Students achieve nationally recognized academic excellence


Obtained from HS Insider online website

Austin Liu, News Editor, Reporter

One of the most notable and celebrated happenings at school is the announcement of the school year’s new National Merit semifinalists near the beginning of the fall semester. This year at Fayetteville High School, eleven senior students have been recognized as some of Arkansas’ few National Merit semifinalists: Noah Ballinger, Cesca Craig, Eric Gu, William Hadley, Emily Jackson, Seongbae Kong, Anthony Maranto, Payton Mattingly, William Kyle Mayer, Naomi Michael, and Solomon Munyambu.

Achieving the title of National Merit semifinalist and finalist is a very long and challenging process for high school students. To reach this goal requires much dedication, well-maintained time management, and a quality work ethic on the part of the student and how they effectively plan out their short time in high school. These constant efforts and the persistence in overcoming the challenging all reflect back in their achievement of National Merit semifinalist.

“The National Merit® Scholarship Program is an academic competition for recognition and scholarships that began in 1955. High school students enter the National Merit Program by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®),” stated the National Merit Scholarship Corporation on their website.

The qualifications to be considered for the National Merit Program are the student needs to “take the PSAT/NMSQT® in the specified year of the high school program and no later than the third year in grades 9 through 12”, to “be enrolled as a high school student (traditional or homeschooled), progressing normally toward graduation or completion of high school, and planning to accept admission to college no later than the fall following completion of high school”, and to “be a citizen of the United States; or be a U.S. lawful permanent resident (or have applied for permanent residence, the application for which has not been denied) and intend to become a U.S. citizen at the earliest opportunity allowed by law.”

However, advancing on to the higher level of National Merit semifinalist is not an easy jump, narrowing down the “1.6 million entrants” each year down to just the thousands. “In early September, about 16,000 students, or approximately one-third of the 50,000 high scorers, are notified that they have qualified as Semifinalists. To ensure that academically talented young people from all parts of the United States are included in this talent pool, semifinalists are designated on a state-representational basis. They are the highest scoring entrants in each state.” Achieving semifinalist recognition is based on the Selection Index that year for a certain state.

Another category that a student may qualify for significant recognition in the National Merit Program is a category called “Commended Students”. These students, as stated by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, consist of “more than two-thirds of all the 50,000 with the highest PSAT/NMSQT Selection Index scores” or about 34,000 of these high-achieving students.

Climbing up to the title of National Merit Finalist demands more time and display of academic ability. Students can only be considered for the position if they have already been named a National Merit Semifinalist. From there, the process of applying for this recognition as finalist scholar involves students submitting their SAT scores to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation by a certain date in January, providing a record of the high school transcript of classes taken and the grades for each of them, and including a top choice college that interests the student. Out of the students who were recognized as National Merit Semifinalist, an average of 15,000 of them will be contacted of their achievement of finalist.

One of the benefits of becoming a finalist in the National Merit Program is the possibility of receiving scholarships sponsored by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, of which about 7,500 of these finalists win. The factors affecting the decision of awarding a scholarship are “the Finalist’s academic record, information about the school’s curricula and grading system, two sets of test scores, the high school official’s written recommendation, information about the student’s activities and leadership, and the Finalist’s own essay.” Scholarships available by achieving finalist include National Merit® $2500 Scholarships, Corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards, and College-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards.

In the present, freshman, sophomore, and juniors will take the PSAT/NMSQT® exam this month on Wednesday, Oct. 11. Freshman and juniors who signed up for the test will take it at the Town Center in the Fayetteville Square. Sophomores whose testing fee will all take the test at Fayetteville High School in assigned rooms. For juniors, this one test will determine if they qualify for the position of National Merit semifinalist and National Merit Program scholarships. Good luck to all test takers this year!

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