Gabe Handorf, a senior, was announced as a National Merit Semifinalist last week by Wilmot Union High School.

Gabe Handorf

Handorf, according to a Sept. 14 release, is just one of about 16,000 semifinalists in the 66th annual Merit Scholarship Program.

The approximate 16,000 semifinalists, including Handorf, have an opportunity to continue in the competition for about 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 not-for-profit 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 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.

Handorf, meanwhile, and more than 1.5 million entered the 2021 National Merit Scholarship Program as juniors by taking the 2019 preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. The exams served as an initial screening of program entrants.

“The nationwide pool of semifinalists, representing less than 1% of U.S. high school seniors, includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state,” the press release stated. “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,” the release stated.

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 based on their skills, accomplishments, and potential for success in rigorous college studies, without regard to gender, race, ethnic origin, or religious preference.

Next spring, three types of National Merit Scholarships will be offered, according to the release.

“Every finalist will compete for one of 2,500 National Merit Scholarships that will be awarded on state representational basis,” the release stated.

About 1,000 corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards will be provided by approximately 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.


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