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Overseas Homeschoolers and the National Merit Scholarship

Overseas Homeschoolers and the National Merit Scholarship


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


~ Kristen

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 scholarshipadmin@nmerit.net 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!



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Lee Binz
Hi KML! When you register for the PSAT, they ask you for your school code for your state you will return to.... which isn't always... Read More
Thursday, 04 April 2019 16:42
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National Merit Success Story

National Merit Success Story
If your child tends to be a little bit on the "smart" side, start researching the National Merit Scholarship early in high school.  With just a little practice, smart kids can do stunningly well in the National Merit Scholarship Competition.  And homeschooler can win!


 

Renee wrote to share about her daughter's successes.
I had to share the news about my daughter Abigail. This go-around (as opposed to the first two children), we listed her as private school student using our legal cover St Peter's Academy but when she made National Merit Semi-Finalist, the National Merit folks designated her as a homeschooler. I had to do all the paperwork (very stressful) and find someone (not related that had taught her) to write a letter of recommendation. The only outside classes she'd taken were online college courses, voice lessons and theater. Thankfully her theater instructor is reliable and was willing to write the letter. Today we got notification that Abigail is a Finalist. At her top choice school she'll get $9700 a year, out of state fees waived (worth about $15,000 a year), a laptop and money toward study abroad. At her second choice school (in-state), she'll receive tuition, room, board and a books stipend. We are so proud of her and once again just shows that homeschoolers can do anything. Parents with younger ones need to know it can be done!
~ Renee

It's true, what Renee said.  The paperwork involved can be daunting.  The best thing is to be prepared.  If you already have your transcripts and course descriptions ready to go, the paperwork is much easier to manage.  For more tips, or just to educate yourself, check out this article: National Merit Scholarship Information for Homeschoolers .

Not every child will win the National Merit Scholarship, but there is more than one way to get great scholarships.  For example,Renee’s older daughter did not get the National Merit Scholarship. She did get a full ride scholarship, based on ACT scores. There are lots of ways to afford college and scholarships.  You can read the story of that child here: "Homeschooler Wins Full Scholarship – Plus Some More!"


 

Now read Renee's words again, and repeat after me, "homeschoolers can do anything!"



For more information about how your child can earn great college scholarships, watch my video, “Getting the BIG Scholarships,” available both as an online class or DVD.

National Merit Success Story
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National Merit Scholarship Information for Homeschoolers

National Merit Scholarship Information for Homeschoolers
Money for College!


Have you seen billboards and newspaper articles announcing that a student is a National Merit Scholar?  Did you know that those students entered the competition by taking the PSAT? The National Merit Scholarship is the best known high school scholarship in the nation, and the only way to win is to start with the PSAT test.  Therefore, the single most important thing you can do to win that scholarship is to make sure your children take the PSAT in October of 11th grade.

Students are invited to participate in the competition based on their Selection Index from the PSAT, compared to other students within each state.  The Selection Index is used to compare high school juniors within each state.  Because each state is different, it's impossible to predict exactly how your child will compare.  However, if your student's scores are above the 98th percentile on the PSAT, there is a possibility they may qualify for the National Merit Scholarship.Monetary Amount Varies

The National Merit Scholarship is a non-renewable, one-time award of up to $2500.  Not everyone gets the whole prize amount, and some will get far less. When you compare the award to the cost of colleges, it doesn't seem like much.  But the National Merit Scholarship can be a stepping stone to other scholarships.

Keep reading the whole article online to learn about the National Merit Scholarship process, and how to plan for success.  See the whole scholarship timeline, so you are prepared.


Read the Article






For more information about how your child can earn great college scholarships, watch my video, “Getting the BIG Scholarships,” available both as an online class or DVD.


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Register for the PSAT

Register for the PSAT
Right now is the time.  No more putting it off.  Call the local high school (public or private) and ask them how to register your homeschooled student for the PSAT.  The test is in October, but you need to register as soon as possible.


The PSAT in 10th grade is "for fun."  It's an opportunity for sophomores to try the PSAT for the first time, when it really don't matter for anything.

The PSAT in 11th grade is "for profit" because the junior year PSAT is the only year it counts for the National Merit Scholarship.  If you have a particularly smart 11th grader, they may score high enough to get the National Merit Scholarship.  Otherwise, the PSAT is just great practice for the SAT in the spring.  Either way, it's a great opportunity. It can estimate your score on the SAT, and help you figure out which colleges might be a good fit in the future.

I don't usually recommend the PSAT in 9th grade.  At that age, most kids don't have the amount of math they need to score well.  Since they can't do well, I worry that kids will develop a test phobia, from being forced to take a test they when they are expected to do poorly.  Unless kids have completed geometry, taking the test in 9th grade may do more harm than good.

If you want to learn more about the PSAT, this article will help: Take the PSAT for Fun and Profit



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Did You Miss the PSAT?

Did You Miss the PSAT?
Sometimes in your heart of hearts, a mom will just KNOW that her child could qualify for the National Merit Scholarship.  If that describes you, what do you do when your child misses the PSAT?  There is a way to apply for the National Merit Scholarship even if your child has missed the test.



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.  back to top

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!



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When should kids practice for the PSAT?

When should kids practice for the PSAT?
The PSAT is great practice for the SAT!  Don't  study before taking it in 10th grade, so that you have a good idea of where you are starting from.  The PSAT does NOT have a hand written essay, it's just a "fill in the bubble" test.  Taking it without practicing can tell you what your "worst possible" score would be  the following year.  It may be helpful to practice for the PSAT after taking it in 10th grade, depending on your situation.  For example, if your student's score on the "fun" PSAT (sophomore year) makes them a definite candidate for the National Merit Scholarship, then by all means have them study for the "profit" portion of the PSAT their junior year!

Here is the book I recommend for PSAT practice.



If you haven't already, make sure you read my article on taking the PSAT for fun and profit, in my article archives.  You can take it and post it on your blog or website if you think it will help your readers as well!  If you aren't on my email newsletter mailing list, make sure you sign up here.
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Can I Take the PSAT After the SAT?

Can I Take the PSAT After the SAT?

"If my son has already taken the SAT as a sophomore, can he take the PSAT to see if he qualifies for the National Merit Scholarship, and then retake the SAT, or how does that work?"

Dear Holly,

Yes!  You can take the PSAT after the SAT.  On the National Merit Scholarship Corporation website, you can read about the small details and unusual situations.

When I read this page, it seemed as though they really understood gifted kids.  You can give them the test early or graduate them early and still compete.  Check out the site and read for yourself, because it may put you at ease a bit.

My son Alex was in the same position.  Because Alex was doing so well on SAT practice exams when we practiced with his older brother, we had him take the SAT when he was 15 years old.  He ended up scoring an 800, 790 and 790 on the three exam sections, and we were STUNNED.  That was my first clue that he might need to graduate high school early!  The following year he took the PSAT.  Because he was already taking pre-calculus at that time, we made sure he reviewed the SAT Math section.  The day of the PSAT, he woke up on the wrong side of the bed, though.  He had a bad day (teens do that sometimes, you know?)  He didn't score exceptionally well on the PSAT, and ended up being "only" a commended student.  Since the PSAT is only counts ONE TIME as the National Merit Qualifying Test, he had not opportunity to do a re-take.

If you qualify for the National Merit, there are a lot of hoops you have to jump through before you get the award.  The prize itself is relatively small, at "just" $2500 per year.  Sure it may seem like a lot, but it's not much compared to the cost of college.  The National Merit is still worth pursuing, however.  Although the prize is small, the colleges LOVE to have National Merit Scholars.  Many colleges will award huge scholarships to National Merit Scholars.  There are also some businesses that will provide scholarship money to National Merit Scholars!  So even though the prize itself is small, the consequences can be huge.

Look at the college brochures for the schools you are looking at.  If the glossy fliers mention something like "We have 10 National Merit Scholars and 11 Commended Students" then the chances are very good that they will provide large scholarship awards for the winners.   Even though Alex was "just commended" he was still given great scholarships from every college he applied to.

In my opinion, the PSAT and National Merit Scholarship is worth the effort to pursue.  But if you don't win the National Merit, being Commended is also a great commendation!



Learn more about Preparing Homeschoolers for college at my Dig Deeper website!
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