Park City High School senior recognized as National Merit Scholarship Program semifinalist

National Merit Scholarship Program semifinalist George Beal stands in front of Park City High School between his father, Seth, and mother, Kara.
David Jackson/Park Record

Park City High School senior George Beal claims he doesn’t shine in the spotlight, but he sure looks darn good on paper. A few weeks ago, he became one of the nation’s roughly 16,000 semifinalists for the 2024 National Merit Scholarship Program.

“These academically talented high school seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,140 National Merit Scholarships worth nearly $28 million that will be offered next spring,” a Sept. 13 press release from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation stated. “About 95 percent of the semifinalists are expected to attain finalist standing, and approximately half of the finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship.”

The release explained that the 16,000 semifinalists emerged from about 1.3 million students who took the PSAT test as juniors in 2022.

“The nationwide pool of semifinalists, representing less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors, includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state,” it said.

In order to become a semifinalist, Beal had to score well on the ACT or SAT test, earn “an outstanding academic record throughout high school,” obtain the endorsement of a Park City High official and write an essay.

“I think there were 72 on our campus last year that took the test,” Principal Roger Arbabi said. “Only one of them qualified to be a National Merit semifinalist.”

Beal, the son of Seth and Kara Beal, is the third sibling in the family to attend Park City High School and the second to be recognized as a semifinalist in the competition.

His favorite subject is math, and he regularly makes the trip from Park City to the University of Utah to attend a Calculus 3 class. He said the most difficult part of the course so far is the drive to get there.

“It’s going pretty well,” he said. “I can do the math. The drive I’m getting better at.”

Though he hasn’t decided exactly what he wants to study after graduation, he knows he wants to choose a topic involving math and is applying to attend the University of Washington, Brigham Young University, Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“I think I’d be happy at any one of those schools,” he said. “I’m going to see what I get into because Stanford and MIT are obviously very prestigious schools, and then I think I’ll make a decision based off my options.”

To juniors who are planning to take the PSAT, Beal recommended approaching the challenge with confidence.

“You’ve definitely got to put in the effort,” he said. “It really depends on the mindset going in. You’ve got to be calm, be relaxed and just believe in yourself. And don’t be too hard on yourself if it’s a bad day.”


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