A pair of students at Hillsborough High School are among a group of approximately 16,000 of their peers across the country, as officials announced Wednesday that they were semi-finalists in the 64th annual National Merit Scholarship program.
Curtis Chen and Smay R. Shah join a rare group of students to advance in the yearly competition for more than 7,500 scholarships worth more than $31 million offered next spring.
The teens were selected out of a pool of more than 1.6 million high school juniors in approximately 22,000 high schools that entered the contest by taking the 2017 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.
According to officials, Chen does not currently have a major selected, while Shah is considering a degree in economics after high school.
If things go well, the two teens will be included in the more than 90 percent of semifinalists that go on to become finalists. Roughly half of all finalists earn a scholarship and a Merit Scholar title.
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.
The nationwide pool of semi-finalists, of which Shah and Chen are members of this year, represents less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors. It 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.