Leaving a Legacy: A National Merit Scholarship Semi-Finalist

More than 1.6 million students from about 22,000 high schools across the country take the Preliminary SAT, otherwise known as the PSAT. Those who advance to the semi-finals represent 0.5 percent of the state’s high school seniors.

One of them is our very own Nicholas Campbell (12).

The National Merit Scholarship Program is a U.S. academic scholarship competition for recognition and university scholarships administered by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC), a privately funded, not-for-profit organization based in Evanston, Illi. The program began in 1955. 

About 16,000 students out of 50,000 are recognized as semifinalists, and 15,000 students out of that 16,000 are considered to be finalists. Out of that 15,000, only 8,000 receive Merit Scholarship Awards. The scholarship grants $2,500 to the selected individuals who are judged to have the strongest combination of accomplishments, skills and potential for success in rigorous college studies. 

Nicholas Campbell is the first person in almost a decade to advance to semi-finals for the National Merit scholarship. 

“It feels good,” said Campbell. “There is a website that has all the names of the semi-finalists every year and I saw our school. I’m like ‘oh yes’, because they told me whenever I got it I was the first person in eight or nine years to get it.” 

Campbell plans to attend Texas A&M University in College Station and major in computer science. He is a student leader in the marching band’s percussion section and is also in National Honors Society.

In order to advance to the semi-finals, Campbell had to submit a detailed scholarship application, which included information about his extracurricular activities, awards and leadership positions, as well as his academic record.

“It took some work; I’m not going to say it was easy because even our valedictorian and salutatorian for our class were just a few points shy of making it,” Campbell said.

While it’s a challenging task, Campbell encourages other students to apply for the scholarship. Unknown to the majority of students, applying for the scholarship isn’t just reserved for the top 10 percent. Anyone who takes the PSAT in their sophomore or junior year is already eligible to apply for the National Merit Scholarship. 

”One of the main reasons why I got selected was because I actually entered,” Campbell said. “A lot of us could have entered, but no one knows that they’re competing.”

It’s no easy task to advance to the semi-finals, but Campbell reached out to sources that could help in the process, such as the library, Khan Academy, practice exams and even studying with friends. 

“It’s one of those things where the SAT only tests how well you could take the test,” he said. “They don’t really test applied-skills, but if you can win money that way it’s a great way for you to take the burden off your parents if you’re trying to go to college.”

Being one step closer to earning the $2,500 scholarship means a lot of things to Campbell. It brings him closer to being able to attend Texas A&M and closer to a future career. But it also gives him something to look forward to, something that’s driving him forward that would usually intimidate others.

“To me, it’s the next stage in a competition, and it represents an opportunity for me to do better than my parents because they did better than theirs,” Campbell said.

Campbell hopes to inspire other students in Morton Ranch to enter the competition for the National Merit Scholarship Awards. He believes anyone has a chance of making it.

“Just study hard, work hard and play hard,” he added. “You know, the generic saying everyone uses, buts it’s true. Enjoy what you do and learn.”