Only 737,000 of the expected 1.7 million juniors were able to take the October 2020 PSAT. Given the increasing number of January PSAT cancelations, Compass estimates hundreds of thousands of students will miss out on the test that represents the usual entry point to the National Merit Scholarship Program.
The PSAT, though, is not the only way to participate in National Merit. In fact, class of 2022 students can easily enter the National Merit competition as long as they have a recent SAT score or take the SAT this spring. This process is known as Alternate Entry.
- Juniors unable to take the makeup PSAT on January 26th can still enter the National Merit Scholarship Program via Alternate Entry.
- Students who have taken a junior year PSAT in October 2020 or January 2021 are automatically entered into the competition and cannot use Alternate Entry.
- Alternate entrants should fill out National Merit Scholarship Corporation’s short online form even if they have not yet taken the SAT. April 1, 2021 is the application deadline.
- There is also an NMSC PDF that explains more about the process and requirements for both PSAT and SAT takers.
- Alternate entrants must later send NMSC (College Board code 0085) an official report from an SAT taken between August 2020 and June 2021. NMSC must receive scores by October 15th.
- NMSC will use a student’s best Selection Index, but will not superscore. We recommend alternate entrants designate NMSC as one of their 4 free score reports included with SAT registration fees.
- Students may not receive qualifying SAT scores until after the Alternate Entry deadline. Students hoping to achieve National Merit honors should complete the application and worry about scores later. Compass estimates that this year’s Commended cutoff will be between 206 and 208. Semifinalist cutoffs will be more chaotic than usual because of varying levels in test cancelations from state to state. Compass estimates that they will range from 206 to 223. See Compass’s Semifinalist cutoffs post for more information.
- An ACT cannot be used to qualify as a Commended Student or Semifinalist. It can be used as a “confirming score” at the Finalist stage.
- Alternate Entry scores are not considered when calculating cutoffs, so even the expected influx of alternate entrants will not raise cutoffs and will not prevent PSAT takers from reaching Commended or Semifinalist status. Commended Students and Semifinalists will be notified by their schools in September. Alternate entrants who submit SAT scores at the last minute will be notified later.