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District Announces 2021 National Merit Semifinalists

Officials of National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) have announced the names of approximately 16,000 Semifinalists in the 66th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. The Iowa City Community School District is proud to announce that the following seniors in the District have earned this honor: 

City High School:
Ananya Albrecht-Buehler
Ilario Balestrieri-Fox
Keith Friestad
Laura Friestad
Ben Otoadese
Nolan Vibhakar
Rocco Zollo 

Liberty High School: 
Spencer Holman
Spencer Knight

West High School:
Paras Bassuk
Amol Bhagavathi
Paul Cremer
Timothy Cui
Connor Curtiss
Nathaniel Deyak
Nathan A Gall
Ann D Gao
Brenda Gao
Jenny Y Geng
Tamara Hamzeh
Catherine Hoefer
Mohan Kumar
Jim Li
Amy Liao
Andy Lu
Kevin Lu
Alice Meng
Nina Meng
Dominic Rutkowski
Ananth Shyamal
Divya Shyamal
Matthew Steinbronn
Quincy Tate
Vladimir Tivanski
Niyati Vyas
Alexander Wang
Lucy Westemeyer
Omkar Yadav
Taejune Yoon 

To be named as National Merit Semifinalists, these seniors scored among the top one percent of students nationwide on the 2019 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT). 

City High boasts seven of the District’s Semifinalists. Liberty High School principal, in its second year participating in the program, has two Semifinalists. And West High School’s interim principal, Mitch Gross, has announced that West High has shattered state records with 30 Semifinalists. 

These academically talented high school seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,600 Merit Scholarship awards, worth $30 million, that will be offered next spring. To be considered for a Merit Scholarship award, Semifinalists must fulfill several requirements and advance to the Finalist level of the competition. 

More than 1.5 million juniors in about 21,000 U.S. high schools entered the 2021 National Merit Program by taking the 2019 PSAT/NMSQT, which served as an initial screen of program entrants. The nationwide pool of Semifinalists, which represents less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors, includes the highest scoring entrants in each state. The number of Semifinalists in a state is proportional to the state's percentage of the national total of graduating seniors. 

To become a Finalist, the Semifinalist and a high school official must submit a detailed application, which includes information about the student's academic record, activities, leadership abilities, employment, and honors received. A Semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be recommended by a school official, and write an essay. 

Approximately 15,000 of the Semifinalists are expected to advance to the Finalist level, and it is from this group that all National Merit Scholarship winners will be chosen. Merit designees are selected on the basis of their skills, accomplishments, and potential for success in rigorous college studies, without regard to gender, race, ethnic origin, or religious preference. 

National Merit Scholarship winners of 2021 will be announced in four nationwide news releases beginning in April and concluding in July. These scholarship recipients will join more than 353,000 other distinguished young people who have earned the Merit Scholar title.