PSAT- National Merit Scholarships and Semifinalist State Cutoff Scores

Intro

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation conducts a nation-wide search for bright high school students every year. Those students who are lucky enough to become Semifinalists or Finalists find themselves with many new scholarship opportunities for college. In this hub, I will outline the National Merit process and discuss some excellent scholarship opportunities that are available.

Step One: Entering the National Merit Competition

In order to begin competing for National Merit recognition, you must take the PSAT during the fall of your junior year of high school. All students who take the test and are eligible participants are automatically entered into the competition.

Step Two: Wait

After taking the PSAT, students will likely receive their scores likely a few weeks after taking the test. Unfortunately, the students have to wait nearly a full year to hear anything back from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. The time frame is frustrating, but when September of the high school senior year comes, things begin to happen quickly.

Step Three: Semifinalist

In September, nearly two-thirds of the high scorers receive letters of commendation. They are commended students, and are now out of the competition. The other one-third of the highest scoring participants in each state are recognized as semifinalists. Depending on what state you live in, this cutoff score could be as low as 201 or as high as 225.

Step Four: Finalist

Once recognized as semifinalist, the students will be asked to submit academic and other information. Also, the semifinalists will be asked to take the SAT over the next few months in order to validate their PSAT score and prove that they deserve the recognition. Of the 16,000 or so semifinalists, approximately 15,000 will be chosen as finalists. The only students who do not move up to finalist rank are those who do not submit any information about themselves, do not have good grades, do not take the SAT, or fail to score well on the SAT.

The entire process extends from the beginning of your junior year all the way through your senior year of high school. Therefore, the fall PSAT scores of 2015 affect the scholarships of the graduating class of 2017.

Past Qualifying Scores

Your PSAT score can only help you up to the semifinalist ranking. But because nearly all semifinalists become finalists, the cutoff scores for advancing to semifinalist ranking can essentially be viewed as the same for advancing to finalist.

Below is a table showing some of the past PSAT cutoff scores to advance to semifinalist ranking.

***This data is from the old PSAT format. The new PSAT (which applies to everyone taking the test starting in the fall of 2015) will have very different numbers because the test is scored on a different scale. According the NMSC website, to calculate your selection index score, you should add up the scores from each of the three sections of the PSAT and multiply that total by 2. This number will be "score" that is compared between students.

(click column header to sort results)
State  
Class of 2016 Cutoff Scores  
Class of 2015 Cutoff Scores  
Class of 2014 Cutoff Scores  
Class of 2013 Cutoff Scores  
Class of 2012 Cutoff Scores  
Class of 2011 Cutoff Scores  
Class of 2010 Cutoff Scores  
Class of 2009 Cutoff Scores  
Class of 2008 Cutoff Scores  
Alabama
209
207
211
209
211
210
208
209
209
Alaska
206
210
212
204
212
214
211
212
213
Arizona
215
213
214
212
213
209
210
209
211
Arkansas
204
206
205
202
205
203
203
204
201
California
223
222
223
220
221
219
218
217
218
Colorado
215
213
215
212
215
212
213
213
213
Connecticut
220
220
221
218
220
219
218
218
217
Delaware
216
215
218
215
217
215
219
219
219
District of Columbia
225
224
224
221
223
223
221
221
223
Florida
214
211
214
211
214
210
211
211
212
Georgia
218
215
217
214
218
215
214
215
214
Hawaii
214
214
215
211
216
215
214
216
213
Idaho
208
211
211
207
211
208
209
208
204
Illinois
215
215
216
213
216
214
214
214
213
Indiana
213
212
215
211
214
212
211
213
213
Iowa
208
207
210
207
210
209
209
210
209
Kansas
213
213
216
212
214
211
211
211
212
Kentucky
210
210
211
208
212
208
209
209
208
Louisiana
211
208
209
209
209
210
207
208
206
Maine
211
212
215
210
212
213
213
212
211
Maryland
222
221
223
219
221
220
221
220
221
Massachusetts
223
223
224
221
223
223
221
221
223
Michigan
210
210
210
207
210
209
209
209
209
Minnesota
214
215
215
213
215
213
215
214
213
Mississippi
209
207
207
204
205
205
203
201
202
Missouri
209
209
213
210
213
210
211
213
211
Montana
204
206
207
203
209
208
204
208
207
Nebraska
209
209
209
207
209
210
207
206
207
Nevada
211
208
212
208
209
208
202
206
208
New Hampshire
213
212
214
211
216
214
213
211
215
New Jersey
225
224
224
221
223
221
221
220
221
New Mexico
208
210
210
208
210
206
208
209
208
New York
219
218
219
215
219
217
218
216
219
North Carolina
215
212
215
213
217
214
214
215
214
North Dakota
202
201
204
200
204
202
202
201
202
Ohio
215
213
215
212
214
212
211
213
211
Oklahoma
208
206
210
206
209
206
207
208
207
Oregon
215
217
218
213
216
215
213
213
213
Pennsylvania
217
216
217
214
215
216
214
213
214
Rhode Island
212
212
216
211
213
211
217
213
212
South Carolina
211
209
210
208
211
208
211
212
210
South Dakota
202
203
206
204
206
205
205
205
203
Tennessee
212
212
212
210
214
212
213
213
213
Texas
220
218
219
216
219
215
216
215
215
Utah
206
208
208
205
208
203
206
203
202
Vermont
214
213
217
214
217
212
213
213
216
Virginia
222
219
222
217
220
218
218
219
217
Washington
219
219
220
216
220
218
217
217
215
West Virginia
202
201
203
200
204
202
203
203
200
Wisconsin
208
208
210
207
209
209
207
210
208
Wyoming
202
204
203
200
204
202
201
201
200
International
225
224
224
221
223
223
221
221
223

Scholarship Opportunities

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation awards around 10,000 scholarships every year to the finalists. Some of these scholarships come directly from the corporation, but many come from sponsors of the program. Most of the scholarships are around $1500-$2500. However, many colleges will award their own scholarships to students who have received the rank of National Merit Finalist. Some of these college-sponsored scholarships can amount full tuition at certain colleges!

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Comments 8 comments

sabrani44 profile image

sabrani44 4 years ago

This was a very informative hub. Thanks so much for taking the time to write this out for us.


amiebutchko profile image

amiebutchko 2 years ago from Warwick, NY

Very interesting. Looking ahead a bit, I will have some college-bound children which is deathly scary to me! It is good to know there are some ways that we can potentially supplement tuition!


Doyourbest 2 years ago

If your score is 99 percentile, what could go wrong not advancing you

to the finalist? Thank you.


bigdogacb profile image

bigdogacb 2 years ago from United States Author

The most likely reasons for not advancing are simply not completing the required application and essay or having grades that do not meet their minimum requirement.


GINY MOM 2015 2 years ago

My daughter's score was 222 on the PSAT. NOT GOOD ENOUGH!! Our residency is NY (219) and her high school is in New Hampshire(219). She attends a boarding school (the "51st" state) and the cut off is 224!! I was more disappointed than her. She has a great attitude. WE know a 222 is a strong score/candidate. I HOPE the colleges recognize this too.


keishialeelouis profile image

keishialeelouis 18 months ago from Georgia, USA

This is an excellent and useful article. You may want to consider refreshing it to reflect the changes in the SAT (and there for the PSAT). Thanks for sharing!


maddan9497 18 months ago

My son took the PSAT as a junior in October 2014, scoring 215. Your article above says in April following the test, 50,000 high scorers will be recognized. We are not aware of any such recognition, even though it is well past April. How is this recognition supposed to be communicated?


Victor 14 months ago

When will this page be updated? Very informative. Thanks!

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