More scholarship semifinalists chosen than previous years

More local students qualified as semifinalists for a competitive scholarship program than in the last three years.

This year, a total of 15 students from five local high schools are semifinalists in the National Merit Scholarship Program. That number is up from the last three years. Last year, local schools had 13 semifinalists, and seven were named semifinalists in 2015 and 2014.

While the number of local students chosen as semifinalists is up, Johnson County schools have fewer semifinalists than other central Indiana schools. For example, Carmel High School had a total of 52 semifinalists, and Zionsville Community High School had 11, according to the news release.

Schools have used the number of semifinalists and finalists as a measure of student achievement. But they also say that is just one way to measure how well students are performing.

At Greenwood schools, who did not have a semifinalist this year as they have in past years, it is one of several measures of student achievement the school district uses, superintendent Kent DeKoninck said.

Indian Creek High School had one semifinalist this year, the first in years, and principal Luke Skobel said the achievement is certainly a source of pride for the high school, but more for the student.

“Any time one of our students achieves that honor, it is a feather in our cap as well,” Skobel said.

“But more so for the student, it shows the work and preparation they put into it.”

At Whiteland Community High School, three students were named semifinalists, which is more than the last three years, which is an honor for both the students and the school, Principal Tom Zobel said.

The high school hasn’t put more of an emphasis on the National Merit program, but has been focusing more on rigor, problem-solving and critical thinking, he said.

Roncalli High School Principal Chuck Weisenbach said the school definitely uses the honor as a measure of achievement, since every student has a chance at it because they all take the same test. Students are chosen based on their scores on the preliminary SAT and a qualifying test for the scholarship. They must also write an essay and earn SAT scores that confirm the PSAT score.

The students picked are considered to be in the top 1 percent of high school students in the nation, and it is a huge accomplishment for them that they have worked toward for years, he said.

“You don’t just wake up and become a National Merit scholar, and be in the top 1 percent of high school students in the United States,” Weisenbach said.

While high schools do help prepare students, that work really needs to begin much earlier for a student to be able to master the skills needed to be selected, requiring the help of their parents and teachers in the earlier grades, Weisenbach.

Being named a semifinalist, and hopefully a finalist, recognizes the hard work students have put in for years, he said.

Semifinalists will be asked to submit an application detailing their academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment and honors and awards received. Typically, about 90 percent of semifinalists are chosen as finalists. Students are eligible for college-, business- or National Merit-sponsored scholarships.

At a glance

Here are the local National Merit Scholarship semifinalists:

  • Ben Asdell, Roncalli High School
  • Jack Bauer, Roncalli High School
  • Liam Collier, Roncalli High School
  • Olivia Ehrlich, Indian Creek High School
  • Natalie Fikes, Roncalli High School
  • Jacob Freeland, Franklin Community High School
  • Saransh Garg, Center Grove High School
  • Tyler Hicks, Roncalli High School
  • Madison Hodges, Center Grove High School
  • Hannah Moss, Center Grove High School
  • Collin Prince, Roncalli High School
  • Garrett Seawright, Whiteland Community High School
  • Trevor Speer, Whiteland Community High School
  • Kevin Stucker, Whiteland Community High School
  • Carolina Whitaker, Roncalli High School
Author photo
Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at or 317-736-2718.