Ten students named National Merit Scholarship semifinalists

Maggie Huston, Staff Writer

Test takers who score in the top one percent of the PSAT become National Merit Semifinalists, a significant achievement for many students. ETHS recently congratulated nine of its seniors on this academic excellence: Frances Brady, Emmet Ebles Duggan, Caroline Klearman, Jason McDermott, Sofia Shewfelt, Max Smith, Rex Wallin, Jane Watson and Luca Zerga. Approximately 16,000 high school students were named semifinalists this year by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation and had the opportunity to continue in the competition for the scholarship. 

On the National Merit Scholarship’s official website, the organization claims that its goals are to ¨shine a spotlight on brilliant students, and promote wider and deeper respect for learning in general and especially for exceptionally talented individuals in particular.¨ Although this corporation is set up to look great, many ETHS students have differing opinions about it. 

¨I guess it’s exciting, but also I just happened to do well on this one random test,¨ said semifinalist Sofia Shewfelt. ¨There are so many other people I know who are just as smart and great, but they didn’t get one. It just puts things into perspective.¨ 

Semifinalist Rex Wallin also agrees. 

¨I definitely don’t think [NMS] is equitable and representative of everyone. I would say that I am a much better test taker than most people, which gives me a huge advantage in getting this scholarship,¨ said Wallin. ¨There are plenty of others who are very good students and easily could have qualified in some other way but just maybe didn’t do well on the test.¨ 

This controversy around the scholarship among students, even those who are semifinalists, raised the question of if this scholarship could be given out in a different and more equitable way. Caroline Klearman, a semifinalist, cannot think of a better way this could be done. 

¨It’s hard to say another way that they could do it. There definitely are some issues, but I don’t know how they could do it better with the number of students they have to look at,¨ said Klearman. 

Despite the constructive energy around National Merit among the students, this scholarship is definitely not something that Evanston takes lightly. The names of these nine students have been spread all around the town at a shocking speed. ETHS even announced the names of the students at one of their home football games a couple of weeks ago. 

¨I’ve had teachers who I haven’t talked to in years say stuff to me in the hallways. My parents have also gotten Facebook messages from family and friends who we don’t talk to very often,¨ said Klearman. ¨It’s definitely surprising how it spreads throughout Evanston.¨ 

National Merit accomplishes its mission of honoring those students who do have the opportunity to receive it. Being a part of this scholarship can mean a lot for students and help them during their process of getting into college and paying for it. Klearman, Shewfelt, and Wallin all agreed that it felt very good to be recognized in this way. And, despite all the controversial feelings, many find the act of being in the top one percent of students to be a large honor.