Direct Medical Programs That Offer Substantial National Merit Scholarships

By Brandie Erickson November 28, 2023 BS/MD Admissions Consulting College Application Paying for College Press Scholarships and Financial Aid

Direct medical programs, also known as BS/MD, BA/MD, BS/DO or BA/DO programs, represent a unique opportunity for aspiring physicians to join a direct pathway to medicine. These programs allow high school students to commit early to medicine, oftentimes reducing the time and financial burdens typically associated with medical school.

Despite this, many students graduate with considerable debt, with more than 71% of med school students graduating with loans. To reduce this financial burden, some schools will offer scholarships to students who qualify for the National Merit Scholarship.

The National Merit Scholarship Program is an annual competition open to all high school students in the United States who meet the program entry requirements. For most participants, they will take the PSAT/NMSQT in their junior year to qualify for the award in the year following their high school graduation.

To enter the National Merit Program, a student must meet the following criteria:

  • Be enrolled as a high school student (either traditional or homeschooled) and will plan to enter college the year following their high school graduation
  • Attend high school in the United States, District of Columbia or U.S. commonwealths and territories. If they attend high school outside of the United States, they must be a U.S. citizen or be a U.S. lawful permanent resident.
  • Take the PSAT/NMSQT no later than the third year in grades 9-12, regardless of grade classification or educational pattern.

More than 1.3 million students enter the competition annually, but only 50,000 will be recognized as high scorers. From there, they will be further distinguished as:

  • Commended Students – 34,000 students will qualify as Commended Students. While this means they won’t move forward in the competition for the National Merit Scholarship, they might still be eligible for other scholarships provided by corporate or business sponsors.
  • Semifinalists – 16,000 students will move forward as Semifinalists, meaning they scored the highest in their state. They will be notified of the next steps through their school.
  • Finalists – in February of their senior year, 15,000 students will be notified if they have advanced to the Finalist stage. To be chosen as a National Merit Scholarship recipient, the student must advance to this stage.

Of the 15,000 students who advance to the finalist stage, a little less than half (7,140) will win one of the three types of National Merit Scholarships:

  • National Merit $25,000 Scholarships
  • Corporate-sponsored scholarships
  • College-sponsored scholarships


Direct Medical Programs That Offer College-Sponsored National Merit Scholarships

Roughly 3,800 National Merit Scholarships will be offered to finalists who plan to attend a sponsoring college or university. In total, there are about 160 colleges that currently are sponsors. These scholarships are renewable for up to four years at the sponsoring college, and are non-transferable, meaning they are canceled if the student opts not to attend the sponsoring college.

In the full Forbes article here, you can see a list of Direct Medical Programs offering National Merit Scholarships to qualifying students. These scholarships are subject to change. Confirm on each individual school’s website to review any updated information.