Jacob Stump

Jacob Stump, a senior at Ashland City Schools, was chosen as a semifinalist for the National Merit Scholarship Program.

ASHLAND -- An Ashland City Schools senior is among the semifinalists for the 2022 National Merit Scholarship Program.

The program selected Jacob Stump as a semifinalist this month.

The academic program, which began in 1955, is both for recognition and scholarships. Placement is based on student scores on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, often referred to as the PSAT.

Stump’s main academic interest is math, he said, and recently he has become fascinated by economics.  

“Pretty much my whole school career, since kindergarten or first grade, I’ve really liked math,” Stump said.

Stump is also involved in a variety of clubs and organizations at Ashland City Schools. 

“I've been playing piano for 11 to 12 years,” he said.

Stump plays the piano in the school jazz band, sings in the school choir, runs cross country and track, and is a part of the academic team, which involves partaking in individual and group trivia-esque competitions, he said. 

There are approximately 16,000 semifinalists in the 67th National Merit Scholarship Program, with the number of semifinalists per state proportional to the state’s percentage of the national total of graduating seniors.

While students can take the PSAT 10 and PSAT 8/9, those exams are not considered for entry to the National Merit Scholarship Program. The test that qualified Stump for the program was the PSAT/NMSQT, which is taken during a student’s junior year of high school. 

Stump took the test his sophomore year and completed a few practice tests before taking the qualifying test his junior year, he said.  

“I improved about 20 points on my score,” Stump said, referring to the difference between his sophomore and junior year exams.

Stump scored a 1500 his junior year, out of a 1520 scale, he said. 

Stump felt the weight of familial expectations going into the test, as his older brother and sister had also been named national merit scholar semifinalists, he said. 

“I was pretty happy to hear that I received the semifinalist status, especially because of the family tradition before me, didn't want to break that or have my brother and sister be able to say they're better than me or anything,” Stump said with a laugh. “But, besides that, I kind of had a feeling ahead of time just based on how I scored on the (sophomore) test that I would likely end up as a national merit semifinalist, but you can never be sure.”

Stump is now in the college application process and plans to apply to about 13 schools. 

“In the perfect world, I would attend the University of Chicago,” he said. “There they have a mathematics degree with a specialization in econ, so it’s basically kind of a dual degree thing where you study both math and econ. And then, as a secondary major, I'd probably also study music.”

Stump and other semifinalists have the opportunity to continue in the competition for roughly 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth nearly $30 million to be offered next spring. 

“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,” according to the semifinalist announcement from the National Merit Scholarship Program on Sept. 15.

Semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the finalist level of the competition. 

The next step for semifinalists is to submit a scholarship application, which includes information about the student’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, leadership abilities, employment and any honors and awards the student has received. 

Semifinalists must also write an essay and earn SAT or ACT scores confirming the student’s earlier performance on the PSAT, and obtain a recommendation by a high school official.

Three types of National Merit Scholarships will be offered in the spring: 2,500 National Merit $2500 Scholarships awarded on a state-representational basis; roughly 1,000 corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards provided by corporations and business organizations for finalists who meet their specified criteria (i.e. children of the grantor’s employees or residents of communities where sponsor offices are located); and about 4,000 college-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards for finalists who will attend a sponsor institution.

Finalists are notified in February. National Merit Scholarship winners of 2022 will be announced beginning in April and ending in July.

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Emma Davis is a 2021 graduate of the University of Richmond, from which she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and leadership studies. Emma reports for Knox Pages and Ashland Source through Report for America.

Emma Davis is a 2021 graduate of the University of Richmond, from which she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and leadership studies. Emma reports for Knox Pages and Ashland Source through Report for America.