Do National Merit Finalists Get Full-Ride Scholarships?

Published by Wendy Nelson on

Standardized TestLast week, I wrote about what ACT or SAT score can earn your student a full-ride scholarship.  This week, I am going to focus on another source of full-ride scholarships – National Merit Finalists.  In my research regarding full-ride scholarships, I have found that there is a growing trend away from giving full-ride or even full-tuition scholarships to National Merit Finalists.  However, there are still some schools out there that do this.  They tend to be less competitive and/or lesser known schools.

You may be wondering, how hard is it to be a National Merit Finalist?  It’s very difficult!  1.5 million students take the PSAT/NMSQT test every year.  Only about 16,000 students across the country are named semi-finalists.  About 15,000 of those students are named finalists.  To become a semi-finalist, a student needs to be a top scorer on the PSAT/NMSQT test for his or her state, when taken the junior year of high school.  Each state will have its own cutoff score, so a score that would make semi-finals in one state may not be high enough in another state.

Here are a few of the colleges where national merit finalists get full-ride or full-tuition scholarships:

  • University of Alabama – flagship campus, Birmingham and Hunstville
  • Auburn University
  • University of Alaska – Anchorage (full tuition only)
  • University of Arkansas (flagship campus) – full tuition + $10,000 per year
  • Arizona State University (full tuition)
  • University of Arizona (full tuition + $1,500 for study abroad)
  • Florida A&M (full tuition + fees)
  • Florida International University (full tuition, fees & housing)
  • University of Idaho
  • Iowa State University (full tuition, only for in-state students)
  • University of Kansas (full tuition + fees, only for in-state students)
  • Wichita State University (Kansas)
  • University of Kentucky
  • University of Louisville (Kentucky)

These are just a few of the schools that still offer large scholarships to National Merit Finalists.  There are some others out there.

What if your student doesn’t make the National Merit Finalist category, but is a National Merit Semi-Finalist?  A small number of schools will offer full-tuition to National Merit Semi-Finalists, including:

  • University of Alabama (must have 3.5 or higher GPA)
  • Auburn University (in-state students only)
  • Faulkner University (Alabama)
  • Oakwood University (Alabama)
  • University of Central Arkansas
  • Southern Arkansas University
  • Harding University (Arkansas)
  • Florida A&M
  • Florida Atlantic University
  • Florida College

I am still working on compiling a full list of all schools that offer full tuition to full ride scholarships for national merit finalists and semi-finalists and plan to have that available by the end of 2013.  Update – The Full Scholarship List is now available.



Kathy Johns · January 14, 2014 at 9:43 pm

Do you have that list of full ride scholarships for NMF? Is there also a list for any schools that offer full ride for NMSF?

    Wendy Nelson · January 16, 2014 at 8:53 pm

    I am hoping to have it finished this weekend. I am cross-checking against one more list to make sure I have them all. It will have all the automatic and competitive full rides and full tuition scholarships I could find. Yes, there are some that offer full rides for semi-finalists, like Western Kentucky University. It is more common for semi-finalists to be offered full tuition and not room & board.

      M S · January 18, 2014 at 3:50 pm

      Washington State University offers full tuition to both finalists and semi-finalists.

        Wendy Nelson · January 22, 2014 at 7:27 pm

        Thank you. These are included on my “full scholarship list.”

      Kathy Johns · January 30, 2014 at 6:24 am

      can you tell me where to access the list of NMSF scholarships? My daughter had her heart set on UCF, but she didn’t make the finalist list.

        Wendy Nelson · January 30, 2014 at 12:42 pm

        Hi Kathy,
        They are included on my full scholarship list. In fact, I just added a column specific to National Merit so you can filter to only see scholarships that are relevant to national merit finalists or semi-finalists. There are still some great scholarships available for semi-finalists. Your daughter should still be very proud – not that many kids make it that far!

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