*This story was originally published in the December 2016 print edition of The Eagle Eye.* The National Merit Scholarship Program’s main goal includes giving recognition to academically talented students and laying the foundation for a brilliant and successful future.
This long-held program started in 1955 during the Cold War when Americans began to lag behind in foreign counterparts in academics. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) wanted to give American youth an opportunity to use their skills to the best of their ability.
In order to compete for the scholarship, students must take the Preliminary SAT/ National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/ NMSQT) and score in the 98-99 percentile during their junior year; plan to enroll in college full time by the fall after his or her high school graduation and be a United States citizen or a permanent U.S. resident.
About 1.5 million students from about 22,000 high schools enter the National Merit Scholarship competition annually when they sit for the exam. Approximately 16,000 juniors qualify as semifinalists.
Finalists and semifinalists receive recognition for their academic and extracurricular achievements in their high school years.
Ten Marjory Stoneman Douglas students qualified as semifinalists for 2017. The semifinalists include seniors Samantha Bishop, Sabrina Chen, Ryan Flemming, Matthew Ionescu, Brianna Kernan, Alexa Luboff, Hannah Meeks, Nicholas Sileo, Robbie Tromberg and Michael Weissman.
“It was extremely exciting to find out that I had qualified, and it was really a great honor to be chosen as a semifinalist,” senior Brianna Kernan said. “I would love to move onto the finalist position for the NMS program; however, I know that I can definitely qualify for other scholarships after knowing I was titled a semifinalist for this competition.”
As semifinalists, they must complete additional requirements to become finalists. The main requirements include completing the National Merit Scholarship Application and writing a detailed essay with the student’s achievements, extracurriculars, awards and leadership positions.
Students must also secure a recommendation from a school official or administrator and receive an exceptional SAT score that confirms their performance on the qualifying test.
In February 2017, NMSC will notify the 15,000 semifinalists who have qualified as finalists.
Between March and June 2017, about 7,500 finalists will receive Merit Scholarships, which are awarded based on the skills, abilities and accomplishments indicated in their application materials.
NMSC awarded approximately $45 million in scholarship money to over 9,600 qualifying students in 2016.