Five Seniors Qualify as National Merit Semifinalists, One Commended

Five Seniors Qualify as National Merit Semifinalists, One Commended

Nick Bumgardner, Editor-in-Chief, Online Tritonian

The National Merit Scholarship Program is an academic competition, 66 years running, for national recognition and scholarship opportunities.

On average, 1.5 million high school students throw their hat into the ring every year, vying for any number of the scholarships available through the program.

Using Preliminary SAT (PSAT) scores as the marker, the field is narrowed down in varying degrees, starting by recognizing “commended students,” then “semifinalists,”  “finalists,” and in the end “winners.”

The program is highly selective.

Of the 1.5 million that enter, just a fraction—about 50,000—receive recognition.

Last year, much of NDA’s 2022 class took the PSAT, and this month, five of those seniors qualified as National Merit semifinalists, NDA’s largest number in three years, with one receiving commended status.

Triston Behrend, Harrison James, Nick Massabni, Chris Mitchell and Alex Prikockis were the five, having all finished within the top 1% nationally in PSAT scores, with Sophie Hornberger falling just shy of the score cutoff and being named a commended student.

As a commended student, Hornberger is roughly within the top 34,000 test takers, and as semifinalists, the other five are roughly within the top 16,000.

The semifinalists’ reactions were a mix of shock, pride, and gratitude.

“I was very happy that all my hard academic work paid off nationally,” Massabni said.

“It felt great.  It was surprising because I learned I was a finalist for the first time when they announced it,” Mitchell explained.

For James, it was the recognition he received at school that made the moment all the more memorable.

“It was a bit overwhelming to get so many congratulations, but it made me feel so proud and so grateful for the teachers and friends I have at NDA,” James explained.

Now, semifinalists are given the chance to advance further in the National Merit program with the hope of becoming Finalists and eventually Winners.

They are invited to complete an online application, which includes an essay, submit their ACT or SAT scores, receive a letter of recommendation, and maintain high academic standards to remain in the competition.

So far, they have been quick to rise to the challenge, with Behrend saying he already “started writing the essay a few days ago” and James having already filled out his application.

“The students all demonstrate outstanding academic promise and we are all very proud of them!” said Becky Bain, NDA’s College Counselor.

Semifinalists will be working with Bain to complete their applications through the National Merit program’s system.

“Our deadline is October 6th, so we are in crunch time!” she remarked.

By February, Semifinalists will know if they have cracked into the top 15,000 finalists, at which point they will receive a “Certificate of Merit” presented by Principal Browne and National Merit.

As for scholarships, the amounts vary by status and university.

Roughly half of all finalists will receive a scholarship, ranging from a $2,500 scholarship from National Merit, a corporate-sponsored scholarship, or a college-specific scholarship/stipend.

[Updated: 9/27, 6:47 p.m.]