Valley Catholic seniors Rose Rogers, Ermina Lee, Alex Kiss and Sophia Cowles are semifinalists in the National Merit Scholarship Program.
Valley Catholic seniors Rose Rogers, Ermina Lee, Alex Kiss and Sophia Cowles are semifinalists in the National Merit Scholarship Program.
BEAVERTON — Four Valley Catholic seniors were selected as semifinalists in the 61st annual National Merit Scholarship Program. For the students, winning would mean scholarship funds, a merit scholar title, and access to a distinguished alumni group.

Sophia Cowles, Alex Kiss, Ermina Lee and Rose Rogers were chosen after ranking among top-scoring Oregonians on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT). The 16,000-person pool of semifinalists represent less than one percent of high school seniors nationwide, according to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

“It’s very exciting and I know my parents are proud of me,” said Rogers, who wants to study illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design.

To advance in the academic competition, each semifinalist must submit an application that describes participation in school activities and community service, leadership skills, honors, achievements and more.

In addition to the application, each semifinalist must demonstrate 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 National Merit Scholarship Program materials.

“I know I’m a strong writer, so my plan is to write a really strong essay, get a good recommendation, and hope that I’m a strong enough candidate” said Cowles, who wants to enter the philosophy, politics and economics program at Oxford University.

Roughly 7,400 seniors will be selected from the pool of finalists to win a scholarship and the merit scholar title, based on their demonstrated potential for success in rigorous college studies, according to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

“Winning this competition would validate my hard work,” said Lee, who has her sights set on the John Hopkins University School of Medicine. Kiss hopes the process will help him “get into a good college.” He wants to study engineering in the honors program at Oklahoma City University.