By Pixie Sulser
Of the 1.5 million entrants in the National Merit Scholarship Program, the finalist pool has been whittled down to a select group of 15,000 candidates. One is Kristyn Hietala, a senior at Ramona High School.
Hietala began her National Merit journey by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT), an exam that is available to all high school students in grades 9 through 12 who plan to enroll full time in college no later than the fall following their completion of high school and who are citizens of the United States or are U.S. lawful permanent residents who intend to become U.S. citizens.
After scores are collected from across the nation, approximately 50,000 students with the highest PSAT/NMSQT selection index scores that include critical reading, mathematics and writing skills are chosen for the National Merit Scholarship Program. Of the 50,000, about 34,000 receive letters of commendation with the remaining 16,000 receiving notification they are semifinalists, among the highest scoring entrants for their state. This ensures that academically talented students from all parts of the United States are represented.
Of the semifinalists, 15,000 advance to finalist standing. The official finalist notification process will begin in late February/early March and continue through mid-June. Eight thousand finalists will be chosen to receive one of three types of Merit Scholarship awards: a National Merit $2,500 scholarship, a corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship or a college-sponsored Merit Scholarship.
Hietala, whose current grade-point average is 4.8 and who holds a cumulative (high school career) GPA of 4.21, is a member of the varsity lacrosse team and is treasurer for the Yellow Ribbon Club at RHS.
She is undecided where she will head after graduating from RHS, but she knows she’ll study biochemistry and then enter medical school. Her life-long desire to become a doctor matches her thoughts on being a Merit Scholarship Finalist: “For me, being a National Merit finalist signifies that a student has the potential to succeed academically and to utilize that education so that they might contribute to the betterment of society.”