Twelve Lawrence high school seniors have been selected as National Merit Scholarship semifinalists. The honor means they are in the running to receive one of three types of scholarships that could make a big difference in paying for college.
Eight Free State High School students, one from Lawrence High School, two from Bishop Seabury and one home-schooled student, Rebekah Curry, are Lawrence's young scholars this year.
They took the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test last winter and recently learned their scores qualified them as semifinalists.
Some students said they were relieved to learn they qualified.
"I think it's a really nice confirmation of all the hard work I've done over the last few years at Free State," said Katie Burk. "It'll mean a lot to my parents if college wasn't so expensive."
Bishop Seabury senior Jeff Miller said being named a semifinalist had an added perk: "My buddy Martin said he would buy me a pizza if I made the cut."
LHS senior JoAnn Doll said she was surprised that she was a semifinalist, but said her school gave her the skills she needed to score high.
"I'm really fortunate to go there. I'm surrounded by a lot of really intelligent students. I just see it as another opportunity," she said.
National Merit semifinalists must not only score high on the PSAT, but must also have a stellar academic record and be recommended by their principal.
The students could be eligible for a $2,500 scholarship, one of 1,100 corporate-sponsored awards, or a scholarship from one of more than 200 universities that offer National Merit-based scholarships.
Lawrence public schools Superintendent Randy Weseman said the students should be proud of their accomplishment.
"The kids that achieve this honor are kids that work hard, and we're really proud of them. It takes a lot of effort and dedication to reach this level of achievement," he said.
Joel Frederick, a Free State guidance counselor, said the honor puts all the students in a class of their own.
"It's probably one of the most prestigious honors that a senior could get," he said. "It's ... an upper echelon of sorts. You're looking at the top 1 percent of people who score this high. That's pretty elite company."
The students will learn whether they are scholarship finalists in the spring. About 90 percent of National Merit semifinalists end up being finalists.