(Evanston, Illinois) On September 9, 2020, officials of National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) announced the names of approximately 16,000 Semifinalists in the 66th annual National Merit Scholarship Program.
These academically talented high school seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,600 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $30 million that will be offered next spring. To be considered for a Merit Scholarship® award, Semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the Finalist level of the competition. Over 90 percent of the Semifinalists are expected to attain Finalist standing, and more than half of the Finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar® title.
NMSC, a not-for-profit organization that operates without government assistance, was established in 1955 specifically to conduct the annual National Merit Scholarship Program. Scholarships are underwritten by NMSC with its own funds and by approximately 400 business organizations and higher education institutions that share NMSC’s goals of honoring the nation’s scholastic champions and encouraging the pursuit of academic excellence.
It is the individual student who is honored in the National Merit Scholarship Program. There are many reasons why it is not valid to use numbers of Semifinalists to judge the quality or effectiveness of education in a state or high school.
Semifinalists are designated on a state-representational basis. The number of Semifinalists named in each state is proportional to the state’s percentage of the national total of graduating high school seniors.
In addition, the number of Semifinalists in a particular school can be influenced by many factors, such as the size of the school and the proportion of its students who take the qualifying test to enter the National Merit Program; the educational standards and objectives of the school and the percentage of its seniors planning to attend college; the depth and breadth of the school’s curricular offerings; and the extent to which students take advantage of the highest-level courses _available to them. Other important influences include educational levels and attainments of the adult population, attitudes of students’ families and the community toward academic achievement, and the public’s interest in and support for schools. National Merit Program data are meaningful and valid only when considered within the competition’s framework. Any attempt to compare schools, educational systems, or states on the basis of such data constitutes misuse and will lead to erroneous and unsound conclusions.