SHS student named as National Merit Scholarship Program semifinalist

SHS student named as National Merit Scholarship Program semifinalist

Scottsburg High School senior Kaleb Mount was named a semifinalist in the National Merit Scholarship Program, an honor shared with only 16,000 students nationwide who received a high score on the Preliminary SAT test.

“It’s opened up a lot of doors for my future,” Mount said. “I worked really, really hard to do that. It paid off.”

For a couple of months, Mount studied for the test after time commitments throughout the day — classes, homework, and practices as a member of the two-time, consecutive state champion Indiana Academic Super Bowl Social Studies team and the 2014 state finalist Band of Warriors. In the late evening hours, Mount would spend one hour to review material from the PSAT preparation he purchased. If he did not know the answer to the question, Mount would bring it to school the next day for help from one of his teachers.

“If there was a problem I didn’t understand, I would bring it into my teachers, and they would break it down for me,” Mount said. “A lot of the teachers were helpful when I was getting prepared.”

The hard work paid off. He scored about 12 points higher than the typical high score in Indiana.

“It definitely does not come naturally,” Mount said. “Anyone can do well on a test if they are willing to do that hard work.”

The National Merit Scholarship Program initially recognizes 50,000 high-scoring students throughout the country. The program then whittles the number of students recognized in order to eventually choose winners. The program goes from 50,000 recognized students to about 34,000 in its commended students level. From the 34,000 commended students, the program cuts the number down to about 16,000 to name as semifinalists. The semifinalists, like Mount, are designated on a state-representational basis, meaning each state has a percentage of the highest scorers from the pool of 34,000 commended students chosen to advance to the semifinalist category.

Later in the school year, Mount will find out whether he will become a finalist and ultimately, a winner. The winners are chosen from about 15,000 finalists and finalists are scored on academic record, information about the school’s curricula and grading system, two sets of test scores, the high school official’s written recommendation, information about the student’s activities and leadership, and the finalist’s own essay, the National Merit Scholarship Program website said.

For being a National Merit Scholarship Program finalist and winner, several universities provide scholarships — some even full-tuition scholarships. Mount is looking at a few colleges that provide larger scholarships for being part of the National Merit Scholarship Program, including University of Cincinnati, University of Kentucky, and The University of Alabama. He plans to major in the humanities, such as political science or history, with his sights set on becoming a lawyer.

“I’ll graduate debt free,” said Mount about the scholarship opportunities available because of the National Merit Scholarship Program. “It will help me with my college applications and with my résumé.”

In the last five years, SHS has had three students recognized by the National Merit Scholarship Program.

Mount will find out if he will become a finalist in the spring.