There are several stages in the National Merit Scholar Competition. Every state has a different standard PSAT score that needs to be obtained in order to be named a semi-finalist. In 2014, score thresholds for semi-finalist status ranged from 203 to 224.
Students apply to become a Finalist in their senior year. In order to qualify, students need to complete an application, take the SAT, continue to achieve high scores in classes and receive an endorsement for finalist status from their high school. Candidates must have finalist standing in order to be eligible for any merit scholarships. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation organizes the competition annually.