MADISON, NJ - Madison’s own Emma Andersson was named a semifinalist on September 12, 2018 by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) in the 64th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. Approximately 16,000 students nationwide were named National Merit semifinalists this year.
Over 1.6 million juniors in about 22,000 high schools entered the 2019 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2017 PSAT. The nationwide pool of semifinalists 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. This year, New Jersey was one of the states with the highest number to qualify (223).
Andersson explains that she took the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test last October during her junior year. At Madison High School, it is optional for juniors, but most people take it to either practice for the official SAT or to try to qualify as a semifinalist. The format of the test is essentially the same as the SAT without the essay, but it is out of 1520 instead of 1600. Everyone took it on the same day, and the scores were released sometime in November or December. When you receive your score out of 1520, you also receive another score that derives from the actual number of correct answers. She did not find out that she was a semifinalist until the first week of school because the minimum score requirements, which vary by state, were not released until September.
Andersson states that “when I learned that I was a named a semifinalist I was very caught off guard. I found out on the first day of school, so it was not something that was on my mind. Other than that, though, I was really excited to hear that my hard work had paid off. It is a really great feeling to be recognized for something you worked hard to achieve.”
The semifinalists will have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $31million that will be offered next spring. From the approximately 16,000 semifinalists, about 15,000 are expected to advance to the finalist level, and in February they will be notified of this designation.
Andersson explains that there is no test to become a finalist. Instead, all the semifinalists have to fill out a supplementary application to become a finalist, which takes into account your GPA, SAT scores, extracurricular activities, a letter of recommendation, and a personal essay. The application is due in October, but finalists are not announced until February. After further consideration, Scholars are named in March or April, and those Scholars are eligible to receive financial compensation in the form of corporate or school-sponsored scholarships. According to the NMSC, over 90 percent of the semifinalists are expected to attain finalist standing, and about half of the finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar title. NMSC is a not-for-profit organization that operates without government assistance.
Andersson is the Senior Class President, and has been the president for all four years of high school. She participates on the Girls Varsity Tennis Team and the Girls Varsity Swim Team. Last year, she joined the newly-restarted Red Cross Club, where she served as the President and continues to this year, and did some work with the Photography Club and the World Language Clubs at MHS. She is also in both the National Honors Society and the National World Language Honors Society.
Outside of school, she works locally at Healthy Italia as a cooking assistant and at the Madison Community Pool as a lifeguard during the summer. She tutors a few younger students and occasionally volunteers coaching girls ice hockey with the New Jersey Colonials, where she played ice hockey for about eight years.
Andersson does not have a first choice when it comes to which college she would like to attend. She intends on staying on the east coast so she can stay somewhat close to home, but other than that she is not partial to any university or city. She explains that how she will use her time in college is the most important, not necessarily where she actually goes, so “I’m keeping an open-mind when it comes to the whole college process.” After a long period of indecisiveness, she has decided to study Applied Mathematics or Computer Science in college.
When asked to comment about her education in the Madison school system, Andersson replies, “The numbers speak for themselves when it comes to the education in Madison, but what sets the education in Madison apart from other towns and schools is the incredible network of teachers, staff, and administration. Without this network, it would be impossible to get everything out of the educational opportunities offered by the Madison Public Schools System. The teachers, staff, and administration cultivate an environment that enhances learning, maximizing the efficiency of the school. First and foremost, I can attribute the positive environment of the Madison High School to the incredibly friendly custodial staff: they are always the first to ask how my day is, how my family is, and these little things contribute to a school environment that I enjoy being in and look forward to returning to every day. Second of all, the dedicated teachers at MHS always inspire and motivate me to always do my best work, allowing me to make the most of my time enrolled in the Madison Public Schools System. The teachers and administration, in my own personal experience, have always supported me in challenging myself, even if that meant going outside of the school to obtain the resources I needed. Understanding that our school cannot provide everything, they make up for that by helping me get the things I need, further enhancing my education. While other schools may offer more extensive curriculums or more AP classes, the people at MHS and all of the other Madison schools make up for that by challenging me and supporting me in other ways, contributing to the success of the Madison.”