Semifinalists named in 2003 Merit Scholarship&#168 Competition

Semifinalists named in 2003 Merit Scholarship¨ Competition Shandhini Raidoo, Victoria E. Collins and Varsha Ramakrishnan Semifinalists in the 48th annual National Merit¨ Scholarship Program were announced Sept. 18 by officials of National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC). They include Victoria E. Collins, Shandhini Raidoo and Varsha C. Ramakrishnan, all students at Vermillion High School.

"These 16,000 academically talented students come from every state and, although they represent less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors, they are excellent representatives of our nation's youth," commented an NMSC spokesperson. Semifinalists now have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 8,000 Merit Scholarship awards, worth $30 million, that will be offered next spring. Merit Scholarship awards will be underwritten by approximately 500 business organizations and higher education institutions as well as by NMSC's own funds.

More than 1.3 million juniors in over 20,000 U.S. high schools entered the 2003 National Merit Program by taking the 2001 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT¨), which served as an initial screen of program entrants. The nationwide pool of semifinalists includes the highest scoring entrants in each state, who were designated semifinalists in numbers proportional to the state's percentage of the national total of graduating high school seniors.

The next step for semifinalists is to fulfill requirements to advance to finalist standing, a prerequisite to competing for Merit Scholarship award. To become finalists, semifinalists must have a record of very high academic performance, be endorsed and recommended by their school principal, and earn SAT scores that confirm their earlier qualifying test performance. The semifinalist and a school official must submit a detailed scholarship application, which includes the student's self-descriptive essay and information about the semifinalist's participation and leadership in school and community activities.

About 90 percent, or approximately 15,000 semifinalists are expected to advance to the finalist level of the competition, and some 8,000 of them will win merit Scholarship awards. All Merit Scholarsm designees will be selected from the finalist froup on the strength of their accomplishments and abilities and without regard to gender, race, ethnic origin, or religious preference.

Three types of Merit scholarship awards will be offered in 2003. Every finalist will compete for one of 2,500 National Merit $2500 Scholarships that will be awarded on a state representational basis. In addition, some 300 corporations and business organizations will underwrite about 1,100 corporate-sponsored scholarships 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. Also, about 200 colleges and universities are expected to finance some 4,400 college-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards for finalists who will attend the sponsoring institution.

Merit Scholarship winners of 2003 will be announced in four nationwide releases to news media beginning in April and concluding in July. These scholarship recipients will join more than 210,000 other distinguished young people who have earned the title Merit Scholar since the first competition in 1956.

NMSC is a privately financed not-for-profit corporation, founded in 1955 to conduct the annual Merit Scholarship competiton. The independent sponsor organizations and institutions that support scholarships awarded through the National Merit Program share NMSC's goals of honoring scholastically able young men and women and encouraging the pursuit of academic excellence.

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