Four Recognized as National Merit Finalists


Courtesy of Joshua Yoon, Rebecca Park, Sophia Akinboro, and Keya Panchal

(clockwise from top right) Seniors Joshua Yoon, Rebecca Park, Sophia Akinboro, and Keya Panchal advance as finalists standing in the National Merit Scholarship Program. Finalists will potentially be selected to receive $2,500 dedicated to college funds.

Four BOHS seniors — Sophia Akinboro, Keya Panchal, Rebecca Park, and Joshua Yoon — were recognized as 2021 National Merit Finalists by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation on Feb. 8. 

The National Merit Scholarship Program is an academic competition in which high school juniors take the PSAT/NMSQT to determine whether they qualify for the next round of the program. When the students become seniors and score in the top 1% of their state, they can compete for a $2,500 scholarship.

“Recognition as a National Merit Finalist is a prestigious achievement,” Robert Stelmar, counselor said. 1.5 million students took the 2019 PSAT/NMSQT test for the 2021 scholarship program, and only 15,000 students were named finalists, including Akinboro, Panchal, Park, and Yoon.

When Panchal learned that she qualified as a finalist, she “was relieved to see [her] hard work pay off.” She hopes to be a scholarship recipient to potentially earn “half-off” her entire USC tuition if accepted.

In the realm of college admissions, being a National Merit Finalist gives a student leverage when it comes to choosing a college to attend and how robust the financial aid package can be. The scholarship is beneficial for college applicants since colleges “pay to have National Merit Finalists on their campus” Stelmar said.

The students for the 2021 program took their exam in October 2019 and were selected as semifinalists based on the highest scoring entrants in the state. 

Out of 16,000 semifinalists, 15,000 finalists were chosen based on accomplishments, letters of recommendations, leadership, and a written essay for consideration of the award.

Yoon aspires to win the scholarship and was glad that his efforts were worth the struggle by making it as a finalist. “It felt like rain after a long period of a drought,” Yoon said.

For students hoping to apply for this scholarship, Park suggests that students “work through SAT practice books or use online practice tests to prepare” for the exam. Park also hopes to receive the college-sponsored awards and list it as an honor on her college applications.

Because the National Merit Scholarship is a very prestigious award, Akinboro encourages students to apply to other college scholarships. “There are so many scholarships to help you for college and so don’t ever be discouraged or give up,” Akinboro said.

Finalists will be notified that they have been selected for a Merit Scholarship throughout April 21 and July 12, according to a public announcement by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.