National Merit Semifinalist Named At Decatur

National Merit Semifinalist Named At Decatur
Semifinalist Grayson Wolf, left, is pictured with Commended Scholars Madison Birckett and Maxwell Ewancio. Submitted Photo

BERLIN – A Stephen Decatur High School student will move on to the next round in a national scholarship competition after being named a semifinalist earlier this month.

On Sept. 11, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation announced the names of approximately 16,000 semifinalists in the 65th annual National Merit Scholarship Program.

Among those listed as a semifinalist this year was Stephen Decatur High School senior Grayson Wolf, who will now continue in the competition to become a National Merit Finalist.

Wolf was one of more than 1.5 million juniors in roughly 21,000 high schools to enter the 2020 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) qualifying test last fall.

The nationwide pool of semifinalists, representing less than 1% 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.

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Wolf said he eagerly waited to see if he made the cutoff that would put him in the running for the Merit Scholar title and thousands of dollars in scholarship money.

“The cutoffs aren’t made public until September, but what a lot of people do is make predictions based on last year’s cutoffs,” he said. “So my score fell within the range of a lot of the predictions, but I was completely unsure of whether or not I would actually make the cut.”

Wolf noted that he was shocked to discover he had been named a semifinalist earlier this month.

“I was pretty surprised and happy that I managed to make it,” he said.

While Wolf was the only student at Stephen Decatur to be named a semifinalist this year, two other students, Madison Birckett and Maxwell Ewancio, earned the Commended Scholar title for placing in the top 3% of all test takers.

All three Stephen Decatur students recognized in this year’s National Merit Scholarship competition are active members of the National Honor Society and the Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society, in addition to other school clubs.

To advance to the finalist level, qualifying semifinalists must have an outstanding high school academic record, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, write an essay and earn SAT or ACT scores that confirm earlier performances on the qualifying test.

From the approximately 16,000 semifinalists, about 15,000 are expected to advance to the finalist level. All National Merit Scholarship winners will be selected from the group of finalists.

In addition to being named a National Merit Semifinalist, Wolf noted his other academic achievements. Last year, for example, he placed third in a math competition at Salisbury University, and he currently maintains a GPA above 5.0.

After graduation, Wolf said he plans to attend a four-year university and major in computer science and mathematics and minor in linguistics.

“I could not have gotten to where I am without the support of all of my teachers …,” he said. “I would like to extend a big thank you to all of the teachers who helped me along the way.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.