College and University Sponsorship of Merit Scholarship

Scholarships awarded through National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC®) programs are regarded as some of the highest academic honors attainable by U.S. high school students. Last year NMSC awarded scholarships valued at about $39 million to approximately 8,500 qualified students. Although NMSC underwrites more than a quarter of the scholarships with its own funds, most awards are provided by independent sponsor organizations.


  • Corporations sponsor scholarships to recognize and encourage academically talented students, foster employee loyalty, initiate promising relationships with students, and identify potential candidates for internships and employment.
  • Colleges and universities eagerly seek to enroll scholastically able students who have outstanding potential for future leadership. Many higher education institutions sponsor Merit Scholarship® awards for Finalists who will attend their institutions.

Currently, about 180 corporations, company foundations, and businesses and approximately 160 colleges and universities provide National Merit Scholarship Corporation scholarships. All funds provided to NMSC by sponsors are used for scholarships and are tax-deductible contributions


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Corporate Sponsorship

NMSC conducts scholarship programs for corporations, company foundations, and other business organizations. Most corporate-sponsored awards are designated for children of a sponsor’s employees or members. However, some are offered for residents of a community where a company has operations or for students with college major or career plans the sponsor wishes to encourage. NMSC services for sponsors include:

  • identifying candidates who meet a sponsor’s criteria and processing applications,
  • processing Entry Forms (online and hard copy) for scholarship program participants,
  • selecting scholarship winners from the candidate pool,
  • assisting with Scholar announcements,
  • providing certificates to present to Scholars,
  • distributing scholarship payments to Scholars, and
  • monitoring and reporting on the progress of Scholars toward completion of their undergraduate degrees.

Each sponsor announces its program, confirms eligibility of award winners, and pays scholarship costs. Sponsors are billed annually for scholarship costs, which include stipend amounts paid to winners and nominal grants that are used to underwrite National Merit® $2500 Scholarships for which all Finalists are considered. These grants are provided to NMSC by the sponsor in lieu of paying any administrative fees. Additionally, some sponsors recognize Scholars at special events and/or in company publications.

The number of scholarships a company, business, or foundation offers annually may range from one to more than 100. Within guidelines established by NMSC, corporate sponsors select the monetary arrangements for the scholarships they finance. They also decide whether to offer awards that may be renewed for up to four years of undergraduate study (renewable scholarships) or one-time scholarships.

Companies and other business organizations annually underwrite some 950 corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship® awards for Finalists in the National Merit® Scholarship Program and about 800 Special Scholarships for program participants who are outstanding but are not Finalists. Sponsors that provide Special Scholarships in addition to their Merit Scholarship awards are able to offer a fixed number of awards in each competition, even though the number of Finalists eligible for their awards varies from year to year. More than two-thirds of corporate sponsors use NMSC’s scholarship management services to complement their Merit Scholarship awards with Special Scholarships. A Special Scholarship candidate must meet a sponsor’s criteria and file the sponsor’s Entry Form, as well as meet entry requirements of the National Merit Program.

For more information about becoming a corporate sponsor and the benefits of sponsorship, click here.  (Adobe Acrobat Reader is required.)

Each year colleges and universities support about 3,800 Merit Scholarship awards for Finalists who have been admitted to and will attend their institutions. Only Finalists who notify NMSC by the published deadlines of their plans to attend a sponsor institution are considered for college-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards.

College-sponsored awards are renewable for up to four years of undergraduate study at the sponsor institution and provide stipends that range between $500 and $2,000 per year. Officials of each sponsor college select winners for their awards and determine the amount of the annual stipend within the specified range. College-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards are canceled if the winner decides not to attend the college financing the scholarship.

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