Overseas Homeschoolers and the National Merit Scholarship
Here in the U.S. homeschoolers can become National Merit Scholars the same way that public school students do, by taking the PSAT-NMSQT in 11th grade. You can learn everything about this process in my article, National Merit Scholarship Information for Homeschoolers.
Not all homeschoolers are living in the U.S. though. Some expatriats can't find a place to take the PSAT at all. So you can see how it can be more complicated when U.S. citizens are living overseas, where the PSAT may not be available. But if that's you, there is still hope!
Overseas homeschoolers can bypass the PSAT and apply for the National Merit Scholarship using SAT scores alone! Recently, I received an email from Kristen who had successfully negotiated the system. Her daughter became a National Merit Scholar Commended student without taking the PSAT in 11th grade. She shares her story here, so if you are living overseas, please read this carefully!
National Merit Scholarship for Overseas Students
In case you're asked again about overseas folks qualifying for the National Merit Scholarship, I've just been through that process & will share the steps here. I’ve attached the Request for Alternate Entry form. In our case the PSAT was not available to our daughter in junior year because we live overseas, and homeschooled (the international schools only allow their enrolled students to take the PSAT and AP exams).
Step 1: Contact the NMSC.
First I spoke to someone at NMSC on the phone, and was instructed to email email@example.com with the student’s name, age, address, college board case ID number, school info including code, plus an explanation of why we were requesting alternate entry into the NMSQT program.
Step 2: I was contacted by someone in the Scholarship Administration department, who – after the October PSAT was officially finished in the US - attached some forms by email and wrote: “Per your request, a copy of the Alternate Entry materials for the 2016 National Merit Scholarship Program is attached to this email. This material includes three documents: a letter explaining how to enter the competition on the basis of SAT scores, the 2016 program entry requirements, and a Request for Alternate Entry form. This material is approved only for those students who have already been granted Alternate Entry by NMSC, either through written request or as the result of a testing irregularity. Should you have any questions about the attached material, please contact NMSC.”
Step 3: After submitting the Request for Alternate Entry form, register for & take the SAT test. I don’t recall nor do I have record of any correspondence from the Scholarship Administration saying “You’re approved, go ahead & register”. We just registered and went ahead with the SAT. *Note that if the student takes the SAT more than once, they will take the best overall score in their consideration for the NMSQT - they don’t super score.
Step 4: Submit the SAT score(s) to the NMSC (code 0085). We used that code as one of our 4 free score submissions.
Step 5: If the SAT scores are high enough, you’ll get a letter in the mail either with the Commended status or Semi-finalist status.
Three considerations about using the SAT for alternate entry into the NMSQT program: 1) The NMSQT is only an option for U.S. citizens. 2) Using the SAT to qualify means a much longer and harder test than the PSAT. 3) Taken internationally, the minimum selection index cutoff is quite a bit higher than most U.S. states. The international index number was the highest cutoff at least last year, in fact.
Our daughter received “Commended” status on her 2nd SAT test session, and we’re so grateful! But had she been in the U.S. taking the PSAT, she might’ve gone on to be a finalist. Nothing we can do about that. On the flip side, two different colleges awarded her scholarships amounting to $4000 per year each for her significant overseas experience. (This is in addition to the academic merit awards).
This process is similar to what happens when your child misses the PSAT for medical reasons. If you are scheduled to take the PSAT in 11th grade, but your child is hospitalized and misses the test or experiences a catastrophic event, the National Merit Corporation does have a system that can allow you to apply without that critical PSAT score. According to NationalMerit.org:
If a Student Misses the PSAT/NMSQT
A student who does not take the PSAT/NMSQT because of illness, an emergency, or other extenuating circumstance, but meets all other requirements for NMSC program participation, may still be able to enter the competitions. The student or a school official must write to NMSC as soon as possible after the PSAT/NMSQT administration to request information about procedures for entry to NMSC competitions by alternate testing. The earlier NMSC receives the written request, the greater the student’s opportunities for meeting alternate entry requirements. To be considered, a request must be postmarked no later than March 1 following the PSAT/NMSQT administration that was missed. NMSC will provide alternate entry materials including an entry form that requires the signature of a school official.
This can only work in case of serious emergency, though. Simply missing the test is not enough to enter the competition. It requires significant effort on the part of the parent, in addition to stellar SAT Test scores. If you plan to request an alternate entry this way, follow their directions very carefully, and be sure to be exceptionally clear and concise. Good luck!