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Articles / Paying for College / Can International Students Get Merit Scholarships?

July 7, 2010

Can International Students Get Merit Scholarships?

Are There Merit Scholarships for International Students?

Question: I know that international students CANNOT participate in the National Merit Scholarships selection process. But I would like to know if an international student can get college scholarship offers from colleges if he or she gets a PSAT score of 230. I'm asking this question because some semifinalists get scholarship offers even though they didn't make it to NMS Finalist status.


It may feel frustrating to be excluded from the National Merit competition because you're not an American citizen. But, frankly, National Merit is overrated as a source of scholarships. Sure, there are some colleges that offer full tuition to NM winners, but often the schools that are most sought-after by top students aren't on the list of those that participate.

Many colleges do offer other merit scholarships to international students. The best way to be in the running for such scholarships is to identify and apply to colleges where the typical admitted freshman has grades and test results (real SAT's or ACT's, not just the PSAT) that are significantly below your own.

So don't worry too much about being ineligible for National Merit money because most of the better scholarships don't come from NM anyway.

Happy hunting!

See what others are saying about National Merit, financial and scholarships or resources for international students on the College Confidential Forums.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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