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National Merit Scholarship question

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We were planning to skip the PSAT, but I would like to verify something first. Are all corporate and college-sponsored scholarships for undergraduate study only? Or can being a NMS earn a student a scholarship for graduate work at some universities? Everything I've read so far has clearly stated the money is for undergraduate work. There seem to be quite a few NM scholar recipients on this board. Has it helped anyone with graduate studies?

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A national merit scholarship would be just for undergraduate work. Some awards are only a one-time deal, while others are renewable for 4 total years. In some ways, the prestige of being a semi-finalist/finalist/winner is as important as any $ you'll receive for college in terms of being an advantage for admissions and merit-based aid.


Graduate school admissions and scholarships/fellowships would depend on another round of applications for admission and aid, which would depend mostly on what you accomplished during your undergraduate years, graduate entrance exams (GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT...), work experience, etc. Having the NMS would not be as relevant for graduate admissions/aid if one's undergraduate work wasn't impressive as well.


ETA: Not all scholarships are based on the national merit scholarship process; this is just one well-known program.

Edited by sgo95
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Not much from high school goes on the applications for graduate school. My kids listed where they went to high school (homeschool) and not much else. One of my kids did list AP Scholar and NM Scholar and the folks at her college encouraged her to take them off -- the focus of the info for grad schools should be on recent achievements, not ones done 4, 5, or even six years ago!


The benefit of taking the PSAT is --


1) Being able to list NM Semifinalist on college apps (if the student qualifies)

2) Potentially possibly being eligible for more aid from colleges -- some colleges give $2000, $7500, or even full-tuition scholarships and full rides to NM Finalists

3) NM Scholars do get $2500, but that is just a drop in the bucket of college fees

4) It does give the student more experience taking standardized tests.....


Graduate aid is a whole different cup of tea, and it is completely different for different fields, even at the same university. Students who excel in college are a lot more likely to get aid in grad school.

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Taking it might leave some other options open for you if you suspect she may do well. I'm not familiar with the Bright Futures Scholarship, but my dds National Merit Scholarship is a full ride for ten semesters (hopefully, she'll get it done in 8). It has covered books, room and board, tuition, study abroad, summer semesters, and there has been money left over that she's taken in cash and lived on. School for her hasn't cost us anything. It's been a huge blessing!

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Thanks for all the information! It confirms what I was thinking. Since dd plans to use a Bright Futures scholarship, I'm sure she will skip the PSAT.


The amount Bright Futures pays has gotten much smaller. http://www.floridastudentfinancialaid.org/SSFAD/bf/awardamt.htm

Just to break that down a little bit. At the very top level (A student, attending a four year college) it pays $100 per credit hour right now and that amount could go down in the future. The average college student takes 30 credit hours per year. So, in other words that comes out to about $3,000 for the year.


Here are the costs at University of Florida (this is just one example I selected but you should check the costs at other public universities): http://www.sfa.ufl.edu/basics/cost-of-attendance/ The cost estimate for a student living on campus is $20,500. For a student living at home $12,280. $3,000 from Bright Futures leaves a pretty huge gap.


Would the National Merit Scholarship help? Here's just one example from University of Central Florida. Full tuition, room, board, laptop. https://admissions.ucf.edu/files/2011/09/National-Merit-Newsletter-2011-12.pdf


In other words, if you have a student who has the possibility of scoring well on the PSAT I would not skip it because you have Bright Futures.

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From my perspective, it is really quite a minimal investment of time. It is two Saturday mornings of your kid's life (one for the PSAT and one for the SAT if they weren't already going to take it) and filling out one application which isn't very difficult for any student who is already applying to college. This is probably 10-15 hours worth of work total and there's an odds there of winning a $2,500 award.


Everyone's financial circumstances are different, but particularly in this economy when things are shifting so rapidly if your kid is a good tester I think it is worth pursuing just for the backup plan of some of the big guaranteed awards.


Probably in part because people don't understand what it is based on, the award is a nice honor to have. It'll probably make the extended family happy and it can always be the case that one award leads to another as students who are applying for research grants, scholarships, etc. need to have honors to list.

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OK, I am making an administrative decision and she IS taking the PSAT (and subsequent SAT if necessary.) :D She is a box-checker and wanted to be done with standardized testing, but she certainly will not want to come up with the extra $47.00 per credit hour that we aren't going to pay if she isn't going to at least try and get her tuition covered. She can simply add two more boxes to her checklist. She won't be too happy about it, but at least she doesn't have it in her to do any less than her best when the actual test comes around. :tongue_smilie:

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