Eight seniors recognized as National Merit finalists

Surrounded by a circle of counselors, eight students gathered in the front, downstairs office, suspense hanging like smog in the air. Some had been waiting for that exact moment, and others had no clue what they were called there for. Every single one of them left with the title of National Merit Finalist. Senior Sophia Barnes, though excited, felt overwhelmed by the experience.

“It was a little bit overwhelming. I got a green note in class that said to come to the office.” Barnes said. 

When she walked into the office, she was greeted by the counselors. 

“They weren’t saying much, but by then I was sort of suspecting what it was for  because of the way they were handling it.”

Referring to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, the National Merit Scholarship is part of a nationwide competition for recognition and scholarships for highschool students that started in 1955. According to senior Knox Graham, earning the title of National Merit Finalist is a way to stand out from other students and applicants.

“Millions of American students are applying to go to college, and it’s a little bit scary to think about that,” Graham said. “You really need to find a way to put yourself out there. And I think that national merit is one of many ways that you can distinguish yourself.”

Barnes took prep courses to help pave her way to achieving the scholarship.

“I had taken an SAT prep course to prepare for the PSAT. It was like a six week kind of intensive thing,” Barnes said.

But receiving the scholarship is not the last step in the National Merit process. According to Barnes, there is still more to prepare for college applications.

“I need to finish up with some application stuff, write an essay, do some waiting,” Barnes said. “I also need to pick a college to apply to because a lot of the scholarship stuff is through specific colleges.”

Graham is already headed on his application journey, researching schools for his interests and growth.

“I’m going to apply with the National Merit Scholarship to a school that, hopefully, will provide me with a solid foundation,” Graham said. “I have to have a little trust in that I will be able to pay for college. The next step is making sure that I have that foundation secured. And then from there, we’ll see where else I might be able to spread my wings.”

According to Barnes, though, the National Merit Scholarship isn’t all open doors; some college routes aren’t compatible with the scholarship.

“For one thing, I was sort of looking at going out of the country and doing something International,” Barnes said, “But National Merit only applies to the U.S., so I don’t know how that would work.”

Barnes still believes there are other avenues for her within the country, and is considering different options.

“I actually have not applied anywhere yet,” Barnes said. “But I’ve been looking at Baylor and some private Christian schools, and then possibly looking at some, not necessarily Ivy League, but next level schools.”

According to Graham, National Merit isn’t only about the scholarship money. He believes that it is more of a reward for years of hard work and dedication.

“I wanted to qualify for the title because, you know, money, but also I’m proud of myself. I’m proud of the academic achievements that I’ve had, and I think that national merit is a good aspect that can be represented in my application,” Graham said. “I’m very glad to have received National Merit.”


Seniors who were recognized as National Merit finalists:

Sophia Barnes
Christian Crockett
Knox Graham
Nathaniel Kingsbury
Maxwell McDonald
James Myers
Evan Paull
Lauryn Peters