The names of approximately 16,000 semifinalists in the 65th annual National Merit Scholarship Program have been announced. These academically talented high school seniors continue in the competition for some 7,600 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $31 million offered next spring.

Of the 39 semifinalists from South Dakota, are Sarah Hancock and Ruth Howard from T.F. Riggs High School, Pierre.

Semifinalists must fulfill specific requirements. Over 90 percent of the semifinalists are expected to attain finalist standing, and about half of the finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship (NMSC).

NMSC, a not-for-profit organization that operates without government assistance, was established in 1955 specifically to conduct the annual National Merit Scholarship Program. Scholarships are underwritten by NMSC with its own funds and by approximately 400 business organizations and higher education institutions.

The program honors individual students who show exceptional academic ability and potential for success in rigorous college studies. Over 1.5 million juniors in about 21,000 high schools entered the program by taking the 2018 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship qualifying test. The nationwide pool of semifinalists, representing 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.

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