National Merit Semifinalist essay

September 7, 2006 at 12:32 am 7 comments

Posted by Dee

As I may or may not have said already, I was indeed a National Merit Finalist, but before becoming a finalist, you must get to the semi-finalist level by qualifying through your PSAT/NMSQT score.

Once you get to the semi-finalist round, there’s a pretty decent application process to go through in order to be selected as a finalist.

First, you’ll submit your grades to the College Board. (They want to make sure that you didn’t just get to the semi-finalist round by accident or random stroke of luck on the PSAT/NMSQT, and that you actually have some smarts to back up your high scores.)

Then, they ask you to list your extracurriculars as well as honors and recognitions. (Sometimes these may seem pretty similar, but I always considered awards and prizes to be honors and recognitions whereas extracurricular activities would be the clubs or organizations you participate in. There may be some overlap between the two categories occasionally. Maybe they changed the forms within the past few years, but when I filled it out I found that there was very little space, so plan out what you’re writing before! Be concise, and figure out if it will be better to type it or write it out by hand.)

Finally, there’s the essay. (I didn’t find it too daunting myself. Some people I know decided to focus on one particular aspect of their lives or one specific activity that had a large affect on their lives. This works just as well as what I did, which was write more generally on several aspects of my life and a few activities that were important to me. Remember you’re limited by space, and you don’t want to have a dry, boring essay, so try to at least give it a creative aspect, whether that comes through in the tone of the writing, the intro and conclusion, or the content itself.)

Also, the College Board, as usual, can be confusing with deadlines and requirements, so make sure you understand exactly what you need to do with the form. I remember that our school’s counselors stressed that they would give you only one copy, so don’t mess it up!


Entry filed under: Academics, College Board, Deadline, Essays, Extracurricular activities, Finalist, National merit, NMSQT, PSAT, School clubs, Semi-finalist, Testing.

Ivy Leagues using the common app Common App essays for Fall 2007 applicants

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. May  |  September 27, 2006 at 5:55 am

    Part of the application package also includes a recommendation from a teacher or counselor.

  • 2. Edie  |  January 7, 2007 at 11:10 pm

    I took the PSAT in early October and found out this week (January 4th) that I am a semifinalist. I have two concerns.

    1) When I got my PSAT scores from my guidance counselor, he said that there was a possibility that I might have to take the SAT as part of the process. I got a 2310 on the real SAT in December (with which I was satisfied) and, quite honestly, I don’t want to take it again. Since I took it two months after the PSAT, do you think I will have to take it again?
    2.) My GPA is around a 3.6/3.7 on an unweighted scale of 4.0. I took really challenging classes, but do you think this will eliminate me?

  • 3. Patti  |  January 8, 2007 at 4:41 pm

    What is the cutoff score for qualifiying?

  • 4. sheila  |  March 16, 2007 at 7:12 pm

    I think Edie is confused-she may be a semifinalist eventually, but that hasn’t happened yet, at least according to the college board. her scores are probably a lock, they just haven’t announce this yet

  • 5. the dop  |  September 22, 2007 at 6:13 pm

    edie will definitely make finalist. congrats on the 2310. 16,000 make semi-finalist and 15,000 make finalist. the fraction that does not get to finalist are usually people who did not submit their finalist application, submitted it wrongly, or had terrible grades…3.7 GPA is definitely reflective of easily qualifying grades

  • 6. ali  |  October 4, 2007 at 12:31 am

    i have to write my own essay for national merit finalist applications, and i have got to be the most scatterbrained person on the face of the earth. at my school, we had to turn in our applications separate from our essays, so i dont have my application any more, and therefore dont have the little sentence that says exactly what im supposed to write about. i was pretty sure it was just a general “tell us about your past and future” kind of thing, but i was wondering–does anyone know if there are more specific instructions on the essay?

  • 7. katie  |  February 14, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    I think you should clarify that you do not submit grades, activities, etc. to the College Board but rather National Merit Scholarship Corporation. The College Board gives the test, but National Merit is a completely different comany who gives the scholarships.


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