National Merit Scholarship gives the best students a break on college bills

In a time when even affluent families are struggling to send kids to college, merit based scholarships may be the only option for them. It is good to know that a hard working student can be rewarded with a college education that does not leave them deeply in debt. The National Merit Scholarship program is one option for highly intelligent, hard-working students to get a break on their college bills.

Earning a National Merit Scholarship is hard work and two-year long process. Nearly 1 million students take the PSAT/NMQT exam (Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) during October of their junior year of high school.

In April, the 50,000 top scoring students in the country will receive notification that they are semifinalists for a National Merit Scholarship. Of those 50, 000 students, 16,000 will become finalists, and 8,200 students will be named National Merit Scholars during the spring months.

Robert E Taylor was a 2008 National Merit Scholarship winner, earning a full-tuition scholarship to Northeastern University. Taylor also received entrance to the university's Civic Engagement Program as part of the National Merit Scholarship."Just being a National Merit Scholar doubled what my offer would have been, and also helped me make some connections with AmericaSCORES, the community service group I worked/continue to work with," he tells WalletPop. "Lastly, I believe it helped me get my summer job at EMC in Hopkinton, it was the top note on my resume and my interviewers asked me thoroughly about it."

Robert's advice for new National Merit Scholarship recipients is to "leverage the title wherever you can. It's an honor to be a National Merit Scholar, and having the distinction can show colleges or potential employers that there's a little extra something about you that can be of value to them. If an employer or college doesn't know what it is, or hasn't heard of the program, explain it to them! The numbers are eye-opening, to be in such top percents around the country is staggering."

After all, "National Merit Scholarship semifinalists rank among the top 1% of high school seniors nationwide" and "approximately 90% of semifinalists will be named finalists".

David Hautanen, director of admissions at Northeastern University, agrees that the National Merit Scholarship adds a bit of distinction to the prospective student's application.

In addition, Hautanen tells WalletPop that colleges also enjoy a distinction by being part of the National Merit Scholarship Program. There is a rigorous process for colleges to get in; they must go through a three- or four-year eligibility process. Since Northeastern was admitted into the National Merit Scholarship program, it has seen a tremendous increase in the number of National Merit Scholars enrolled.

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