Oak Mountain and Helena Students Named National Merit Semifinalists

Five Shelby County Schools students have been announced as 2017 Semifinalists for the National Merit Scholarship by the National Merit Scholarship Program.  Selected as Semifinalists are Armeen Barghi, Kathryn Holt, William Laycock, and Colby Wetzel all from Oak Mountain High School, and Jared Cleghorn from Helena High School.

According to a September 14 press release from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, these academically talented high school seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $33 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 90 percent of the Semifinalists are expected to attain Finalist standing, and about half of the Finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar title.

About 1.6 million juniors in more than 22,000 high schools entered the 2017 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 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.

To become a finalist, the semifinalist and his or her high school 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 scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test.

From the approximately 16,000 semifinalists, about 15,000 are expected to advance to the finalist level, which will be announced in February. Merit Scholar designees are selected on the basis of their skills, accomplishments, and their potential for success in rigorous college studies.


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