Nearly 30 percent of county’s National Merit Scholar semifinalists are from IUSD

Eighty-three IUSD seniors are in very select company after being named semifinalists for scholarships offered through the National Merit Scholarship Corp.

Approximately 16,000, or less than 1 percent of all high school seniors, earned this prestigious distinction nationwide, according to results released Sept. 11. Only 286 were recognized in Orange County, meaning 29 percent of the county recipients are from IUSD. Of those, 45 were from University High School.

Semifinalists now have an opportunity to compete for 8,000 National Merit Scholarships worth a total of $35 million, including corporate-sponsored awards, college-sponsored awards and 2,500  “National Merit $2500 Scholarships.”

Semifinalist honors went to those with the highest scores on the Preliminary SAT, which was taken during the last school year by about 1.5 million juniors. To make it to the next level, these students must now fulfill a number of additional requirements, including earning outstanding marks throughout high school, securing an endorsement from a high school official, writing an essay and posting high marks on the SAT.

More than 90 percent of semifinalists are expected to become finalists, and approximately half of all finalists will earn the title of “Merit Scholar,” along with 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, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, fellow Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan and — consider this a twist-ending to our list — filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan.

To check out the list of this year’s local semifinalists as compiled by the Register, click here. (Subscription required.)