AHS Students Named National Merit Finalists

Emma Rathje and Mari Lofy

The National Merit Scholarship is an academic competition. Out of 16,000 contestants, there are six from Arrowhead that have made it to the semifinalist stage. The six that are from Arrowhead are seniors Grace Bonk, Maxwell Rebella, Myla Brunner, Jackson Brunner, Timothy Groth, Candie Lin, and Aine Thomas.


For 67 years, the competition has been awarding scholarships. Approximately 1.5 million students enter each year, but only 7,250 are selected to receive a Merit Scholarship, according to the National Merit website.


“I decided to try for this because of the possibilities that being a National Merit Scholar offers. Being a semifinalist, however, does not guarantee that you advance to the next round so I think the most difficult part of the entire process will be the competition that follows,” Grace Bonk said.


According to the NMSC website, 50,000 qualify for recognition in the program; 34,000 of those people will receive letters of commendation. Only 16,000 students qualify as semifinalists and 15,000 people move to finalists. 7,250 will win the scholarship. 


Bonk said, “The process of getting to the semifinalist stage involves taking the PSAT during your junior year of high school and earning a score high enough to gain the title of a semifinalist.”


To qualify for the National Merit Scholarship, students have to take the PSAT and be in the top 1% of the test takers in the state. The top 1% varies based on the states students are in. It can take up until the next year for someone to learn if they get into the program and make it to the semifinalist stage.


“If you want to become a semifinalist, I suggest you study for it. I think I took a single practice test but I got lucky on the test…To be in the top 1% on one test takes both luck and test taking skills,” Rebella said. 


According to the Arrowhead website, Arrowhead is one of the top educated schools in the state. In both math and English, Arrowhead is mostly proficient with regular testing. 


“The hardest part of making it to this stage was being confident and maintaining focus during the PSAT,” Bonk said.


There are plenty of resources to help students study. Resources can be found in libraries, the classes students are able to take that will prepare students for parts of the test, and practice tests are available for students. 


“To get to a semifinalist stage, you have to take the PSAT test as a junior. Most Arrowhead juniors automatically take it as preparation for the real ACT/SAT,” Rebella said.


According to the National Merit Website, there is a variety of information for NMSC (National Merit Scholar Corporation) to evaluate. They evaluate the Finalist’s academic record, the school’s curriculum and grading system, the PSAT selection index score, the student’s information, the high school official’s written recommendation, and an essay from the Finalist.


“I heard about becoming a semifinalist from my mom who encouraged me to sign up for the PSAT,” Bonk said. 


Students can hear about the PSAT through their parents or through other resources like school counselors. The National Merit funds to help them through their college experience and to get better schooling options. 


“The principal called us in by our teachers and told us after class. He then gave us more information on how to proceed. I have a couple of essays to try to make it to the final stage,” Rebella said.