22 Full-Ride Scholarships for National Merit Finalists
- How Much Are National Merit Scholarships?
- How Many Schools Offer Full Rides to National Merit Scholars?
- 22 Full-Ride Scholarships for National Merit Finalists
- Full-Tuition Scholarships for National Merit Finalists
- How Does Your PSAT Score Impact Your College Chances?
It’s no wonder why many colleges are excited to welcome National Merit Finalists to their campuses—they’re among the most sought-after students in the nation, having scored highly on standardized tests and having demonstrated academic excellence during their high school years.
Some colleges offer National Merit Finalists full-ride scholarships to entice them into attending their institution, and a few will even offer additional financial awards that can be applied to things like research, study abroad, and technology.
How Much Are National Merit Scholarships?
National Merit Finalists begin as National Merit Semifinalists—an honor earned by scoring highly on the PSAT/NMSQT. Just 16,000 students out of over 1.5 million test takers are recognized as Semifinalists! Semifinalists are selected by state, with each state having its own cutoff scores (which change annually) that a student must meet to become a semifinalist.
While being named a National Merit Semifinalist is a prestigious honor in its own right, such students are also given the opportunity to advance to the level of National Merit Finalist. Finalists can earn scholarship dollars through a process similar to completing a college application—earning a strong score on the SAT or ACT, getting great grades, receiving a persuasive recommendation, and composing a compelling essay.
At the completion of the process, over 15,000 students are named National Merit Finalists and become eligible to win one of three types of scholarships:
- The National Merit Scholarship: This is a one-time award of $2,500 based largely on a student’s academic record, essays, and written recommendations.
- Corporate-Sponsored Merit Scholarship Awards: These scholarships vary in multiple aspects, from value to length—some are one-time awards while others are renewable. They’re awarded to students who meet specific criteria, such as being children of the business’s employees, residing in a community where the business operates, or pursuing a particular career path.
- College-Sponsored Merit Scholarship Awards: Colleges and universities offer students renewable awards of varying values, provided that they’ve listed the school as their first choice and that they’ve gained admission.
How Many Schools Offer Full Rides to National Merit Scholars?
It’s uncommon for National Merit Colleges to offer full-ride scholarships—it’s almost possible to count the number on your fingers and toes. Full-ride scholarships are the most generous award a student can receive—they cover the total expenses of college, including tuition, housing, meals, fees, and books. They also often include stipends that can be used on anything from covering other living expenses to studying abroad.
Full-ride scholarships are as rare as they are generous—the website Investopedia says that “unless a student is an elite athlete, in the top 1% academically, or has accomplished some other notable feat, the likelihood of getting a full-ride scholarship is slim to none.” Don’t be discouraged, though! One notable feat that can earn a student a full-ride scholarship at select schools is becoming a National Merit Finalist.
22 Full-Ride Scholarships for National Merit Finalists
Numerous colleges offer full-ride scholarships to National Merit Finalists—a strong incentive to entice top students into applying to their programs.
Freshman applicants who are National Merit Finalists and list Faulkner University as their first-choice school with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation receive funding to cover full tuition, room and board, and mandatory fees. National Merit Semifinalists also receive an award—they’re given free tuition at the University.
Florida A&M will cover the total cost of attendance—which may include tuition, fees, on-campus room and board, books, supplies, travel, and other miscellaneous expenses—for in-state National Merit Finalists through the Benacquisto Scholarship Program.
Florida Atlantic University (FAU) provides in-state National Merit Finalists with awards that cover up to the full cost of attendance through the Benacquisto Scholarship Program. Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA and enroll for 12 credit hours per semester to continue receiving the award.
National Merit Finalists will find tuition, fees, housing, and a meal plan covered at Florida International University (FIU). They will also receive a stipend for books and, if they demonstrate financial need, a laptop as well.
To qualify for the award, students must choose FIU as their top-choice university with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.
Liberty University offers to cover the cost of tuition, as well as room and board, for up to four years for National Merit Semifinalists. Students must matriculate into Liberty University’s Honors Program to receive the award. National Merit Semifinalists also receive free tuition at Liberty University.
