Nicholas E. Bannon

MECHANICSVILLE – A senior at Atlee High School has been named a semifinalist for a 2020 National Merit Scholarship.

Nicholas E. Bannon is among 16,000 semifinalists in the 65th annual program.

The Evanston, Illinois-based National Merit Scholarship Corporation selected the semifinalists who are described as academically talented high school seniors that have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,600 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $31 million that will be offered next spring.

With Nick having advanced to the semifinalist status in the scholarship program, he already has a list of universities he is interested in attending, including Northwestern, Duke, Princeton, George Mason, and VCU. He did point out that “nothing is final.”

When he heads to college, he said, “I plan to major in both Computer Science and Musical Theatre. However, I may decide to minor in Musical Theatre rather than major, depending on the school I attend.”

Music already has a strong influence in his extracurricular activities. “I am active in theatre and music within my school and community, including activities such as show choir, plays, musicals, vocal concerts, the International Thespian Society, and my school’s resident improv [improvisation] team.”

He did offer some advice for students pursuing such a prestigious scholarship: “Work and study hard, but leave yourself time to relax. Find a hobby that you truly enjoy and dive into that world. Don’t live your life trying to participate in activities that support your image; follow your interests; learn what interests you, and you will find that you become excited about learning. If you ever begin to struggle, there is nothing wrong with asking for help. Don’t let confusion hold you back; let it motivate you to learn and master.”

To be considered for a Merit Scholarship® award, semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the finalist level of the competition.

Over 90 percent of the semifinalists are expected to attain finalist standing, and about half of the finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar® title.

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 about 400 business organizations and higher education institutions that share NMSC’s goals of honoring the nation’s scholastic champions and encouraging the pursuit of academic excellence.

Over 1.5 million juniors in about 21,000 high schools entered the 2020 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2018 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®), which served as an initial screen of program entrants.

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.

To become a finalist, the semifinalist and a high school official must submit a detailed scholarship application, in which they provide information about the semifinalist’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards 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® or ACT® scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test.

From the nearly 16,000 semifinalists, about 15,000 are expected to advance to the finalist level, and in February they will be notified of this designation. All National Merit Scholarship winners will be selected from this group of finalists. Merit Scholar designees are selected on the basis of their skills, accomplishments, and potential for success in rigorous college studies, without regard to gender, race, ethnic origin, or religious preference.

For more information about the competition, visit NMSC’s website at

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