Maui student nets honor, scholarship

Carly Megan O’Donnell of Seabury Hall was one of 2,500 National Merit Scholarship winners nationwide and the only one on Maui this year, the National Merit Scholarship Corp. announced.

The Haiku resident received $2,500 and was selected from a pool of 15,000 finalists in the scholarship program, according to a news release from NMSC. She plans to pursue a career in microbiology/immunology.

Winners are judged to have the strongest combination of accomplishments, skills and potential for success in rigorous college studies, the news release said. The number of winners in Hawaii, 10, is proportional to the state’s percentage of the nation’s graduating high school seniors.

Scholars were selected by a committee of college admissions officers and high school counselors, based on the student’s academic record, including difficulty of subjects studied and grades earned; scores from two standardized tests; contributions and leadership in school and community activities; an essay written by the finalist; and a recommendation written by a high school official.

The corporation finances most National Merit $2,500 scholarships, with corporations and company foundations also helping to underwrite awards.

Scholars may use their awards at any regionally accredited U.S. college or university.

This year’s competition for National Merit Scholarships began in October 2012, when about 1.5 million juniors in 22,000 high schools took the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which served as an initial screen of program entrants. Last fall, the highest-scoring participants in each state, representing less than 1 percent of the nation’s high school seniors, were named semifinalists on a state representational basis.

Of the 16,000 semifinalists, 15,000 students met the academic standards and other requirements to advance to the finalist level of the competition. By the conclusion of this year’s program, about 8,000 finalists will have earned the “Merit Scholar” title and received a total of more than $35 million in college scholarships. Previously, corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards were announced; yet to be announced are college-sponsored Merit Scholarship winners.