SCOTCH PLAINS-FANWOOD, NJ -- Joshua I. Venick, a 2019 graduate of Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School, has been named as a college-sponsored National Merit® Scholarship Winner by Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. His probable career field is Mathematics.

Also, locally, Mara W. Rao of Westfield, a 2019 graduate of the Academy for Allied Health Sciences, part of the Union County VoTech Schools on Raritan Road in Scotch Plains, has been named as a college-sponsored National Merit® Scholarship Winner by Vanderbilt University. Her probable career field is Biomedical Engineering.

The Evanston, Illinois-based National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) announced over 540 additional winners of National Merit Scholarships financed by colleges and universities on July 15, 2019. These designees join more than 3,500 other college-sponsored awardees who were announced in June. Each sponsor college selects scholarship winners from among National Merit Scholarship Finalists who will attend their institution. College-sponsored awards provide between $500 and $2,000 annually for up to four years of undergraduate study at the institution financing the scholarship. This year, 173 colleges and universities sponsored about 4,100 Merit Scholarship awards. 

Sign Up for Scotch Plains/Fanwood Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

This final group of winners brings the number of 2019 National Merit Scholars to more than 7,600. They will receive scholarships worth a total of over $31 million.

This year’s competition for National Merit Scholarships began when over 1.6 million juniors in approximately 22,000 high schools took the 2017 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which served as an initial screen of program entrants. In September 2018, about 16,000 Semifinalists were named. They represented less than one percent of the nation’s high school seniors.

The National Merit® Scholarship application includes writing an essay, describing leadership positions and contributions in school and community activities, showing an outstanding academic record, and being recommended by a high school official. Semifinalists also had to take the SAT® and earn scores that confirmed their performance on the initial qualifying test. From the Semifinalist group, about 15,000 attained Finalist standing, and about half of the Finalists were selected to receive National Merit Scholarships.

National Merit Scholarship Competition, a not-for-profit corporation that operates without government assistance, was founded in 1955 to conduct the National Merit Scholarship Program. Over the past 64 years, more than 345,000 outstanding young individuals have won National Merit Scholarships worth over $1.2 billion. The majority of awards offered each year are underwritten by approximately 400 independent corporate and college sponsors that support NMSC’s efforts to recognize scholastically talented youth and encourage the pursuit of academic excellence. is Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s only free daily paper. Sign up for our daily eNews and follow us on Facebook and twitter @SPF_TAP. Download the free TAPinto App for iPhone or Android.