What are the Governor, National Merit and Presidential scholarships?

What exactly are these awards and why do they matter?

Isabella Bonilla

The Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES) is eligible for any student who earns at least a 2.5 GPA at a Kentucky certified high school. The better your grades and ACT/SAT or AP scores, the more money a student earns.  This applies to each year of high school attended. For example, if a student maintained a 4.0 their freshman year, they would earn $500. If they maintained a 3.5 GPA in junior year, they would earn an additional $375. KEES money may only be used at participating schools. Students may manage their KEES money by creating a free account. 

The Governor’s Scholar Program is a summer residential program for incoming Kentucky seniors. Both a social and intellectual event, students stay at a select Kentucky college for five weeks in order to experience campus life: going to classes, seminars and participating in extracurricular activities. The program itself is free; however, juniors must be nominated by their high school and go through an application process. The application process consists of an academic profile, student profile, community recommendation, teacher recommendation and a writing entry. Only 1,020 students are admitted every year, and over 2,000 typically apply. 

The benefits of participating in such a rigorous process and attending the residential can be as numerous as a student makes them. Besides the added prestige it also adds to a student’s college application, and students can be awarded various scholarships.  Students have the opportunity to be awarded partial or even full scholarships to select colleges.

Sister programs include the Governor’s School for the Arts and the Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs, which focuses on product innovation and business model design

The National Merit Scholarship (NMSC) is eligible for any high school student who is either a United States citizen or attending a high school in the United States, District of Columbia or U.S commonwealth or territory. They must have taken the PSAT as a junior. NMSC are co-sponsors of the test and a student’s score is what is used to determine entry-level and potential scholarship opportunities. This is an automatic process and all the student needs to do is the best they can on the PSAT. 

The number of students who make it to the different levels of the National Merit Scholarship Competition.

An asterisk next to the student’s Selection Index Score means that a student did not qualify for entry-level.  If there is no asterisk, the student qualified for entry and will advance to the next level.  If this is the case, the student will be notified in September through their schools that they are either a commended student or semifinalist. 

Commended students are recognized for their outstanding academic performance, just barely missing the cutoff to continue in the competition. Other scholarship opportunities are still available through National Merit for these particular students.

Semifinalist students are the highest scoring individuals from each state, with around 16,000 students chosen from across the country. NMSC will provide scholarship application material to these students through their high schools. Semifinalists complete the extensive application form in order to compete for a finalist position. Finalists are given a Certificate of Merit in early February and can earn numerous scholarship benefits. Students of color may also consider the National Achievement Scholarship Program.

The Presidential Scholars’ Program is arguably one of the most prestigious educational awards in the United States. This program is invitation-only. Students have to be a U.S citizen and ACT/SAT scores are heavily reviewed for eligibility. Letters of invitation to apply are sent out at the beginning of the year to the chosen students. 

From there, selected students fill out an extensive application form to be submitted for further review. Only 161 students are chosen for this honor nationwide. Semifinalists are notified sometime in April, and the official scholars are notified sometime in May of that same year. 

The Presidential Scholars’ Program is not a scholarship, but a recognition program. Chosen scholars have an all-expense-paid trip to Washington D.C, where they attend award ceremonies, meet with important officials and visit historic cultural sites. However, that doesn’t mean a student may not receive a scholarship from the award. Some colleges even offer full tuition to these students. 

This program also features an artistic component. The Presidential Scholar of the Arts is equally prestigious and nominates only 60 students. More information can be found on their website.

Image Citation: “National-Merit-Picture-.jpeg” by TestPrepGurus. No changes were made to this image. The use of this photo does not indicate photographer endorsement. 

Featured Image Citation: “https://gsp.ky.gov/applicants/Applications%20%20Forms/2018-2019%20Helpful%20Hints%20Packet.pdf” by Kentucky Governor Scholar Program. No changes were made to this image. The use of this photo does not indicate photographer endorsement.