A Center Grove High School senior always knew that paying for college was going to be her responsibility.
Hannah Moss saw her mom go back to college when she was in high school to get a better job, and she knew that college would likely require student loans.
Then, Moss heard about the National Merit Scholarship program. She took the Pre-SAT, got the required score to become a semi-finalist, filled out paperwork detailing her community work and extracurricular activities and was recently named a finalist.
Now, she will attend the University of Central Florida on a full-ride scholarship that the college gives to finalists in the program.
“I always kind of knew that whatever I got for college, I would have to get myself,” Moss said.
Fifteen students were named finalists in the National Merit Program at Franklin, Whiteland, Roncalli, Indian Creek and Center Grove high schools. Last fall, a total of 15 students were named semi-finalists in the competitive scholarship program, which was the most in the county over the last three years.
Students were named semi-finalists based on their scores from the PSAT they took as sophomores. Semi-finalists were then asked to submit applications detailing their academic record, participation in school and community activities and a final essay. Finalists were culled from the applications, and winners will be announced next month based on the same criteria.
Finalists and winners are not guaranteed a full scholarship to college, but many colleges incentivize going far in the National Merit program with scholarship offers to finalists and winners, high school administrators said.
The number of finalists a high school has is one way to measure student achievement and to help prove that the school is offering the vigorous curriculum that students need to succeed and do well in college, administrators said.
“It is some affirmation; we want to make sure we are providing opportunities all across the spectrum,” Franklin Community High School principal Steve Ahaus said.
And some school administrators push the program knowing that it is a possible path for students to pay for college.
Winners are awarded a one-time $2,500 scholarship. However, specific colleges, businesses and corporations can give students larger scholarship amounts for going far in the program, Indian Creek High School principal Luke Skobel said.
Indian Creek has their first finalist in years in Olivia Ehrlich. However, the pride is more for Ehrlich herself than for the school, Skobel said.
“Obviously we are very proud of her. It is a very nice feather in our cap, so to speak, to say we have a student who has achieved this,” he said.
“Just being a finalist, I would expect that she is going to receive some significant financial aid.”
Being named a finalist was the result of work Ehrlich had done since elementary school.
She has strived to get straight As all through school and knew that being named a finalist could help her pay for college. She is considering Rose-Hulman or Carnegie-Mellon, and has not yet decided where she will go, since she is waiting on scholarship offers from the schools partly based on her National Merit status, she said.
“It was nice to feel all my hard work after all these years was being shown off,” she said. “There is always something good at the end of the road.”
Here are the local National Merit Scholarship finalists:
- 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