same, all NM Scholars.

Finally I think I understand.

By Marite (Marite) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 03:45 pm: Edit


Thanks for getting the information.

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 03:54 pm: Edit

Students who have been named finalists need to be aware that they should choose their first-choice school carefully. If they name a school that does sponsor NM Scholars and they are awarded one of these, they can only use it there. They will not be able to be Scholars in either of the other two categories, where the monies can be sent to any school.

To make things more complicated, my kids have a connection with a corporation that used to sponsor NM Scholars. Fortunately, this company now awards its own scholarships separately and has nothing to do with NMS, but had it not made this change, it would have been necessary to make a decision as to whether to apply for the corporate-sponsored award or the NM general one; they would not have been able to receive both.

Nothing is simple!

By Over30 (Over30) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 04:17 pm: Edit

Aparent4, am I to understand that if my son had not named a participating school for NM that he would have been considered for one of the $2,500 NM scholarships? I thought those students were chosen in March or early April, before the April 21 deadline to designate a school. My son faxed his choice on the deadline.

One person (out of 22 finalists at our school) actually got the $2,500 NM Scholar designation from NM, and she is going to a school that is giving her a NM scholarship of their own. Now I'm confused again.

By Pookdogg (Pookdogg) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 04:59 pm: Edit

I was a NM Scholar this past year, and I never quite understood exactly how it worked. I do remember putting NYU as my first choice school because, well, it was the top school on my list that offered National Merit Scholarships.

Even though my top college gave out National Merit Scholarships of their own, I somehow ended up with the $2,500 NM Scholarship from the NM folks. It's just as well, I suppose, because I ended up matriculating to Cal, but I never fully understood why I didn't get the NYU National Merit Scholarship.

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 05:16 pm: Edit

Curiouser and curiouser...


Over30, your second paragraph comes as a big surprise to me, because the NM website certainly does not suggest that they are double-counting students when they list those in the three categories. Could the student you mention be a NM Scholar who is receiving merit money from the school she will be attending?

I do know my kids were both asked to designate their first choice in the fall, not the spring. I am very sure of this because my d, who was struggling to decide where to apply until several weeks before the ED deadline, has a funny memento -- a letter from NM telling her they were sending her scholarship funds to a school she initially named as her first choice but never ended up applying to; she is attending her actual ED school. Both kids received a flurry of letters from colleges urging them to name them as their first choice so that they could be named NM Scholars there. The letters certainly conveyed the impression that if a student committed to Arizona State's Barrett Honors College, for example, their NM Scholarship would be sponsored by Arizona State. There was a final date by which they needed to finalize that first choice after being named $2500 NM Scholars -- pretty late, maybe April-May.

I think the moral of this story is that any student named a Finalist this year should call NM and really get the answer to this question before designating a sponsoring university as a first choice.

Sorry not to be more useful. I hope this is one of those situations where not-knowing can lead to enlightenment. ;-)

By Optimizerdad (Optimizerdad) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 05:43 pm: Edit

Carleton College has excellent documentation wrt the NM scholarships (not just at Carleton, but in general).

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 09:39 am: Edit

Optimizerdad, that is very helpful. Still doesn't quite answer the question but does say "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."

I wonder if NMS realizes how vague their publicity info is. After all, we are all pretty smart people and are having a surprisingly hard time understanding.

By Idler (Idler) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 09:58 am: Edit

Interesting...My son had listed Harvard as his first choice, won a NM scholarship but was rejected by Harvard, so filled out a change form they supply, and changed it to Stanford, no problem. However, I gather that if he had listed Oklahoma or another sponsoring school as his first choice, his award would have been to that school only? If that's true, given that all these participating schools contact you with offers after the test, there's clearly no advantage in naming a school as first choice before the test.

By 2dsdad (2dsdad) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 11:25 am: Edit

"Tip #3: When indicating a college choice to National Merit, make sure it is a school you will likely attend."

At the time the student learns that he/she is a NM semi-finalist it seems very important that you designate a first choice school. My daughter's feelings about which school she wanted to attend evolved during the admissions process and after April 1 she decided to go to a school other than the one she had designated months before as her first choice. I called the NMSC and they said to fax a letter over her signature changing the designation and like that it was done. But there was a deadline that had to be met. You can't deliberate for too long. But then you have to respond to the schools by May 1 anyway.

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 11:39 am: Edit

2dsdad, naming the first-choice school is only important if you are naming one that gives its own NM Scholarships. If you want to get a scholarship from a school that gives them, you need to say you'll go there. But my d, who was not in that position, named a first-choice school to which she ultimately didn't end up applying and had no problem switching the scholarship so it would be sent to the ED school she is actually attending. Neither school gives NM Scholarships.

By Geniusash (Geniusash) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 12:28 pm: Edit

I just waited to name my first choice until I decided where I wanted to go!

By Evil_Robot (Evil_Robot) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 12:51 pm: Edit

Here's how it works (I'm a $2500 National Merit scholar who's also receiving money from my school):
1) You become a finalist.
2) The corporations get a chance to sponsor you. If you get one of these, you're done with the game. My footnote below may apply, I don't know.
3) The $2500 National Merit scholarships are given out. If you get one of these, you're done with the game, but please see the footnote below.
4) The college-sponsored scholarships are given out. If you get one of these, you're done.

*It was explained to me that the money I am receiving from my school for National Merit is above and beyond the call of duty - they're matching funds with other NM College Scholars with their NM $2500 scholars. Other NM College Scholars get $2000 a year, I get $2500 initially (from NM), and then $2000 every year after that.

Note: I designated this school my first choice (or maybe second, with the first also being a NM sponsor) at the very beginning of the National Merit process (like, junior year and then beginning of senior year). So just designate a school and you're still in the running for a $2500 scholarship.

Hopefully this answers all your questions. It was confusing to me until I went through the whole process.

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