Trio named National Merit Semifinalists


Reagan Heck

R. Heck

Every year, high school students take the PSAT during their junior year. But just a small fraction score in the top 1 percent and earn the honor of being named National Merit Semifinalists.

This year, three Kings Seniors have earned such an honor: Ryan Dilts, Gabbie Griffin, and Jillian Hestle.

When KHS Principal Doug Leist recently called the three students down to tell them the news, they were all very excited.

“Mrs. Prince told me that Mr. Leist wanted to see me,” Dilts said. “So I went back into his office and he told me the news while Mrs. Murray and Mrs. Mosure were there. Then we called my mom.” 

Hestle said she felt elated when she heard the news.

“I found out that I had made it when I was called down to the office and Mr. Leist congratulated me,” she said. “It’s a big honor, one I’m still amazed to discover.”

Griffin was also ecstatic, but soon learned there is another step to the process to reaching the higher goal of becoming a National Merit Finalist.

“I thought I had a shot, but I didn’t know for sure, so finding out was really cool,” Griffin said. “To be honest, right now I’m not as excited because I have to write yet another essay, which isn’t so great.”

In order to advance onto being a National Merit Finalist, the applicants must fill out an online form and write an essay. The school must send the transcript of each student plus submit a letter of recommendation from the principal. In addition, the students must take the SAT to earn a score comparable to their PSAT scores.

To be a National Merit Finalist, students must score in the top 15,000 students in the nation on their PSAT and SAT. For Dilts, Griffin, and Hestle, being a National Merit Finalist is in full grasp.

From this smaller pool of finalists are chosen the annual National Merit Scholars. Such an esteemed award can open up many college and career opportunities for high school students, even full scholarships to prestigious universities.

But for now, these three seniors are setting their sights on the next step.

“I think it would really set me apart at some of the schools I’m applying to and hopefully getting some scholarships,” Dilts said.

Hestle ageed.

“To be a finalist would mean so much to me, as it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Hestle said. “Even though it does not help with college applications, the scholarship itself would open up many doors in my future.”

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