The National Merit Scholarship at Louisiana Tech University covers the cost of tuition, on-campus housing, and meals for four years for National Merit Finalists who list Louisiana Tech University as their first choice with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.
To continue receiving the award, students must take a full-time course load and maintain a 3.0 GPA.
National Merit Finalists at Murray State receive four-year free tuition, on-campus housing, and meal plans. Recipients are required to maintain a 3.2 GPA, enroll full-time, and participate in the University’s Honors College.
The New College of Florida offers to cover the full cost of attendance for National Merit Finalists who are residents of the Sunshine State through the Benacquisto Scholarship Program. To qualify, students must register the New College of Florida as their first choice institution with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.
Oklahoma Christian University (OC) National Merit Scholar Award covers up to 17 credit hours per semester of full tuition, mandatory fees, housing, and a meal plan for up to eight semesters. To qualify, students must list OC as their first-choice university with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation and maintain a 3.0 GPA as an OC student.
The National Merit Finalist Scholarship from Texas Tech provides National Merit Finalists with funding to cover the full cost of attendance for four years of undergraduate study. To remain eligible to receive funding, scholarship recipients are required to enroll in 30 hours per academic year and maintain a minimum 3.5 GPA.
The University of Alabama has an enticing offer for National Merit Finalists—free tuition and housing. The school also provides National Merit Finalists with a supplemental scholarship of $3,500 per year, a one-time $2,000 allowance for summer research or international study, and $500 annually for books.
Both in-state and out-of-state National Merit Finalists have a good reason to put the University of Central Florida (UCF) at the top of their lists—in-state students have their total cost of attendance covered, while out-of-state students receive a waiver that allows them to pay the in-state tuition rate, and a UCF Merit Scholarship valued at $80,000.
National Merit Finalists also receive an expedited admissions decision, guaranteed admission into UCF’s Burnett Honors College, guaranteed on-campus housing, and a laptop.
National Merit Finalists at the University of Idaho receive an institutional award that covers tuition, fees, and room and board if they enroll at the University for their first semester of undergraduate studies. National Merit Finalists are also directly admitted to the University Honors Program.
Maine residents who are National Merit Semifinalists are awarded the UMaine National Merit Award, which provides free tuition, as well as room and board, at the University of Maine for up to 15 credits per semester. Students must maintain full-time status—at least 12 credits per semester—to continue receiving the award.
National Merit Finalists with a minimum 3.0 GPA are eligible for the Academic Excellence National Merit Semifinalist/Finalist Scholarship at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). The award covers the cost of tuition and housing—it also covers non-resident fees for out-of-state students. The award is renewable for up to four years.
In-state students who are National Merit Finalists qualify for free tuition, fees, and housing at the University of New Mexico. The award is renewable for four years, provided that recipients maintain a minimum 3.3 GPA and complete 15 credit hours in the fall and spring semesters.
The saying goes “everything is bigger in Texas,” and that’s true for National Merit Finalist awards—at least at the University of North Texas, where scholarship packages include the total cost of attendance. Both residents and non-residents of Texas have the cost of tuition, housing, meals, and books covered, along with a generous stipend.
The total value of the award for Texas residents is $128,000, while the value for non-residents is $177,000!
The University of South Florida (USF) provides National Merit Finalists with a strong incentive to attend the school. Both in-state and out-of-state students receive a scholarship covering 100% of the full cost of attendance along with a $2,000 scholarship for study abroad.
National Merit Finalists at USF also receive a tuition waiver for their first 30 credits of graduate study at the school if they immediately enter a graduate program at the University after earning a baccalaureate degree.
In-state and out-of-state National Merit Finalists receive exceptional financial support at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), including an award that covers tuition, fees, and on-campus housing. Students also receive stipends for books, supplies, and other educational expenses; research; and study abroad.
National Merit Finalists who designate the University of Tulsa (TU) as their first choice school with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation are awarded free tuition, fees, room and board, and books at the school. Recipients are also given membership in Leadership TU (led by the University’s President), guaranteed admission into TU’s Honors Program, and a $6,000 annual monetary gift.
The award is renewable for up to five years or until an undergraduate degree is earned. Students must maintain a minimum of 15 hours of coursework per semester to continue receiving the award.
National Merit Finalists who attend the University of West Florida (UWF) their first semester in college are awarded free tuition, fees, housing, and meal plan. Recipients are also given an $800 stipend per semester for books and a one-time stipend of up to $1,500 for research or study abroad.
National Merit Finalists are eligible for the Presidential Scholarship at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), a four-year award that covers the cost of tuition, fees, and room and board. The total value of the award is approximately $114,356!
Full-Tuition Scholarships for National Merit Finalists
While a number of colleges offer full-ride scholarships to National Merit Finalists, numerous others provide National Merit Finalists with free tuition.
National Merit Finalists who select Harding University as their first-choice school with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation receive free tuition and a $2,000 annual stipend. Recipients must maintain a minimum 3.25 GPA and live in campus housing.
Iowa State University provides in-state National Merit Finalists with free tuition scholarships that are renewable for four years of undergraduate coursework. To receive the award, students must maintain full-time status at the University and a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Mississippi State University provides National Merit Finalists with free tuition and housing through its National Merit Finalist Scholarship, which is open to both in-state and out-of-state students. The award is worth approximately $40,000 over four years for Mississippi residents and $100,000 over four years for non-residents!
National Merit Finalists are eligible to receive a four-year award covering the cost of tuition at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). The award is renewable for four years, provided that recipients maintain full-time status and a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Both in-state and out-of-state National Merit Finalists qualify for a five-year tuition waiver at Oklahoma State University (OSU). The award is valued at up to $70,100 for in-state students and up to $147,700 for out-of-state students!
The University of Oklahoma (OU) won’t cover all the expenses of in-state and out-of-state National Merit Finalists; however, it does offer them particularly generous aid packages. OU waives tuition for National Merit Finalists and provides generous stipends to help offset the cost of room and board, books, technology, and fees. The University also awards stipends for study abroad and research.
The University of Houston (UH) offers National Merit Finalists a generous scholarship package if they attend the institution—they have the cost of tuition and fees covered. In addition, National Merit Scholars at UH receive a $2,000 stipend for study abroad and a $1,000 stipend for research.
National Merit Finalists at the University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) get complete tuition coverage for up to eight semesters. They also receive a stipend of $4,000 per semester to offset the cost of books, supplies, and other expenses; a housing stipend of $1,500 per semester; and a one-time stipend of $6,000 study abroad.
National Merit Finalists at UT Dallas also receive admission into the Collegium V Honors program.
National Merit Finalists with a minimum high school GPA of 3.5 can receive free tuition at the University of West Virginia along with a one-time $3,500 stipend for study abroad.
How Does Your PSAT Score Impact Your College Chances?
PSAT scores aren’t evaluated in the college admissions process; however, a high PSAT score is a strong indicator that an applicant will earn a high score on the SAT, which impacts your chances significantly. Standardized test scores and grades are used to calculate an applicant’s Academic Index—a single numerical score that many highly selective colleges use to screen applicants. If an applicant fails to meet a college’s Academic Index threshold, their application is likely to not receive serious consideration.
As mentioned above, becoming a National Merit Semifinalist is an impressive achievement in itself, since just the top 1% of scorers in a given state receive that recognition. National Merit Semifinalists will want to make sure to include it in the Awards and Honors section of the Common App, as it may improve their odds of college admission.
CollegeVine can help add clarity to your college admission odds. Our free chancing engine uses a variety of factors—ranging from grades to test scores to extracurricular activities—to estimate your odds at hundreds of colleges across the country! Rather than merely predict what college you may or may not get into, this powerful tool can also illuminate strengths and weaknesses in your college profile, giving you a chance to address underwhelming areas and improve your college admission odds.