COLUMBUS, Miss.–Earlier this week, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation released the names of those students across the nation who qualified as National Merit Semifinalists. Twelve students from the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science received this incredible honor: 

Christina Comino, daughter of Eva and John Comino of Hattiesburg

Aidan Dunkelberg, son of Kim Whitehead and Kendall Dunkelberg of Columbus

William Johnson, son of Paul and Sarah Johnson of Meridian

Emily King, daughter of Melanie and Robert King of Meridian

Kevin Liao, son of Shuyu Shen and Shengfa Liao of Starkville

Gary Nguyen, son of Dianne Nguyen and David Bennett of D’Iberville

Leah Pettit, daughter of Bridget and James Pettit of Grenada

Griffin Stewart, son of Deanna and Michael Stewart of Hattiesburg

Sarah Swiderski, daughter of Terry and Cyrianna Swiderski of Starkville

Vivienne Tenev, daughter of Leah and Ticomir Tenev of Starkville

Alex Whitwam, son of Holly Krogh and Ross Whitwam of Columbus

Jim Zhang, son of Yan Meng and Chunquan Zhang of Clinton

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation was established in 1955 as an independent, not-for-profit organization and currently oversees both the National Merit Scholarship Program and the National Achievement Scholarship Program. Both of these programs seek to recognize and award extraordinary academic performance. 

To be considered for the National Merit Scholarship Program, high school students take the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test during their junior year. This exam yielded an initial applicant pool of roughly 1.6 million students. Of those initial applicants, only 16,000 students, representing the top 1% of scorers, qualify as Semifinalists. 

In order to advance in the competition and achieve Finalist standing, Semifinalists must submit a detailed application that provides additional information about the student’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, work history, and other honors and awards received. Similarly, Semifinalists must be endorsed by a high school official, write an essay to accompany their application, and submit SAT scores that confirm their earlier performance on the preliminary test. 

Each February, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation notifies those students advancing to the finalist level. All Merit Scholarship award winners will be chosen from this group of finalists. Scholarships will be awarded based on student abilities, skills, and accomplishments. In addition to the honor and recognition that comes along with being named a National Merit Semifinalist or Finalist, the award can often be leveraged to secure additional scholarships to a variety of colleges or universities.