IUSD boasts nearly 100 semifinalists in the 2013 National Merit Scholarship program

The National Merit Scholarship Corp. has released its latest list of semifinalists who are in the running for prestigious National Merit awards, and 94 of them are from right here in IUSD.

Suffice to say, the local seniors are in select company. Approximately 16,000 earned the distinction nationwide, representing less than 1 percent of all high school seniors. In Orange County, more than one-third of the 254 students recognized are from IUSD campuses, according to The Orange County Register.

So how do you become a National Merit semifinalist? Well, it’s easier said than done, but you have to do really, really well on the Preliminary SAT.

Students take this test as juniors, and those who ace the exam earn an opportunity to pursue roughly 8,300 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $32 million. These include corporate-sponsored awards, college-sponsored awards and 2,500  “National Merit $2500 Scholarships.”

To make it that far, however, semifinalists have to fulfill all sorts of additional requirements, including earning outstanding marks throughout high school, securing the recommendation of their principals and posting high SAT scores.

About 90 percent of semifinalists are expected to advance to the next round, and approximately half of all finalists will earn the title of “Merit Scholar” — and the college funding that goes with it.

Past National Merit Scholars include former Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Indiana Governor Mitchell Daniels, former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Elena Kagan, an associate justice on the Supreme Court.

Perhaps there’s a future Supreme Court justice somewhere in IUSD. To check out the list of this year’s local semifinalists as compiled by the Register, click here.