The Paly Voice

30 students named National Merit Scholarship semi-finalists

Paige Esterly

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The 30 Palo Alto High School students who qualified to be National Merit Scholarship semifinalists will now begin to complete the application to potentially become finalists in the competition after being notified last Wednesday.

According to Teacher Advisor Program co-coordinator Ann Deggelman, The National Merit Scholarship is affiliated with the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT), and students were automatically entered into the competition when completing the test at the beginning of their junior year. However, only the students with the highest scores in each state — this year’s California cutoff was 223 out of 240 — are granted the title of semi-finalist, and are given the opportunity to advance to the next round.

According to Deggelman, who works in Paly’s guidance office and is in charge of helping Paly kids through the application process to become finalists, there is not much standing between them and the finish line.

“The next step involves filling out a form and writing a little brief, just a 3,600-character essay,” she said. “Their Teacher Advisor will write something a lot like a college letter, and then the school has to put in information, too.”

Deggelman has high hopes for the 30 semi-finalists.

“Almost all of our kids go on [to be finalists],” she said.

According to Deggelman, 16,000 students nationwide are chosen to be semi-finalists, and 15,000 advance to become finalists. In addition to the acclaim, these students are eligible to receive multiple monetary prizes.

“There are three awards that can happen,” Deggelman said. “One is a $2,500 scholarship from the National Merit people. Additionally, there are corporate sponsors with certain criteria, and sometimes those [awards] can be very lucrative. And then a third one is individual colleges offer specific merit awards to National Merit Scholars.”

But even if one does not qualify to be a finalist, simply being a semi-finalist is still an impressive achievement.

“They’re the top one percent of all high school students [in the state],” Deggelman said.

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