Several seniors gain National Merit Finalist status

Fourteen Pioneer High School seniors have been recognized as National Merit Finalists this school year. 

“Pioneer is an elite school in the state of Michigan and the United States of America,” said 10th and 12th grade class principal Kevin Hudson. Hudson credits the accomplishment to Pioneer’s teachers and academics. “They want to make sure that all of our students are well prepared for Pioneer High School, and beyond Pioneer High School, so we’re cultivating our students to be successful, whatever they decide to do.”

Students who want to enter the competition to receive this prestigious recognition award must overcome several hurdles. According to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, the process starts off by taking the PSAT/NMSQT exam in the fall of their junior year of high school. 

By completing the exam, approximately 1.5 million students enter the program, and around 50,000 students with the highest PSAT/NMSQT Selection Index scores (calculated by doubling the sum of the Reading, Writing and Language, and Math Test scores) qualify for recognition in the National Merit Scholarship Program.

Sakthi Vijay, a Pioneer senior and a 2023 National Merit Finalist, says that she felt a couple of emotions upon learning that she was a National Merit Finalist. “I was a little excited and a little surprised because I was proud of my essay that I submitted,” she said. “You’re supposed to write an essay about a challenge that you overcame. I thought that the essay that I wrote was really representative. When I got the news, I was surprised but happy.”

Avi Patel, another 2023 National Merit Finalist and also a senior, says that he was not surprised by the news. “I was happy that I had been selected for the next round of evaluation,” he said. Patel says that he did not do anything special to prepare for the PSAT/NMSQT Exam. “I had just finished studying for the SAT at the time, so really the test came at a good time for me,” he said. 

In early September of any given year, more than two-thirds of the 50,000 high-scorers receive letters of commendation. This recognizes their outstanding academic promise, but does not let them move forward in the competition. 

Next, more than 16,000 of students are notified that they have qualified as semifinalists. Students with this recognition are the highest-scoring students in their state. In order to become a finalist, students must meet high academic standards and other requirements.

By February, over 15,000 semifinalists are notified that they have advanced to finalist standing. At this point, high school principals are notified and given a Certificate of Merit to present to each finalist. 

National Merit Finalists receive $2,500 scholarships, and are eligible to receive corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards, and college-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards. However, some colleges also offer full-ride scholarships to these students.