Trojan Contender Program Produces Record Number of National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists

Writer:  Malisa Dills
Photography:  Provided

Preparing for college might be difficult to consider before one even receives their driver’s license. Center Grove High School wants to make sure sophomores do not miss out on the incredible scholarship opportunities available to them through the National Merit Scholarship Program.  

The key to unlocking these and other opportunities lies in the students’ scores on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT).  High school leaders found many students were unaware of the importance of the PSAT. In the 2017-2018 school year, they introduced the Trojan Contenders program to increase this awareness and, in turn, increase the number of students who qualify as National Merit Semifinalists and Finalists.

The Trojan Contender program identifies sophomores who have demonstrated the academic potential to qualify for National Merit recognition from their junior year PSAT.  “I think Trojan Contenders is super cool for the kids.  It brings positive attention to a test that some kids don’t take as seriously,” says Guidance Department Chair Meaghan Krukemeier.  

In February 2018, nineteen students were selected as the school’s first Trojan Contenders. Students were treated to a complimentary lunch, while administrative staff and school counselors shared an overview of scholarship opportunities.  Contenders viewed a testimonial video featuring past school scholarship winners and were advised to take practice tests.  Assistant Principal Jennifer Perkins said the school also 

offered fun reminders, such asa Crush soda with a note encouraging the students to “Crush the PSAT.”  School leaders hope the recognition and support raises awareness with students and their families about the opportunities they can strive for the following school year. 

Though it is still too early to gauge the school program’s success, CGHS announced eleven National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists this year, the highest number in the school’s history. In February, all eleven learned they had advanced to Finalist status.

Trojan Contenders are identified based on their Selection Index score from a practice PSAT administered sophomore year.  The Selection Index is a scoring system calculated from the Reading, Writing and Language, and Math scores and used to assess National Merit Scholarship eligibility.  Of the 1.6 million participants this school year, about 16,000 qualified as Semifinalists based on their Selection Index score. Semifinalists must then complete an application and fulfill specified requirements to qualify for Finalist status. Finalists are eligible to compete for Merit Scholarship awards which include $2,500 National Merit Scholarship and corporate and college-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards. These awards are based on the students’ high school academic record, activities, and leadership.

The PSAT not only serves as preparation for the college admissions test, the SAT, but can lead to other valuable scholarship opportunities. The Trojan Contender program acknowledges academic ability and also raises awareness to potential college scholarship money and national distinction. This insight and recognition provide support that cannot come too early for a high school student.

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