Five Park City students selected as National Merit Scholarship semi-finalists | ParkRecord.com

Five Park City students selected as National Merit Scholarship semi-finalists

Seniors “excited and proud” to be honored

(Carolyn Webber/Park Record) From left: Jayda Robison, Danice Ball and Sierra Wells are the three semi-finalists for the National Merit Scholarship from Park City High School.

From left: Jayda Robison, Danice Ball and Sierra Wells are the three semi-finalists for the National Merit Scholarship from Park City High School. (Carolyn Webber/Park Record)

Sierra Wells got to school after first period and a friend told her that she had been called into the office. A little scared, she went to talk with the principal of Park City High School, Bob O'Connor. Then, he told her she was a semi-finalist for the National Merit Scholarship.

Wells is among five local students in contention for the honor. Jayda Robison and Danice Ball at Park City High School, Nic Carlson at the Winter Sports School and his brother Eric Carlson at TASIS Dorado in Puerto Rico were also named semi-finalists. Eric has attended the school in Puerto Rico for three years but lives in Park City during summer break with his family.

The $2,500 National Merit Scholarship is awarded to 7,500 students each year from around the United States. In September, 16,000 semi-finalists were announced and in Utah, 159 students were chosen. Five of them were from Park City.

Students are selected based on high scores from the Practice SAT exam that juniors take prior to the ACT and SAT for college applications. One-third of the 50,000 top scores are chosen in each state. Once chosen as semi-finalists, students submit applications, essays and letters of recommendation to the National Merit Scholarship Board. Finalists are announced in February and scholarship winners are announced in March.

The three students at Park City High were proud that the recipients from their school were all girls, Robison said. Ball said she was glad to be recognized, especially since the test shows a "more accurate, raw score" due to the lack of pre-test prep.

Twins Nic and Eric Carlson were named semi-finalists for the scholarship. Nic attends the Winter Sports School and Eric attends TASIS Dorado in Puerto Rico. (Photo by Tess Miner-Farra)

"Studying for all the tests (throughout our lives), it prepares you for taking this kind of test," she said. "And it helps you stand out from the crowd."

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Nic Carlson at the Winter Sports School was proud as well, in particular because both he and his brother were named semi-finalists.

"It's definitely an honor," he said. "It's kind of like a pay-off for hard work."

The Winter Sports School has not had a semi-finalist since 2013, when Michaela Webb was awarded the National Merit Scholarship, said Tess Miner-Farra, head of the school. Park City High School typically has about five students who are named each year as semi-finalists, said Kristin Silvestri, community scholarship advisor at the high school. The students named are typically well rounded and involved in school, clubs and the community, she said. And these three girls were no different.

"I think it's really telling of how hard they are working," she said. "They have a lot of leaders to look up to and they themselves are leaders."

Each student is finishing his or her National Merit Scholarships applications while also completing applications for colleges and other scholarships.