Three Athens City Schools students have won college-sponsored scholarships through the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. NMSC announced the list of winners Wednesday.

Caroline Chesnut of Athens High and Genevieve O'Shea and Jake Elliott of Athens Renaissance were among the 3,100 national winners of the scholarships sponsored by 160 colleges and universities in the U.S. The awards provide between $500 and $2,000 annually for up to four years.

According to NMSC, around 900 more recipients will be announced next month.

National Merit

Caroline Chesnut

Chesnut and O'Shea each received National Merit scholarships from Auburn University. Chesnut said she plans to pursue a major in biomedical engineering, while O'Shea plans to go into the international development field.

National Merit

Genevieve O'Shea

AHS guidance counselor Laura Smith told The News Courier she was “thrilled” when Chesnut and fellow senior Connor Higgins were named National Merit semifinalists in September.

“They are both outstanding leaders who are willing to go above and beyond to assist a fellow student as well as see a project through,” AHS Principal Willie Moore told The News Courier in February. “They are both great ambassadors of the ideal student that we have at Athens High School. Connor and Caroline are both highly respected by their peers as well as our staff. We are so very proud of them.”

National Merit

Jake Elliott

Elliott received a National Merit platinum scholarship from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Elliott said he plans to pursue a career in science and/or research.

ARS Principal Nelson Brown told The News Courier earlier this year that he is “very excited” for Elliot and O'Shea.

According to NMSC, more than 1.5 million juniors in about 21,000 high schools entered the 2021 National Merit Scholarship Program when they took the 2019 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which served as an initial screen of program entrants. Last fall, approximately 17,000 semifinalists were named on a state-representational basis in numbers proportional to each state’s percentage of the national total of graduating high school seniors. Semifinalists were the highest-scoring program entrants in each state and represented less than 1% of the nation’s seniors.

To compete for Merit Scholarship awards, semifinalists first had to advance to the finalist level of the competition by fulfilling additional requirements. Each semifinalist was asked to submit a detailed scholarship application, which included writing an essay and providing information about extracurricular activities, awards and leadership positions. Semifinalists also had to have an outstanding academic record and be endorsed and recommended by a high school official. From the semifinalist group, some 16,000 met requirements for finalist standing, and about half of the finalists are Merit Scholarship winners in 2021.

NMSC, a not-for-profit corporation that operates without government assistance, was established in 1955 to conduct the National Merit Scholarship Program. The majority of National Merit Scholarships provided each year are made possible by the support of approximately 400 independent corporate and college sponsors. These sponsors join NMSC in its efforts to enhance educational opportunities for America’s scholastically talented youth and to encourage the pursuit of academic excellence.

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