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Four OH students named National Merit Semifinalists

National Merit Semifinalists
Posted On: Wednesday, September 11, 2019

National Merit SemifinalistsFour seniors from Ottawa Hills High School have been named 2020 National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists. Congratulations to Joshua Assi, Priya Bhatt, Hank Griffin, and Jennifer Hsu!

They are among 16,000 national Semifinalists announced today (Sept. 11). The nationwide pool represents less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors and includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state. (Pictured at right are Hank, Joshua, and Priya)

“We are extremely proud of these students for obtaining such a notable national honor,” said Ben McMurray, principal of Ottawa Hills Junior/Senior High School. “They are excellent students and role models who have excelled in and out of the classroom.”

(Jennifer was enrolled at Ottawa Hills when she took the qualifying exam, but she and her family has subsequently moved out of state.) 

“This is one among a number of accomplishments these students have achieved,” said Jennifer Nagy, college guidance counselor at the high school. “They are excellent ambassadors of the Ottawa Hills community.”

Every September, the National Merit Scholarship program notifies its higher scorers that they have qualified as either a Commended Student or Semifinalist. (The Commended Students will be announced soon.)

In addition to the 16,000 Semifinalists, the program also announced the names of 36,000 Commended Students. They are still among the top students in the country; however, their scores are typically below the level required to be a Semifinalist. Although Commended Students do not continue in the competition for National Merit Scholarships (see below), some do become candidates for scholarships sponsored by corporations and businesses.

The OH students are among more than 1.5 million students who took the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) as a junior. Each year’s PSAT/NMSQT is the qualifying test for entry into a particular year’s competition. For example, the 2018 PSAT/NMSQT (when Josh, Priya, Hank and Jennifer were juniors) was the qualifying test for entry into the 2020 scholarship competition.

Next steps:

Every Semifinalist now becomes eligible to become a Finalist, which is the stage at which awards are given. About 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $31 million will be offered next spring.

To become a Finalist, the Semifinalist and a high school official must submit a detailed scholarship application that provides information about academic record; participation in school and community activities; demonstrated leadership abilities; employment; and honors and awards received. A Semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, write an essay, and earn SAT or ACT scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test.

From the original group of 16,000, about 15,000 are expected to advance to the Finalist stage. Three types of National Merit Scholarships are available:

  • 2,500 National Merit Scholarships ($2,500 each) awarded on a state-representational basis.
  • About 1,000 corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards from about 220 corporations and business organizations. These awards are for Finalists who meet specific criteria (children of the grantor’s employees or residents of communities where sponsor plants or offices are located).
  • About 4,100 college-sponsored Merit Scholarship Awards for those who will attend one of the 180 sponsoring institutions.

Winners of 2020 awards will be announced from April to July 2020.

About the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC):

NMSC is a not-for-profit organization that operates without government assistance. It was established in 1955 specifically to conduct the annual National Merit Scholarship Program. Scholarships are underwritten by NMSC with its own funds and by approximately 400 business organizations and higher education institutions that share NMSC's goals of honoring the nation's scholastic champions and encouraging the pursuit of academic excellence.

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