When students take the PSAT/NMSQT, most know that PSAT stands for pre-SAT. However, some do not know what NMSQT stands for. The PSAT is also the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. This means that a student can qualify for a National Merit Scholarship if they do well enough on the exam.
At Jamesville-DeWitt High School, seniors Marion Maxwell, Tal Frieden, and Andrew McVearry qualified for the National Merit Scholarship and were named finalists for the honor. “It feels pretty awesome because it is something my mom got too, so she is able to be excited for me that way,” said Maxwell. “It is pretty fulfilling and gratifying knowing that it is all of my work coming to a good conclusion,” said Frieden.
The National Merit Scholarship is a scholarship awarded to students who score within a certain range on the PSAT. The range varies yearly based on national scores. Students who score within the set range for their year are semifinalists for the scholarship. In order to be a finalist for the honor, the semifinalists must write an essay and have their counselor write a recommendation to be sent to and evaluated by the National Merit Scholarship Board.
The scholarship, worth $2,500, can be very helpful for a student, both financially, but also in the application process. Maxwell, who is going to the University of Chicago, said that the university also gives an additional scholarship to students who are finalists for the National Merit Scholarship. Frieden said that the money could help to pay for college books, and also that having the accolade on a resume or application could be very beneficial in a job hunt.
Although they knew about the National Merit Scholarship prior to taking the exam, neither Frieden nor Maxwell did any extra preparation to ensure that they could score in the range to qualify. “I didn’t really study much. I thought that if I got it that would be awesome, but it wasn’t a true goal,” said Frieden. Maxwell wanted to get it, but she wasn’t completely committed to preparing for the exam.
Maxwell and Frieden also added that they do not believe that the PSAT is a good measure for finding candidates for the honor because some of the brightest minds aren’t always the best test takers. “I don’t think that giving out such a prestigious honor can be done based on a score someone gets on a test,” said Maxwell.