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HILLSBOROUGH: Pair of high schoolers among the list of 2018 National Merit Scholarship winners

Months after they were recognized by school district administrators for being among the 16,000 pupils from around the country to reach the semi-final stage of the 2018 National Merit Scholarship Program, officials announced Catherine Nguyen and Diana Voronin won corporate-sponsored awards.

The teens were among the 1,000 students across the country to win the award, financed by approximately 200 corporations, company foundations and other business organizations.

Nguyen and Voronin were selected from a pool of finalists that met certain criteria for their corporate sponsors.

According to officials, Nguyen, who is eyeing a potential career in astrophysics, won the National Merit Colgate-Palmolive Company Scholarship. Voronin, whose probable career path lies within computer science, took home the National Merit Bristol-Myers Squibb Company Scholarship.

Corporate sponsors designate their awards for children of their employees or members, for residents of a community where a company has operations, or for finalists with career plans the sponsor wishes to encourage. These scholarships may either be renewable for four years of undergraduate study or one-time awards.

Created in 1955 by an independent, not-for-profit organization known as the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, the National Merit Scholarship Program is an “academic competition for recognition and scholarships.”

Since its inception, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation has recognized more than three million students throughout the country and awarded more than 400,000 scholarships worth more than $1.6 billion.

High school students enter the National Merit Program by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Approximately 1.6 million American students in more than 22,000 high schools participate in the test each year. The nationwide pool of semi-finalists, representing less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors, includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state. The number of semi-finalists in a state is proportional to the state’s percentage of the national total of graduating seniors.

To become a finalist, the semi-finalist and his or her high school must submit a detailed scholarship application, in which they provide information about the semi-finalist’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received.

A semi-finalist must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, write an essay, and earn SAT scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test.

From the approximately 16,000 semi-finalists, about 15,000 advance to the finalist level. All National Merit Scholarship winners are then selected from that group of finalists.

Merit Scholarship designees are selected on the basis of their skills, accomplishments, and potential for success in rigorous college studies, without regard to gender, race, ethnic origin, or religious preference.

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