Local students among Corporate-Sponsored Merit Scholarship winners

Published 12:01 pm Wednesday, April 19, 2017

From Staff Reports

National Merit Scholarship Corporation released the names of the first group of winners in the 62nd annual National Merit Scholarship Program, including two local students.

More than 1,000 distinguished high school seniors have won corporate-sponsored National Merit Scholarship awards financed by about 200 corporations, company foundations and other business organizations.

Scholars were selected from students who advanced to the finalist level in the National Merit Scholarship competition and met criteria of their scholarship sponsors. Corporate sponsors provide National Merit Scholarships for finalists who are children of their employees, who are residents of communities the company serves, or who plan to pursue college majors or careers the sponsor wishes to encourage.

Most of these awards are renewable for up to four years of college undergraduate study and provide annual stipends that range from $500 to $10,000 per year. Some provide a single payment between $2,500 and $5,000. Recipients can use their awards at any regionally accredited U.S. college or university of their choice.

Local winners included Oak Mountain High School student Colby Behr Wetzel and Pelham resident Lindsey E. Waggoner.

Both Wetzel and Waggoner, who attends the Alabama School of Fine Arts, plan to study aerospace engineering and will receive the National Merit Southern Company Scholarship.

This is the first announcement of National Merit Scholars in 2017 by National Merit Scholarship Corporation. NMSC will name recipients of National Merit $2,500 Scholarships on May 10, and winners of college-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards on June 7 and July 17.

By the conclusion of this year’s competition, about 7,500 academic champions will have won National Merit Scholarships worth more than $32 million.

More than 1.6 million juniors in more than 22,000 high schools entered the 2017 National Merit Scholarship Program when they took the 2015 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which served as an initial screen of program entrants.

In September 2016, some 16,000 semifinalists were designated on a state-representational basis in numbers proportional to each state’s percentage of the national total of graduating high school seniors. Semifinalists were the highest-scoring program entrants in each state and represented less than 1 percent of the nation’s seniors.

To be considered for a National Merit Scholarship, semifinalists had to fulfill requirements to advance to finalist standing. Each semifinalist was asked to complete a detailed scholarship application, which included writing an essay and providing information about extracurricular activities, awards and leadership positions. Semifinalists also had to have an outstanding academic record, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official and earn SAT scores that confirmed their qualifying test performance. From the semifinalist group, some

15,000 met finalist requirements.

By the conclusion of the 2017 competition, about 7,500 finalists will have been selected to receive National Merit Scholarships totaling over $32 million.

Winners are the finalist candidates judged to have the strongest combination of academic skills and achievements, extracurricular accomplishments and potential for success in rigorous college studies.