How I became a National Merit Finalist, but still paid for college

Most people aim to become a National Merit finalist with the goal of getting free college (or maybe even having colleges pay you to go there.)

That was my original goal also, but the ending to this story is different from most.

Why I Wanted to Become a National Merit Scholar

Back in high school I sat next to an incredibly smart guy in my chemistry class.

This dude ran multiple businesses, completed homework in minutes, and was overall incredibly intelligent.

He missed class one day, and when he came back on the next day he said that he was a National Merit scholar.

I never heard of that before, so I barraged him with questions and somehow he didn't lose his patience and answered every single one I threw at him.

The cutoff score for the finalists in my state was 215 that year, so I set my goal to get 215 the next year and become a finalist.


I went online and found out that some colleges will let you go there for free and even give you a free laptop and $2k/year stipend.

I was in a completely debt-avoidant state at the time, so to me that was the holy grail.

Of course, like any regular high schooler I promptly forgot about this conversation as soon as I left the classroom and didn't remember about it until we had to sign up for the exam next year.

How I Studied​

I've taken the SAT 3 times and the ACT at least 5 before I had to the PSAT, so I wasn't too worried about it.

However, I still felt like I had to study because I wanted that free education dang it!

So I bought an SAT study book and went to work on it.

...for an entire 2 hours.

Then the day before the exam I realized that I still haven't studied much so I went online and looked up "how to prepare for the PSAT."

That's when I was hit with a bunch of BS about how it was impossible to get ready for it and not to worry about it.

Don't worry about it?

​Colleges can pay me to go there and you're telling me not to worry about it?

So I spent the next couple hours reviewing my weakest points (at that time that was vocab and forgotten math. I even got some quick reading strategies review in there and I was set!)

​BOOM! I got exactly a 215!

​Of course I ended up going to a college where I have to get into $17k of debt every year, but that's a completely different story...

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