Almost a year after taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, seniors who took the test in the fall of their junior year found out if they became semifinalists in the competition. This year, three Emmaus students, Matthew Magee, Caitlin O’Brien, and Naqiyah Peatiwala, achieved this honor.
Every year, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation holds an academic contest for high school students. The first step of the competition is to take the PSAT. For people completing the traditional four years in high school, they must take the test in their junior year of high school to be eligible to participate in the program. They could take it in their sophomore year, but their scores would not be considered to earn scholarships.
From the almost 1.6 million people who take the test, only the top 50,000 scorers will qualify for recognition in the program. Out of these 50,000 students, over two-thirds of them, or 34,000, will receive Letters of Commendation for their academic achievement. However, they will not advance any further. The other approximately 16,000 students, which represents less than one percent of all the graduating seniors in the nation, will achieve the semifinalist level.
The number of semifinalists in each state is based on the percentage of graduating seniors in the state out of the total number of graduating seniors in the nation. So, if a state has three percent of the graduating seniors in the nation, about three percent of the National Merit Scholarship semifinalists will be from that state. Due to this, the semifinalist qualifying scores will differ between states and years, but it is always a tremendous achievement demonstrating the hard work and dedication of those students.
After reaching this semifinalist step, Magee, O’Brien, and Peatiwala hope to move on to become finalists and win a scholarship. Of the 16,000 semifinalists, 15,000 move on as finalists. There are a total of 8,700 scholarships offered, with about 1,110 Special Scholarships and 7,600 National Merit Scholarships. Special Scholarships are corporate-sponsored and awarded to people who perform well, but who are not finalists. The sponsor decides specific criteria the participant must meet. Finalists may receive one of the 7,600 National Merit Scholarships, of which there are three types: a National Merit $2,500 Scholarship, a corporate-sponsored scholarship, or a college-sponsored scholarship.
Regardless of whether Magee, O’Brien, and Peatiwala advance or not, being one of a very select number of students to become a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist is an impressive accomplishment, and the culmination of many years of hard work.
Graphic courtesy of Canva.