For 149 Mississippi high school seniors, the 2023 National Merit Scholarship Competition brought good news: these high-achieving students have earned the celebrated “Semifinalist” designation. In order to do so, they had to score among the top 1% of Mississippi students who took the PSAT/NMSQT in October of 2021. 

As a percentage of the senior class, Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science (MSMS) took the top honors, with 12% of their high school seniors qualifying. For comparison, the national average is just 1%-meaning that MSMS is graduating high-achieving students at 12 times the national average. Coming in tied for second are St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, Jackson Preparatory School and St. Patrick’s Catholic School, each with a little over 4% of their senior class earning the Semifinalist distinction.

However, academically-inclined Mississippians don’t have to pay for private school tuition or drive off to boarding school—they could also live in the Jackson suburb of Madison, Mississippi. Madison Central High School remains a perennial talent magnet for Mississippi’s top students with nearly 4% of its senior class earning the Semifinalist designation. 

To win the coveted “Semifinalist” designation in Mississippi, students must have scored at a 210 or higher (out of 228). This is roughly equivalent to earning a composite score of 1400 (out of 1600) on the SAT. This cutoff score decreased by one from the previous year.

Semifinalists are eligible for full rides (free tuition and housing) to Ole Miss and Mississippi State (valued at more than $60,000) plus more than 1,000 corporate-sponsored scholarships and 4,000 college-sponsored scholarships.

Click here to go straight to the names of the winners!

About the National Merit Scholarship Competition

Steps in the Year-Long Road to Become a Scholarship Awardee

wdt_ID Step Deadline Description
1 Take the Junior PSAT Mid October About 1.5 million high school juniors take the PSAT during school in October. However, students who cannot attend the in-school sitting may participate through a method known as "Alternate Entry" using SAT Scores instead.
2 Semifinalists Announced September 14th 2022 NMSC releases the names of Semifinalists to the news media. Roughly 16,000 high school students will qualify based off scoring in the top 1% of their state.
3 Students Take ACT/SAT Sept./Oct. 2022 Respectively Semifinalists should aim to take the ACT and SAT on their respective test dates in September and October. Students who take the tests later than these dates will likely not get their scores in time to be eligible for the full NMSC award.
4 Finalist Application Deadline October 5th, 2022 Semifinalists submit an application through their high school, which must include an endorsement from the school and records of high academic achievement.
5 ACT/SAT Scores Due December 31st, 2022 The NMSC must receive a Semifinalists's official SAT and/or ACT scores by December 31st in order for the student to be considered for the Finalist designation and full scholarship.
6 Finalists Announced February 13th, 2023 NMSC mails letters to Finalists. Roughly 95% of Semifinalists make the Finalist designation.
7 Scholarships Awarded March - May 2023 NMSC will begin offering National Merit $2,500 Scholarships awards beginning on March 24th, 2023. Corporate-sponsored awards may be offered earlier; college-sponsored awards are awarded beginning in May 2023.

Nationally, over 1.5 million students participate in the National Merit Scholarship competition beginning the fall of their junior year. Juniors from more than 20,000 US high schools compete by sitting for what is essentially an abbreviated, practice SAT (PSAT).

Of these, approximately 16,000 students earned the designation “Semifinalist.” (An additional 34,000 students earned a “Commended” by scoring above a 209 out of 228). National Merit Semifinalists can qualify for a wide range of both corporate- and college-sponsored scholarships.

Around 90% of Semifinalists will go on to become National Merit Finalists; 2,500 students will eventually gain the title of National Merit Scholar, which comes with a $2,500 scholarship. Read more about the requirements to become a Merit Finalist or Merit Scholar

Top Mississippi Schools by National Merit Semifinalists

The following schools are the top 10 by Semifinalist count in the class of 2023 competition:

  1. Madison Central High School – 18 
  2. Mississippi School for Mathematics & Science – 15 
  3. Center Hill High School – 8
  4. Hernando High School – 8
  5. Northwest Rankin High School – 7
  6. Lewisburg High School – 7
  7. Oxford High School – 7
  8. Clinton High School – 5
  9. Jackson Preparatory School – 5
  10. St. Patrick’s Catholic School– 3

With relatively few hard numbers by which to compare schools, parents and students may be tempted to use the number of National Merit Semifinalists to make a judgment about a school’s quality. However, while these data points can be useful in describing the profile of a single class, it’s difficult to verifiably say that there is a direct causal relationship between these achievements and the overall quality of a school’s education.

Many academically talented students are likely to score in the top 1% on the PSAT regardless of what school they attend. These numbers, therefore, best indicate which schools seem to have attracted a quorum of academically elite students.

To most accurately assess a school’s academic quality, parents and students should look at a number of factors, including their National Merit Semifinalists and their test scores. 

Visit Piqosity’s in-depth analysis of Mississippi high schools’ ACT scores.

Top 10 College Majors for Mississippi’s National Merit Semifinalist

A plurality of Mississippi’s top students are hoping to pursue careers in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), with 12% of Semifinalists planning to major in some form of engineering in particular.

Of the sciences, Biology and related fields are the most popular, with 11% of students indicating an intended major in Biosciences. Health Professions are also popular, with 8% of students following courses of study such as Pre-Med and Nursing.

Computer Sciences saw a jump in interest, with 3% of students indicating a related field as their intended major.

The humanities, in contrast, are clearly not favored: only two students declared a plan to major in Social Sciences. 

All this said, 34% of semifinalists were either undecided or did not declare an intention. It’s possible that some of these students will turn out to be brilliant performing artists, social scientists, businesspeople, or lawyers!

A student’s intended major is designated by the three-digit code in front of their name.

How to Improve your SAT and PSAT Scores

Strong performance in your core academic classes is the single biggest indicator of success on college admissions tests like the SAT and ACT. In other words, the best way to improve your SAT and PSAT scores is to focus on your grades in school. 

The next best way to improve your SAT and PSAT scores is to take multiple practice tests. Doing so allows you to identify your strengths and weaknesses, make improvements, and grow more comfortable with the exam format and structure.

Piqosity, a leader in test prep for the ISEE, ACT, and SAT, offers up to 10 full-length practice tests for the SAT. In addition to these practice tests, our platform includes: 

  • A Mini Diagnostic Test to help you establish your current level
  • 60+ content lessons, including video tutorials 
  • Adaptive, personalized practice sets that adjust to your strengths and weaknesses
  • Real-time score prediction based your progress  
  • Answer explanations for all test questions 
  • An adaptable timer to simulate real testing experience or help you keep track of your speed
  • Online whiteboard and printable PDFs options

Sign-up is free and individual plans are competitively priced. If you’re an educator or tutor, you can also take advantage of Piqosity’s free LMS and group pricing (including free plans for eligible public schools.)   

Names of 2021-2022 Mississippi Semifinalists by High School

Congratulations to this year’s high scorers!

How to Read This Sortable Table

  • The default sort is alphabetically by city and high school; to change the sorting order, click on the header by which you want to sort.
  • “College Major” indicates a student’s declared preference on the PSAT. A mark of “Undecided” means the student declared their lack of preference; an “Undeclared” means the student did not respond to the question.

Mississippi National Merit Semifinalists for 2022-23

Why is Piqosity writing an article about Mississippi?

Shelby Joe, Piqosity’s founder, was born and raised in Mississippi and was himself a National Merit Semifinalist.

This article was last updated on September 23, 2022.