NSA has Merit Scholar semifinalists

Published 7:39 pm Saturday, September 13, 2014

Two Nansemond-Suffolk Academy seniors are in contention to become Merit Scholars after being named semifinalists in the National Merit Scholarship program.

Matthew Allison and Maya Venkataraman both say they were excited when they learned the news last week.

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation announced 16,000 semifinalists around the nation.




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Around 90 percent of those will become finalists, and more than half of finalists will be named Merit Scholars, sharing in some 7,600 National Merit Scholarships worth about $33 million.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” Allison said. “I have heard it’s a pretty big deal, so I’m glad I got it.”

“I was really excited,” Venkataraman said. “I went home and told my parents, and they were really happy.”

About 1.4 million juniors in more than 22,000 high schools entered the 2015 program by taking the 2013 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

Representing less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors, semifinalists comprise the highest-scoring entrants in each state.

A semifinalist’s school submits a scholarship application detailing the student’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment and honors received.

“A semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, write an essay, and earn SAT scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test,” according to a news release.



Allison says his strongest subjects are reading and writing. “I think I’m also not bad at science,” he said.

He plans to study “science, and maybe technology” at the University of Virginia or Virginia Tech.

“Right now, I’m thinking I might become an astronaut,” Allison said. “I’ve always had an interest in stars, space, that kind of thing.”

Venkataraman said, “I really like math and science, especially chemistry — it’s probably my favorite.”

She said she hopes to study chemical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin or Virginia Tech.

“My dad is thinking about moving there; I would be able to live close to him,” she said of school in Texas. Chemical engineering, she added, “has a lot of different applications, which I think is really cool.”

Allison says he’s attracted to the possibilities of space. “It’s fascinating to think of some of the things that are out there, like black holes,” he said.

“I think it would be really neat to visit them one day. I could at least study them.”