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Old 12-08-2018, 01:47 AM
 
Location: Chicago
5,425 posts, read 8,360,335 times
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Can anyone here offer insights on the process for selecting National Merit Finalists?

My 11th grade daughter just received her NMQT/PSAT score of 1500 (226 index). She took one SAT with a score of 1530 (730 reading/800 math). Her GPA is weighted 4.5 out of 4.0 and will improve this semester as she expects A’s in all AP courses.

Does it seem she will qualify to be a national merit finalist? What can you tell me about the selection process, scholarship opportunities, etc? I read she needs additional essays and recommendations if she is a finalist. What else is required? Would it improve her National Merit chances if she retook the SAT to try to obtain a higher score on the Reading section?

Last edited by GoCUBS1; 12-08-2018 at 01:57 AM..
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Old 12-08-2018, 02:55 AM
 
Location: Georgia, USA
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Congratulations to your daughter on a job well done! I predict she will go far whether or not she becomes a Finalist.

That PSAT score is close to the maximum (1520), as is her index score (max 228).

This site predicts a range of 219 to 223 index score cutoff for Illinois Semifinalists for the class of 2020.

https://www.compassprep.com/national...alist-cutoffs/

More helpful info here:

https://www.compassprep.com/psat-national-merit-faq/

It looks to me like she will easily qualify as a Semifinalist and her SAT score already confirms her PSAT. About 15,000 out of 16,000 Semifinalists become Finalists and about half of those get scholarships. Her chances look excellent to me!

More details on the selection process for Finalist here. She will need a great essay and great recommendations. The strength of her academic program will also be considered.

What is her school's Merit Finalist and Scholar track record?
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Old 12-08-2018, 09:04 AM
 
Location: Chicago
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Quote:
Originally Posted by suzy_q2010 View Post

More details on the selection process for Finalist here. She will need a great essay and great recommendations. The strength of her academic program will also be considered.

What is her school's Merit Finalist and Scholar track record?
Thank you Suzy_q for the great info. She attends a large, competitive HS where she is in the most advanced academic AP track.

Her HS had 9 merit semifinalists last year. Does that # help or hinder her scholarship chances? How do demographics affect the scholarship award process?
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Old 12-08-2018, 10:14 AM
 
Location: Georgia, USA
21,847 posts, read 26,577,917 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GoCUBS1 View Post
Thank you Suzy_q for the great info. She attends a large, competitive HS where she is in the most advanced academic AP track.

Her HS had 9 merit semifinalists last year. Does that # help or hinder her scholarship chances? How do demographics affect the scholarship award process?
Do you know how many of those nine became Finalists and how many actually got scholarships?

The number neither helps nor hinders. It does show that the school is taken seriously in the selection process as far as grades are concerned.

Remember that she will be competing with other kids who also have spectacular test scores. Where she will have an opportunity to shine is with an essay (flawless grammar and spelling that does not read like a generic) and her extracurricular activities. The people doing the selection will be more interested in the quality of activities rather than the quantity and in leadership roles in them. I am sure she is aware that she cannot slack off between now and when she graduates. Make sure she keeps on top of the process and that she does not miss any deadlines as the process unfolds. Contact the people she will want to do recommendations in plenty of time for them to get them completed. She should also find out whether the schools she is considering applying to participate with the National Merit Scholarship program and if so the amounts of their awards. The scholarships given by the Merit folks themselves are relatively modest, a one time $2500, some schools and corporations award more. The student guide for Finalists will give the criteria corporations use to choose scholarship winners. For example, they may be for certain majors.

https://www.carleton.edu/admissions/apply/afford/merit/

Realities of National Merit Scholarships Ľ The College Solution

List of past corporate sponsors and colleges:

https://www.nationalmerit.org/s/1758...1c7abd613&cc=1

Even if she does not get a monetary award, there will be many schools with money for her.

Do you expect her to qualify for need based financial aid?
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Old 12-08-2018, 10:49 AM
 
Location: Chicago
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Thank you Suzy... I do not know how many of the 9 became finalists and received scholarships (I’ll research that).

I’m assuming the essay question is posted somewhere on the sites you recommended. Do you have any tips on selecting people for recommendations?

I think she has a pretty good extracurricular record with leadership roles (e.g. founded a HS club, HS sports co-captain, applying for Girl Scout Gold award). She also does a lot of volunteering (will receive presidential volunteer award) and is particularly strong in music (state recognized, performs with Chicago Youth Symphony). She wants to major in chemical engineering, and perhaps double major (or minor) in music performance, so maybe she has an opportunity for scholarships in these areas.

She will not qualify for needs-based aid, unless maybe at a more expensive private school (though I doubt it).

We toured some schools (Columbia, Penn, Princeton, Johns Hopkins, UCLA, Caltech) that had chemical engineering and music programs she’s interested in, and I believe several mentioned they do not award any merit aid at all. We have a few more schools she wants to look at. But maybe she won’t have access to National Merit $ for the college she chooses.

Last edited by GoCUBS1; 12-08-2018 at 10:58 AM..
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Old 12-08-2018, 10:53 AM
 
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Mine only took it to Semi-Nationalist. She got enough money and scholarships from my employer and a few top 25 scholarships. But I’ve heard even if you make it to Finalist, only a few schools give you extra money like maybe $2000. So it’s not worth her while to pursue further.
Those schools on her list give nothing.
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Old 12-08-2018, 11:00 AM
 
Location: Chicago
5,425 posts, read 8,360,335 times
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Originally Posted by NewbieHere View Post
Mine only took it to Semi-Nationalist. She got enough money and scholarships from my employer and a few top 25 scholarships. But Iíve heard even if you make it to Finalist, only a few schools give you extra money like maybe $2000. So itís not worth her while to pursue further.
Those schools on her list give nothing.
Thank you... But maybe is worthwhile to pursue as a feather in the cap for the college admissions process?
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Old 12-08-2018, 11:03 AM
fnh
 
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I'm curious, how have you accessed scores already? My student's score (WA state) apparently isn't released until the 12th, but supposedly it's the same release date as yours. Do you have secret access? Please do tell!
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Old 12-08-2018, 11:04 AM
 
10,680 posts, read 5,140,124 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GoCUBS1 View Post
Thank you... But maybe is worthwhile to pursue as a feather in the cap for the college admissions process?
That has not proven yet. If your kid’s application is strong through ECs and grades then naturally the Finalist is a product, not because of it.

I also wouldnt retake the SAT. Waste of time and effort.

But both of kids score were just as lopsided. The math kid got 780 in reading, but less in Math, not 800. The reading kid got 800 in math, but 700 in reading. Go figure. I don’t think it’s an indication of their real natural strength. But who knows what adcoms are looking into nowadays.
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Old 12-08-2018, 11:18 AM
 
Location: Chicago
5,425 posts, read 8,360,335 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fnh View Post
I'm curious, how have you accessed scores already? My student's score (WA state) apparently isn't released until the 12th, but supposedly it's the same release date as yours. Do you have secret access? Please do tell!
Yes, I was afraid someone would mention this... Our high school counseling dept. does have access to the scores and assume that’s the same with other high schools.

My daughter’s friends were able to hack into our HS counselor website so many students now know their scores. Since her friends are pretty competitive, they’re now freaking out about whether their scores are good enough to qualify for merit.

Over the years the students have gained early access to other counselor dept. reports as well, such as report cards and class schedules that hadn’t been “officially” released. I don’t know what to say about all this other than the counseling department needs better firewalls/web security.
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