National Merit Scholar

Honoring the nation’s scholastic champions and encouraging the pursuit of academic excellence.

National Merit Award


Bettendorf High School National Merit recipients: Back row (left to right) Breanna Vermeer, Jason Jiang and Justin Hettlage. From row: Allison Kling and Oskar Skogman.

Five Bettendorf High School seniors were recognized by the 2020 National Merit Scholarship Program. Justin Hettlage and Jason Jiang received recognition as semifinalists. Allison Kling, Oskar Skogman, and Breanna Vermeer were recognized as commended scholars.

Competition Steps

More than 1.5 million juniors in nearly 21,000 high schools entered the National Merit Program by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®), which served as an initial screen of program entrants. The nationwide semifinalists typically represent less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors, includes the highest scoring entrants in each state. The number of Semifinalists in a state is proportional to the state’s percentage of the national total of graduating seniors.

To become a finalist, a semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by the school principal, and earn SAT scores that confirm the student’s earlier qualifying test performance. The semifinalist and a school official must submit a detailed scholarship application, which includes the student’s self-descriptive essay and information about the Semifinalist’s participation and leadership in school and community activities.

Semifinalists may advance to the Finalist level and it is from this group that all Merit Scholarship winners are chosen. Merit Scholar designees are selected on the basis of their skills, accomplishments, and potential for success in rigorous college studies.

Merit Scholarship Awards

There are three types of Merit Scholarship awards every finalist will compete for one of 2,500 National Merit $2500 Scholarships that are awarded on a state representational basis. In addition, some 300 corporations and business organizations will underwrite about 1,100 corporate-sponsored scholarships for Finalists who meet their specified criteria, such as children of the grantor’s employees or residents of communities where sponsor plants or offices are located.