Officials of the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) named Hood River County School District (HRCSD) student Jacob Kaplan a semifinalist in the 66th annual National Merit Scholarship Program on Sept. 9.
This year, NMSC selected 16,000 academically talented high school seniors from across the nation who will continue to compete for approximately 7,600 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $30 million that will be offered next spring.
More than 90 percent of the semifinalists are expected to attain finalist standing, and more than half of the finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar title.
NMSC stated that more than 1.5 million juniors in approximately 21,000 high schools entered the 2021 program by taking the 2019 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which served as an initial screen of program entrants.
The nationwide pool of semifinalists, representing less than one percent of the country’s high school seniors, includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state.
Kaplan applied to become a finalist by submitting a detailed scholarship application, in which he included his academic records, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received.
A semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, and write an essay.
The program will begin announcing its 2021 National Merit Scholarship winners in April.
Top college choices of Kaplan include Stanford University, Yale University, Harvard University, and John Hopkins University. He plans to study biology. Kaplan said he has always been interested in science, and a degree in biology will prepare him for a career in medicine. His passion for science, along with his desire to help others, led him to a strong interest in the field of pediatrics.
Kaplan participates in Hood River Options Academy Early College program. Outside of the classroom and science lab, Kaplan participates in various extracurricular activities, including speech and debate, piano, Hood River Valley Leos Club, National Honor Society, Earth Action Club, and Gender-Sexuality Alliance. He also actively volunteers in the community, including sharing his musical talents at local fundraisers.
“I’ve always been motivated to learn and do well, simply for the sake of improving myself,” said Kaplan. “I’ve also been determined to exceed throughout high school to prepare for the rest of my academic and career journey. I take pride in all that I do, and I appreciate everyone who has supported me and helped me accomplish everything I have so far.”
Kaplan’s high school counselor, Tammy Hosaka, said the school district is extremely proud of Kaplan.
“This recognition is a credit to Jacob’s hard work throughout his academic career,” Hosaka said.
She added that credit should also be given to his school teachers and family. She said, “Jacob has impressed me with his enthusiasm for learning and perseverance during challenging times. I am very confident that he will be a successful professional in the career field that he chooses.”