WAHOO – The National Merit Scholarship Program is a multi-step process that begins with the Preliminary SAT (PSAT).
Alex Tomjack, a senior at Wahoo High School, is no stranger to this process. Tomjack was recently named a finalist in the program. There about 16,000 semifinalists and about 15,000 finalists named each year.
Tomjack said the test is in October and the top one percent of students from each state are designated National Merit Semifinalists in August of their senior year.
“Moving from semifinalist to finalist required submitting an application along with an ACT or SAT score high enough to validate my PSAT results,” he said.
According to John Harris, Wahoo Public Schools counselor, the NMSC website states that the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) was established in 1955.
The National Merit Scholarship Program was founded to identify and honor scholastically talented American youth and to encourage them to develop their abilities to the fullest.
The website also said that the National Merit Scholarships are awarded to program finalists and special scholarships are awarded to other high performing participants who meet a corporate sponsor’s eligibility criteria.
Harris said nearly 1.5 million students begin the attempt to qualify for the NMSC awards by taking the PSAT their junior year.
“Students who finish in the top percentile in each state on that test are named national semifinalists,” Harris said. “Those students then take the SAT (or submit a previous ACT score) to validate the PSAT test score. Students garnering the top 15,000 scores then are named NMSC finalists.
Harris said about half of the finalists will receive scholarships in one of three categories: NMSC scholarships, collegiate scholarships or corporate scholarships.
In Nebraska, there were 117 semifinalists named in the class of 2020.
Being named an official finalist was the last step in the process was time for Tomjack to choose a college.
“After being named a semifinalist, the number of colleges reaching out to me exploded,” Tomjack said. “I received multiple offers of full-ride academic scholarships from around the country, including the University of Alabama, University of Texas, and the University of North Texas.”
His decision landed on the University of North Texas to study computer science.
“My decision to study computer science was based on personal interests and experience,” he said. “I started building my own computers during my freshman year and started taking classes at Metro Community College at the same time to explore my interest in the field.”
Tomjack said other factors also contributed to his decision to attend North Texas, including the financial aid package and the experience he had when he visited the campus.
“When I got there I felt at home and felt it offered an all-around educational and college experience,” he said. “The fact that I was looking out of state in the first place was the result of the National Merit Scholarship.”
Harris said he continues to be amazed by the talent of the students at Wahoo High School like Tomjack.
“Alex is no exception,” Harris said. “In addition to being a National Merit Scholarship finalist, Alex continues to challenge himself.”
According to Harris, Tomjack is a tutor, has taken up welding and is an emerging high school golfer.
“The sky is the limit for Alex and I look forward to watching him continue to discover his talents at the University of North Texas,” he said.