Seniors Rachel Warner and Kent Lau Named Merit Scholarship Finalists


Avery Koenig

Seniors, Rachel Warren and Kent Lau, are named Finalists in the National Merit Scholarship Program. Through this incredibly prestigious academic competition, they are eligible to win up to $2,500.

Domenica Peloso, A&E Editor

For its 67th year, the National Merit Scholarship Program will bestow over 7,000 high school students with one of its highly coveted Merit Scholarship awards. This year, two SJHHS seniors, Rachel Warner and Kent Lau, have been named Finalists. 

The NMSP is an academic competition between over 1.5 million students in the USA. The goal of this competition is to acknowledge the academic excellence of various different students through their above average test scores and commitment to their community.

In order to qualify for the program, students must have one of the top 50,000 scores on their PSAT.

To accomplish this, both Warner and Lau established a strict study regimen in which they would take a practice test at least once a week, starting a few months before their PSAT. 

“Make a study schedule, and stick with it,” said Lau. 

After the initial 50,000 students are accepted, around 34,000 qualifying students are sent Letters of Commendation, which applaud them on their academic promise, but remove them as possible candidates for the Semifinals. 

In order to encourage a nationally diverse competition, Semifinalists are chosen based not only on their PSAT scores, but their individual ranking in the state. The average number of Semifinalists per state is about 320. 

Make a study schedule, and stick with it”

— Kent Lau

To become a Finalist, there are a number of requirements including an endorsement by a high school official, outstanding SAT/ACT scores, and an essay highlighting a student’s leadership skills and community service. 

“I am an official leader in Virtual Enterprise, the lacrosse team, and then a leader among my peers whether it be a class project or team event,” said Warner.

“I have more of a quiet leadership in terms of being someone who doesn’t necessarily lead the charge, but more pushes the group in the back. For example, I sing bass in choir and usually that’s the lowest so no one really hears me, but bass is the most important for making sure we stay in tune and know the harmony,” said Lau. 

Making it to the Finals alone is already considered an incredible achievement, which is why most Finalists receive special scholarships or recognition, even if they do not necessarily win. 

I am an official leader in Virtual Enterprise, the lacrosse team, and then a leader among my peers whether it be a class project or team event”

— Rachel Warner

The selection process in order to become an official Merit Scholar is based on a student’s likelihood of becoming successful in their college studies. Approximately half of the Finalists win scholarships. 

“I want to go to a four year university, and then after that I wanna go into consulting, and then eventually get my MBA, and someday I want to be in leadership in a corporate company,” said Warner, in regards to her plans for the future.

“I will probably pursue something in STEM and I’m looking at computer science and engineering right now,” said Kent. 

There are three different types of awards a student could receive: a $2,500 scholarship awarded to the top of the Finalist pool, a renewable scholarship from a college of choice, or a corporate-sponsored scholarship. 

The NMSP is an incredibly prestigious competition that has aided over 400,000 students in their academic journeys. Their mission is to encourage others to pursue academic excellence in the way that scholars such as Warner and Lau have.