Nedda Gilbert, MSW, Educational Consultant, and Author
This is a great question. There's a lot of confusion about what types of scholarships National Merit awards, and how many are distributed. So here goes: for 2016, approximately 8000 National Merit Scholarships will be made available to eligible winners. The overwhelming majority of these monetary awards will give you a financial boost towards college, but will by no means fully cover your costs.
There are three types of scholarships through the National Merit program: 1. National Merit Scholarships with awards of $2500.00 each in every state. 2. Corporate sponsored scholarships. 3. College sponsored scholarships.
It's hard to know what you mean by the "best" scholarship, but if you are referring to money, then the corporate awards might be the best. That's because these are financed by private corporate enterprise. Generally a family member needs to be an employee of the corporation that offers a merit scholarships. Eligibility is typically open to dependents or family members of an employee; but you will need to check with the human resources department at a given company. The purpose of these scholarships is to honor high-scorers and academic excellence, but importantly, to make opportunity and money, more readily accessibile to wide range of people. For example, the child of a mailroom employee is on equal footing with the offspring of a senior VP in aiming for one off these awards (although arguably the senior VP may be in a better position to provide his or her child superior schooling and do better on the PSAT - but I digress...). Many Fortune 500 companies participate in this program. These awards can can provide much higher amounts than the one-time $2500.00 offered through National Merit. Again, it depends on the company.
The third award is determined by a particular college - the one you commit to. If you agree to go to a chosen college and are a merit winner, you can receive a stipend of $500 - $2000.00 per year for each year of college. Again, this is dependent on the school.
To learn more about the PSAT/ National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT), you can go to www.nationalmerit.org, or contact the directly at (847) 866 - 5100.