Like Rhodes Scholars, National Merit Scholarship finalists tend to be students with great futures behind them. Moreover, students who actually win the scholarships typically receive a pittance on the order of $2,500—a drop in the proverbial college tuition bucket.
On the plus side, until you get a real job or at least move out of your parents’ basement, it’s a nice perk to be able to call yourself a National Merit Scholarship finalist.
One hugely unfair problem with the whole National Merit Scholarship scheme is that it penalizes kids who live in densely-populated states (and rewards kids who live in sparsely-populated states). This is absolutely by design. All of the 1.5 million students who take the PSAT are theoretically eligible to become finalists. The 16,000 semifinalists are then selected on a state-by-state basis. Each state gets a set number of semifinalists based on its percentage of American high school seniors.
The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, more commonly known as FairTest, has helpfully taken inventory of the cutoff scores in each state.
As FairTest notes, National Merit’s geographic balancing policy means that minimum test score requirements for scholarship eligibility on the qualifying exam’s 60 to 240-point scale vary wildly by state. For the class of 2014, scholarship eligibility minimums range from 224 in Massachusetts to 203 in West Virginia. It’s 219 in Texas. It’s 213 in Missouri.
If obtaining a National Merit Scholarship is your goal in life (for yourself or your kids), it obviously pays to abscond directly to a state where the eligibility minimum is low. With this strategy in mind, The Daily Caller has helpfully compiled the 11 states with the lowest National Merit Scholarship eligibility minimums.
SEE THE SLIDESHOW: