Recipe for Getting National Merit Scholarship


You can generate fire by striking two hard objects against each other. The same way you can create the flame of excellence to achieve any goal by striking a burning desire for the goal with immense hard work. This is the only recipe to achieve excellence, let it be sports, music, dance, college, career, or SAT.

According to Grant Cardone, the author of the book "The rule of 10 X", the only difference between the top and average achiever is that top achiever works ten times more than the average achiever.

Author Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks emphasizes in his book “Pour Your Heart into IT” to be passionate about your goal.

So to achieve excellence in any pursuit, there are three factors involved:

  1. Clear and complete knowledge of the goal and what is required to make it.
  2. Burning desire to achieve this goal.
  3. Commitment to hard work.

Let us understand these three factors.

  1. Knowledge of National Merit Scholarship

About 1.6 million students appear for PSAT test during the fall of their Junior year in High School. This test is also considered as a National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). Top 50,000 (approx. 3%) students are selected for consideration, purely on the basis of their PSAT score. Selection depends upon the "selection Index," which is calculated from the scores obtained in PSAT test. Students appear for two tests: English (Reading, Writing, and Language) and Math. The maximum score for each test is 760.

To calculate "selection index," double the English score, add Math score and divide by 10.

Suppose student scores 700 in English and 730 in Math. The selection index will be (700 x 2 + 730) /10 = 213. This is a good score to be included in the list 0f 50,000. The cut-off score for the last two years has been 212 in Maryland. Cut off scores vary from State to State. California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Maryland have the highest selection index. Maximum Selection Index is (760 x 2 + 760)/10 = 228.

At the next level of selection, only top 16,000 (top 1%) are selected as Semi-finalist. Remaining 34,000 receive a letter of commendation, which in itself is very helpful in getting college and Corporate-sponsored scholarships, and admission in a prestigious college. This year cut off score for Maryland students is 223.

Depending upon letters of recommendations and extracurricular activities, 15,000 are selected as finalists. Further depending upon the GPA in high School years and SAT scores taken in senior year, 8000 receive National Merit Scholarship. The amount is  $2500 per year for four years. These students accumulate hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships from various other sources depending upon their performance.

It is not the only scholarship, but the honor which goes with it is worthwhile to put maximum effort.

  1. Burning desire to achieve the goal.

Burning desire is the necessary fuel that ignites the fire of achieving excellence. It can be cultivated.

Here is a list of 10 ways; one can cultivate the burning desire for any worthwhile goal. You can think of more ways.

  1. Be 100% committed. No thought of giving up.
  2. Create an environment which supports your resolve, like joining a group, working for the same goal.
  3. Put 100% attention and energy to achieve this goal. Do not drain energy on other tasks.
  4. Use your Will Power judiciously as not to be distracted.
  5. Surround yourself with positive people who trust you, believe, and respect your resolve. Avoid Cynical, critical people.
  6. Feed your mind with inspirational books. Read “The Game of Life and How to Play it” by Florence Shinn and her other works.
  7. Stop watching TV news. Watch anything which narrates the true story of courage and triumph.
  8. Listen to music that inspires and energizes you.
  9. Be in contact with nature. Go for a short walk in the morning. It generates positive energy.
  10. Watch your mind. Between pleasant and good, choose good. We have an entire life to enjoy pleasant moments.


  1. Commitment to hard work.

Here are ten ways you can motivate yourself to hard work.

  1. Take Baby steps. One day at a time, one task at a time.
  2. Finish the task in hand before starting a new job.
  3. Don’t think about the difficulty of doing it. Think about the satisfaction and happiness of completing it.
  4. Remember the Rule of 10 X. To achieve excellence in anything, you have to take massive action.
  5. Time is your precious treasure. Use this treasure the way you want it, not the way others want it. Say “NO” to other’s demand of your time.
  6. Enjoy what you are doing. Then hard work becomes a play.
  7. Don’t get discouraged by anything. Keep going. Discouragement robs you of your enthusiasm to work hard.
  8. When tired, take a short break and resume work. You are in control.
  9. Find people or person around you who can push you to succeed.
  10. Remind yourself about the importance of achieving the goal.


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