The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) announced the 16,000 Semifinalists of the 2017 program Sept. 14. About 90 percent—15,000 students—of those Semifinalists are expected to qualify to be Finalists, eligible for the 2,500 National Merit-sponsored $2,500 scholarships, the roughly 1,000 corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarships, or the expected 4,000 college-sponsored scholarships for students attending the sponsor institution.
Roughly 1.6 million high school juniors—now seniors—entered the program by taking the Preliminary SAT (PSAT)/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT) in October 2015. The number of Semifinalists in a state is proportional to the state’s percentage of the national total of graduating seniors, so cutoff scores differ from state to state.
To become a Finalist, the Semifinalist and his or her high school must submit an application in which they provide information about the Semifinalist’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received. A Semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be recommended by a high school official, write an essay, and earn SAT scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the PSAT/NMSQT.
National Merit Scholarship winners of 2017 will be announced in four nationwide news releases beginning in April and concluding in July. These scholarship recipients will join more than 323,000 other distinguished young people who have earned the Merit Scholar title over the past 62 years of the program.
NMSC, a not-for-profit organization that operates without government assistance, was established in 1955 specifically to conduct the annual National Merit Scholarship Program. Scholarships are underwritten by NMSC with its own funds and by approximately 420 business organizations and higher education institutions that share NMSC’s goals of honoring the nation’s scholastic champions and encouraging the pursuit of academic excellence.