PSAT : Part 2 – The selection and scholarships


Here is part 2 of my post on the PSAT. This post is focused on the PSAT selection process. The next post will take you through details of the PSAT examination, and after that I thought I’d put together some tips for the PSAT examination.

To start with, let me just reiterate that the PSAT/NMSQT dates for fall 2016 are

o   Primary : Wednesday, October 19 & Saturday, October 15

o   Alternate : Wednesday, November 2

I mentioned in part 1 of this post that about 1.5 million students had taken the PSAT / NMSQT test in 2015. So how does the shortlisting process (down from this 1.5 MN students) work after the test ? Here goes :

1.     The students with the top 50,000 PSAT / NMSQT Selection Index scores, qualify for recognition in the National Merit Scholarship Program. The top 1/3rd (approximately) of these 50,000 scorers are identified as National Merit Semifinalists. This is done by early September. Semifinalists are designated on a state representational basis and are the highest scoring students in each state.

2.     The balance 2/3rds of the 50,000 highest scorers in the PSAT / NMSQT test receive recognition as Commended Students, acknowledging their outstanding academic promise. (This commendation can be listed in your college application, so keep it safe).

3.     Semifinalists then submit a detailed scholarship application, including essays, extracurricular achievements, awards and leadership positions. They must have an outstanding academic record, be endorsed by a school official and earn SAT scores confirming their qualifying PSAT/NMSQT scores.

4.     From the Semifinalist group, about 15,000 of the top students (based on this application) progress to the Finalists standing. This selection is notified by February each year.

5.     The winners of the National Merit Scholarship awards are chosen from this Finalist group based on their academic record, their schools curriculum and grading system, their qualifying PSAT/NMSQT score and their SAT score, their student activities and leadership skills, and their high school’s official written recommendation. These awards are announced between March and June each year in a staggered fashion.

All in all, approximately USD 35 MN is awarded in scholarships annually based on the PSAT/NMSQT !!!

In part 1 of this post I said that the PSAT 10 examination does not qualify a student for the National Merit Scholarship Program. While that is true, however, it is important to note that students also have the option to opt in for the free Student Search Service when they take the PSAT / NMSQT or the PSAT 10, which will then make them eligible for other scholarship programs. Through the Student Search Service you can receive free information about admission and financial aid from colleges, universities and scholarship programs that are interested in you. Specifically, the College Boards new scholarship partners provide aid to qualified low income and minority students. Juniors will be invited to apply for the scholarships if they opt in for the Student Search Service, and qualify in the test. If sophomores opt in and qualify, they will be invited to apply for the scholarships when they are in 11th or 12th grade. So remember to say “Yes” to the Student Search Service when you take the PSAT/NMSQT or the PSAT10.

In addition to the scholarships awarded by the NMSC, other national programs also use the PSAT/NMSQT scores to find eligible juniors. These include :

1.     The National Scholarship Service, which offers free college advisory and referral service for 11th grade African – American students. You can write in for more information to

National Scholarship Service

980 Martin Luther King Drive SW, P.O. Box 11409

Atlanta, GA 30310

2.     The Telluride Seminar Scholarships, which offers scholarships to their 6 week summer program in humanities and social sciences to 11th grade students

If you specifically do not want your scores to be sent for these 2 programs, you need to write to PSAT/NMSQT by October 31, and opt out of this service. Here is the address to write to them : P.O. Box 6720, Princeton, NJ 08541-6720

That’s it for today. Keep watching my blog ( for the 3rd in these series of posts, which will be on the PSAT exam itself. I should be posting that in the next day or two.

And for all parents in California, remember that has quite a comprehensive list of SAT preparation tutors available in your neighborhood. To see tutors in your area, go to and select “college prep”. It’s always a good idea to speak to an experienced tutor to see how they can help your child prepare for this critical test.

Do you have more information on the PSAT that does not feature here but would be useful for people to know? Please do comment and share your knowledge and experience.

In case you missed part 1 of this post, just click here to read it

Basics of PSAT

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