The National Merit Scholarship Program is an academic competition for juniors each year that awards scholarship money to qualifying students. Sophomore scores are not allowed to be submitted for consideration.
Juniors take the PSAT in the fall and they are notified if they are in the running for possible scholarship recognition upon score release. The following fall, as seniors, the National Merit organization designates the students who have qualified into groups; the groups are as follows: Commended, Semi-Finalists, and Finalists. The top performers are awarded as Winners. Each state has differing “cut off” scores, so you should research your state’s scores of the previous year in order to have an idea of what to aim for.