HomeBlocksFront-TopSan Marino Scholars Earn National Merit Awards

San Marino Scholars Earn National Merit Awards

San Marino residents Sabrina Liu and Kaylin Yagura were recently named among this year’s $2,500 scholarship winners by the National Merit Scholarship Corp.

The 2,500 Merit Scholar designees were selected from a talent pool of more than 15,000 finalists in the 2024 National Merit Scholarship Program. The $2,500 scholarship winners are the finalists in each state judged to have the strongest combination of accomplishments, skills and potential for success in rigorous college studies. The number of winners named in each state is proportional to the state’s percentage of the nation’s graduating high school seniors.

Liu, who attends Harvard-Westlake School, said she found out about her selection as a National Merit Scholar while touring Europe with her school’s chamber orchestra. She replied to the organization during the trip.

“Upon finding out that I was a winner, I felt very thrilled and blessed,” Liu said. “Because of the competition’s lengthy and involved process, I had focused so much on each step that I did not deeply consider the prospect of achieving the award. … Through a haze of excitement, I remember thinking that this scholarship was symbolic of how my teenage endeavors and accomplishments would accompany me into college and adulthood.”

Yagura, who attends Polytechnic School in Pasadena, said she feels fortunate to have been able to find a home at Poly as a student, and wishes to feel that same comfort again in a new environment after graduating.

“I am grateful for this recognition, because it reminds me that I owe a debt of gratitude to my teachers, coaches, friends and family for their unwavering support and encouragement,” Yagura said. “From the classroom to the competition pool, through moments of doubt to moments of success, they have always been there for me. As I prepare to leave for college to study engineering, I look back fondly at my time as a ‘lifer’ at Poly. I hope to find another community as supportive as this one.”

Liu and Yagura and the other scholars like them were selected by a committee of college admissions officers and high school counselors, who appraised a substantial amount of information submitted by both the finalists and their high schools: the academic record, including difficulty level of subjects studied and grades earned; scores from the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test; contributions and leadership in school and community activities; an essay written by the finalist; and a recommendation written by a high school official.

The National Merit Scholarship Corp. finances most of these $2,500 single payments for the scholarships. Corporations and company foundations that sponsor awards through NMSC also help underwrite these scholarships with grants they provide in lieu of paying administrative fees. Donations made to NMSC’s President’s Fund also provide funding for National Merit’s $2,500 scholarships. Scholars may use their awards at any regionally accredited U.S. college or university.

This year’s National Merit Scholarship Program began in October 2022 when high school juniors took the PSAT/NMSQT, which served as an initial screen of program entrants. Last fall, the highest-scoring participants in each state, representing less than 1% of the nation’s high school seniors, were named semifinalists on a state-representational basis.

More than 16,000 semifinalists had an opportunity to continue in the competition. From the semifinalist group, more than 15,000 students met high academic standards and other requirements to advance to the finalist level of the competition. By the conclusion of the 2024 program, more than 6,870 finalists will have earned the “Merit Scholar” title and received a total of nearly $26 million in college scholarships.

NMSC, a not-for-profit organization that operates without government assistance, was founded in 1955 specifically to conduct the National Merit Scholarship Program. The majority of scholarships offered each year are underwritten by approximately 320 independent corporate and college sponsors that share NMSC’s goals of honoring scholastically talented youth and encouraging academic excellence at all levels of education.

First published in the May 23 issue of the San Marino Tribune


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