• Christine Mastandrea

‘Tis the Season for National Merit


This past Wednesday, high schools across the United States took to social media to proudly share their students who have entered into the National Merit Scholarship Program as National Merit Semifinalists. Though this has always been a highly prestigious accomplishment, many families don’t quite understand the buzz of why it’s such a big deal and how it’s actually achieved.


A misconception is that this is the result of a student’s score on the SAT/ACT, but it’s actually their junior year PSAT that determines eligibility. It’s also the result of their PSAT index score as opposed to the full score that everyone typically goes by.


Every year the score is open to change and the cutoff varies from state to state. Florida’s went down from 219 to 216 this year, which is one of the largest declines we’ve ever seen. However, even with this drop, only 879 students in the entire state made it to the Semifinalist level.

So why is it such a big deal? It’s a big deal because it lets colleges know that you’re a big deal. You don’t score that well unless you’re a practically brilliant test taker and who wouldn’t want to be recognized as practically brilliant?


The next part is that if you make it to the Finalist level as a Florida resident (which realistically every one of those students should), you’re going to be offered a full ride through the Benacquisto Scholarship to any one of following schools with extra money in your pocket:


· Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

· Florida Atlantic University

· Florida International University

· Florida State University

· New College of Florida

· University of Central Florida

· University of Florida

· University of Miami

· University of South Florida


For example, I spoke with a student today who receives $1,000 every year for a new laptop, but he obviously doesn’t buy a new laptop every year. There’s also semester stipends for your cellphone, food, clothes, transportation and personal use.


All in all, it’s a pretty sweet deal –that has families smiling from ear to ear when they hear the financial side of it all. Congratulations to all the National Merit Semifinalists and best of luck to the high school juniors that will be taking the PSAT (fingers crossed) on October 14th!

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