High School senior Kaleb Mount was named a semifinalist in the National
Merit Scholarship Program, an honor shared with only 16,000 students
nationwide who received a high score on the Preliminary SAT test.
“It’s opened up a lot of doors for my future,” Mount said. “I worked really, really hard to do that. It paid off.”
a couple of months, Mount studied for the test after time commitments
throughout the day — classes, homework, and practices as a member of the
two-time, consecutive state champion Indiana Academic Super Bowl Social
Studies team and the 2014 state finalist Band of Warriors. In the late
evening hours, Mount would spend one hour to review material from the
PSAT preparation he purchased. If he did not know the answer to the
question, Mount would bring it to school the next day for help from one
of his teachers.
“If there was a problem I didn’t understand, I
would bring it into my teachers, and they would break it down for me,”
Mount said. “A lot of the teachers were helpful when I was getting
The hard work paid off. He scored about 12 points higher than the typical high score in Indiana.
“It definitely does not come naturally,” Mount said. “Anyone can do well on a test if they are willing to do that hard work.”
National Merit Scholarship Program initially recognizes 50,000
high-scoring students throughout the country. The program then whittles
the number of students recognized in order to eventually choose winners.
The program goes from 50,000 recognized students to about 34,000 in its
commended students level. From the 34,000 commended students, the
program cuts the number down to about 16,000 to name as semifinalists.
The semifinalists, like Mount, are designated on a
state-representational basis, meaning each state has a percentage of the
highest scorers from the pool of 34,000 commended students chosen to
advance to the semifinalist category.
Later in the school year,
Mount will find out whether he will become a finalist and ultimately, a
winner. The winners are chosen from about 15,000 finalists and finalists
are scored on academic record, information about the school’s curricula
and grading system, two sets of test scores, the high school official’s
written recommendation, information about the student’s activities and
leadership, and the finalist’s own essay, the National Merit Scholarship
Program website said.
For being a National Merit Scholarship
Program finalist and winner, several universities provide scholarships —
some even full-tuition scholarships. Mount is looking at a few colleges
that provide larger scholarships for being part of the National Merit
Scholarship Program, including University of Cincinnati, University of
Kentucky, and The University of Alabama. He plans to major in the
humanities, such as political science or history, with his sights set on
becoming a lawyer.
“I’ll graduate debt free,” said Mount about
the scholarship opportunities available because of the National Merit
Scholarship Program. “It will help me with my college applications and
with my résumé.”
In the last five years, SHS has had three students recognized by the National Merit Scholarship Program.
Mount will find out if he will become a finalist in the spring.