EVANSTON, Ill. — Officials of National Merit Scholarship Corporation announced the names of approximately 16,000 semifinalists in the 66th annual National Merit Scholarship Program.
Among these semifinalists was Andrew Duke, Hays High School senior. He is the grandson of Josephine Squires.
Duke scored a 76 on reading, writing and the math portions of the test.
Duke also earned a 36, the top score on the ACT.
These academically talented high school seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,600 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $30 million that will be offered next spring.
To be considered for a Merit Scholarship award, semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the finalist level of the competition.
Over 90 percent of the semifinalists are expected to attain finalist standing, and more than half of the finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar title.
NMSC, a nonprofit organization that operates without government assistance, was established in 1955 specifically to conduct the annual National Merit Scholarship Program.
Scholarships are underwritten by NMSC with its own funds and by about 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.
Steps in the 2021 competition
Over 1.5 million juniors in about 21,000 high schools entered the 2021 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2019 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which served as an initial screen of program entrants.
The nationwide pool of semifinalists, representing less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors, includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state.
The number of semifinalists in a state is proportional to the state's percentage of the national total of graduating seniors.
To become a finalist, the semifinalist and a high school official must submit a detailed scholarship application, in which they provide information about the semifinalist's 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 and write an essay.
From the approximately 16,000 semifinalists, about 15,000 are expected to advance to the finalist level, and in February they will be notified of this designation.
All National Merit Scholarship winners will be selected from this group of finalists. Merit Scholar 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.
National Merit Scholarships
Three types of National Merit Scholarships will be offered in the spring of 2021. Every finalist will compete for one of 2,500 National Merit $2,500 Scholarships that will be awarded on a state-representational basis.
About 1,000 corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards will be provided by about 220 corporations and business organizations for finalists who meet their specified criteria, such as children of the grantor's employees or residents of communities where sponsor plants or offices are located.
In addition, about 180 colleges and universities are expected to finance some 4,100 college-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards for finalists who will attend the sponsor institution.
National Merit Scholarship winners of 2021 will be announced in four nationwide news releases beginning in April and concluding in July. These scholarship recipients will join more than 353,000 other distinguished young people who have earned the Merit Scholar title.
Fewer than half of 1 percent of students who take the ACT earn a top score.
In the U.S. high school graduating class of 2019, only 4,879 out of almost 1.8 million students who took the ACT earned a top composite score of 36.
The ACT consists of tests in English, mathematics, reading and science, each scored on a scale of 1-36.
A student's composite score is the average of the four test scores. The score for ACT's optional writing test is reported separately and is not included within the ACT composite score.
In a letter to the student recognizing this exceptional achievement, ACT CEO Marten Roorda stated, "Your achievement on the ACT is significant and rare. Your exceptional scores will provide any college or university with ample evidence of your readiness for the academic rigors that lie ahead."
The ACT is a curriculum-based achievement exam that measures what students have learned in school.
Students who earn a 36 composite score have likely mastered all of the skills and knowledge they will need to succeed in first-year college courses in the core subject areas.
ACT scores are accepted by all major four-year colleges and universities across the United States.