Students don’t become National Merit semifinalists by cramming the night — or even the weeks — before tests.
They acquire the body of knowledge over the course of their elementary and secondary educations. They generally do so with the support of parents, which manifests itself in numerous ways, a succession of dedicated teachers and, of course, their own academic gifts, initiative and perseverance.
So it is that we congratulate the eight area individuals who have been named National Merit semifinalists. Three are from Manhattan High School: Albert Cochrane, Grace Horton-Smith and Ian Miller; two are from Flint Hills Christian School: Kenan Bitikofer and Sarah Featherstone; one, Jack Keeley, is home-schooled; one, Cody Totten, attends Wamego High School, and one, Hunter Seech, attends Junction City High School.
As a story in Wednesday’s Mercury noted, these are among 154 Kansas students — and about 16,000 nationwide —to earn this distinction, which goes to fewer than 1 percent of high school students.
To become finalists, students have to submit a scholarship application which, in addition to including their academic record and awards, also involves participation in school and community activities that demonstrate their leadership abilities.
An outstanding academic record, an essay and a strong recommendation by a school official are prerequisites, and students’ SAT scores must reaffirm their PSAT scores.
Most of the 16,000 semifinalists — out of 1.5 million students who as juniors last year took the PSAT — advance to the finalist stage and about half of them will earn National Merit scholarships from the program itself, colleges or universities or corporations. There’s little doubt, though, that area students who have become National Merit semifinalists will qualify for numerous college scholarships.
This isn’t the first year area students have been recognized as National Merit semifinalists. It happens regularly; some years just a few students have been honored, other years more than eight have been honored.
Just as a variety of factors contribute to a student achieving this status, we’d like to believe that the consistency with which area students excel has something to do with this area’s values and work ethic, as well as the importance our communities place on education.