Two Columbia students were among over 16,000 semifinalists named last week in the 68th annual National Merit Scholarship Program.

Mya Nguyen of Columbia Central High School and Derek Young of Columbia Academy earned the semifinalist designation, joining nearly 350 semifinalists from Tennessee.

These academically talented high school seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,250 National Merit Scholarships, worth nearly $28 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.

About 95 percent of the semifinalists are expected to attain Finalist standing, and approximately 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 340 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.

High school juniors entered the 2023 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2021 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which served as an initial screen of program entrants. The nationwide pool of semifinalists, representing

less than one 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, write an essay and earn SAT/ACT scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test.

Finalists will be notified of the designation in February 2023 and all National Merit Scholarships winners will be announced in the spring of 2023. Every Finalist will compete for one of 2,500 National Merit $2,500 Scholarships that will be awarded on a state-representational basis. About 950 corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards will be provided by approximately 180 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 160 colleges and universities are expected to finance some 3,800 college-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards for Finalists who will attend the sponsor institution.

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