Ian Marks

Ian Marks

Ian Marks of West Jones is the lone local student to be selected as a National Merit Scholarship Semifinalist.

The son of Anne Giselle Marks, he was one of approximately 16,000 semifinalists in the 67th annual National Merit Scholarship Program whose name was announced Wednesday. The academically talented high school seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth nearly $30 million that will be offered next spring.

Fewer than 150 seniors across the state made it through the rigorous selection process. Marks, who is a member of the Mustang Pride band and recently earned his Eagle Scout badge, was the only one from Jones County.

Nine students were selected from Hattiesburg area schools — five from Oak Grove (Jonathan S. Bai, Jace Connell, Hans O. Elasri, Andrew D. Sell, Yujie A. Yang), two from Presbyterian Christian (Samuel T. Powell, Sterling B. Robbins), one from Petal (Weston A. Taylor) and one from Sacred Heart (Christina N. Danford).

To be considered for a Merit Scholarship award, semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the finalist level of the competition. About 95 percent of the semifinalists are expected to attain finalist standing, and approximately half of the finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar title.

High school juniors entered the 2022 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2020 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which served as an initial screen of program entrants. The nationwide pool of semifinalists, representing less than 1 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 with 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.

Three types of National Merit Scholarships will be offered in the spring of 2022. Every finalist will compete for one of 2,500 National Merit $2,500 scholarships that will be awarded on a state-representational basis. About 1,000 corporate sponsored Merit Scholarship awards will be provided by approximately 220 corporations and business organizations for finalists who meet their specified criteria, such as children of the grantor’s employees or residents of communities where sponsor plants or offices are located. In addition, about 180 colleges and universities are expected to finance some 4,000 college-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards for Finalists who will attend the sponsor institution.

National Merit Scholarship winners of 2022 will be announced in four nationwide news releases beginning in April and concluding in July. These scholarship recipients will join more than 362,000 other distinguished young people who have earned 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 approximately 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.

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