Olathe North with the Most National Merit Semifinalists in the District


Menaka Garapaty, Editor in Chief

On Wednesday September 14th, seven Olathe North seniors were named National Merit Semifinalists, a prestigious achievement attained with a high PSAT score. Ethan Bui, Matthew Coffman, Isobel Li, Eve Loehrer, Meirah Paul, Jackson Stephens, and Joey Wiltanger took the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test in October of 2021, and they each scored over an index score of 214, qualifying them for the status of Semifinalist.

The National Merit scholarship is one of the most prestigious merit-based scholarships in the college application process. Semifinalists are determined proportionally by each state’s index score cutoff, which is dependent on the state’s average performance on the test. For example, the qualifying score for National Merit Semifinalists in Kansas was 214, whereas West Virginia was 207, and Maryland was 222. Most students are familiar with the 1520 scale, however, it is this index score that is used to measure the eligibility for National Merit. This is calculated by doubling the sum of one’s reading, writing and language, and math test scores.

The seven Olathe North Semifinalists now have the opportunity to advance to the next step of Finalists, where they must meet certain academic requirements, attain a qualifying ACT or SAT score, and submit an application. The last step is becoming a National Merit Scholar where approximately 8,200 of the finalists are chosen. 

Along with the money received from the National Merit Scholarship Program, students can get scholarships directly from universities. About 160 colleges grant money to Finalists. For example, the University of Southern California will cover up to half of a Finalist’s tuition.

Additionally, six out of the seven Semifinalists at North are Distinguished Scholars students. And, North had the greatest number of Semifinalists with Olathe Northwest at six. This has been a common trend as the DS program offers PSAT preparation in class during the weeks prior to the test. Test prep starts freshman year when DS students are required to take the PSAT, even though it won’t qualify them for the scholarship. Taking the test two years in a row before the real deal in junior year, allows students to familiarize themselves with the test, and get the practice they need to receive scholarships. 

It is likely to see this trend continue as Olathe North’s PSAT successes attract more academically-gifted kids, and DS continues to prep their students. Congratulations to the seven National Merit Semifinalists! Way to represent Olathe North!