NMSC History and Facts

National Merit Scholarship Corporation History and Facts

National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) was established in 1955 — a time in which there was concern that the United States was lagging behind in the cold war scientific race, but the public was indifferent to rewarding intellectual accomplishment. In response, the National Merit Scholarship Program was founded to identify and honor scholastically talented American youth and to encourage them to develop their abilities to the fullest. Through this nationwide competition National Merit Scholarships are awarded to program Finalists and Special Scholarships are awarded to other high performing participants who meet a corporate sponsor's eligibility criteria.

In 1964, contemporaneously with the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the National Achievement Scholarship Program was initiated specifically to identify academically promising Black American youth and encourage their pursuit of higher education. With the conclusion of the 2015 program, the National Achievement Scholarship Program transitioned to UNCF. Approximately 228,000 students have been recognized in the program and about 34,300 were chosen to receive Achievement Scholarship awards.

Participation in NMSC Programs

Program Year Student Entrants Participating High Schools
1956 58,158 10,388
1965 806,991 17,162
1975 1,021,212 17,299
1985 1,115,038 19,000
1995 1,127,842 19,450
2005 1,328,038 20,801
2015 1,477,188 22,207

 


For more than half a century, NMSC has continued to focus its attention solely on U.S. high school students at the uppermost end of the academic ability scale.

  • NMSC's mission to promote scholastic excellence and recognize students who exemplify it is still perceived to be of considerable value to the nation.
  • The competition is very rigorous; scholarship winners are chosen based on their abilities, skills, extracurricular accomplishments, and potential for success in college and beyond.
  • NMSC operates without government assistance and relies on an independent base of support — approximately 420 loyal sponsors who underwrite the majority of the scholarships.
  • Services have evolved to meet program purposes and the needs of participating high schools, colleges and universities attended by award recipients, and the scholarship sponsors whose generosity enhances the opportunities of honored students.
Featured Scholars
George N. Pandya
George N. Pandya
Endlessly curious and exceptionally innovative, George N. Pandya says, “I am always thrilled to immerse myself in a fascinating new problem, learning something new, whether I fail or succeed.” George received three associate’s degrees as a dual-enrollment student before graduating from high school, and his passion for learning has enabled him to gain experience both in the academic sphere and the workplace.
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Natalie M. Johnson
Natalie M. Johnson
The youngest of six sisters, Natalie M. Johnson has experienced the financial strain that often accompanies a quality education. “Winning a National Achievement Scholarship,” she says, “was very moving for me because it meant for the first time in my life I could pursue my academic passions without stress caused by limited finances.” Natalie iterates, “very real social barriers prevent other low-income students from achieving the same things as I have.” She intends to use her education to give back to others.
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Isaiah J. Drummond
Isaiah J. Drummond
Isaiah J. Drummond was inspired to combine his interests in biology and mechanical engineering after attending the Minority Introduction to Engineering and Sciences (MITES) summer program through Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At MITES, he won the Edna and Leon Trilling Award for Overall Academic Excellence, completed research at the Broad Institute for Genomics, and interviewed professionals at the Boston Medical Center. These activities motivated him to “work diligently to leave a positive, lasting impact on the world.” Isaiah asserts,“I hope to discover new ways to fight against ailments” and “use my knowledge and skills to increase public awareness of diseases and encourage others to join the fight.”
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Amy T. Sun
Amy T. Sun
While attending Johns Hopkins University, Amy T. Sun pursued a double degree in biomedical engineering and engineering mechanics. She gained valuable laboratory experience at several internships, including two at the National Institutes of Health, and worked as a research assistant in the systems biology laboratory at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Amy is passionate about “solving problems and understanding how the world works” and is grateful for her scholarship, which helped her partake in study abroad opportunities.
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Laurel M. Wright
Laurel M. Wright
Laurel M. Wright is the 2016 recipient of the National Merit John M. Stalnaker Memorial Scholarship, which is given each year to an outstanding National Merit Finalist planning to pursue a career in mathematics or science. This four-year award is underwritten by NMSC in honor of its founding President and Chief Executive Officer, who recognized a need for increased support of science and math in America. Laurel is attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where she plans to turn her dream of becoming a theoretical physicist into a reality.
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