Seven SMHS Students Honored by National Merit Scholarship Program

Junior and senior years in high school bring many big tests. College entrance exams. SAT. ACT. And each of those tests can yield big results when it comes to earning scholarships for college. Sean McGunigal, a senior at St. Mary’s High School, has recently been named a Semifinalist in the National Merit Scholarship Program thanks to one of those tests. Six other St. Mary’s seniors were recognized for their achievements as National Merit Commended Students.


McGunigal’s status as a Semifinalist puts in him a group that represents less than 1 percent of US high school seniors. More than one million high school juniors entered the National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2011 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. About 16,000 of those who entered were named Semifinalists.


“It’s the product of a lot of hours studying for the PSAT,” McGunigal said. “I knew this was a possibility because I took the PSAT as a sophomore. And I really wanted it. Colleges like to see this because it shows that you’ve put in the hard work.”


Semifinalists advance to the finalist level of the competition by fulfilling several requirements, including an outstanding academic record, an endorsement from principal, a second set of SAT scores to confirm earlier test performance, a written essay, and information about how the student participates in leadership both at school and in the community.


Although McGunigal was the only Semifinalist at St. Mary’s this year, six other students were recognized by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation when they received Letters of Commendation. They are: Colton Calandrella, Ben Cloud, Paulina Menichiello, Kuran Mital, Amy Resman, and Sarah Tafolla.


More than two-thirds of the high scorers on the PSAT receive a Commended status from the Corporation. And while these students don’t move on in the National Merit Scholarship competition, some of the Commended students become candidates for corporate or business scholarships.


McGunigal now begins gathering information for the finalist stage, and feels that being a student at St. Mary’s will be a benefit.


“St. Mary’s is very service oriented,” he said. “The service hours they require of us really instill a sense of helping the community.”


Students advancing to the finalist category have the hope of being awarded one of the 8,300 National Merit Scholarships totaling more than $34 million. It’s estimated that about 90 percent of the semifinalists will reach the Finalist level, and more than half of the Finalists will be awarded a National Merit Scholarship and earn the Merit Scholar title.


Finalists will be announced in February, then Scholarship winner announcements begin in April and continue through July.


By Amy G. Partain, Communications Associate
St. Mary’s High School


Below, from left to right, are: Paulina Menichiello, Ben Cloud, Sara Tafolla, Colton Calandrella, Amy Resman, Kuran Mital, and Sean McGunigal.

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