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Local Town Nets 119 National Merit Semifinalists

Education

Frisco ISD administration building | Image by City of Frisco

One hundred and nineteen Frisco ISD students have been named semifinalists in the 68th annual National Merit Scholarship Program, the highest of any school district in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

These high-achieving students were selected based on their Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) scores during their junior year and represent the top 0.5% of U.S. high school seniors, per the Frisco ISD website.

“It wasn’t so long ago that the district was celebrating our 26 National Merit Semifinalists in 2014,” said Chris Clark, managing director of academic programs. “What’s incredible is that these students are more than star students; several of these students are leaders in fine arts, athletics, HOSA, BPA, and several other student organizations.”

Overall, 1,578 Texas students were named semifinalists for the award, accounting for around 10% of the nation’s total. However, while Texas is well-represented in its share nationally, its second-biggest school district — Dallas ISD — only yielded 12 semifinalists out of a student population of over 230,000.

Frisco ISD’s student population, however, stands at around 67,000, yet it managed to produce nearly 10 times as many semifinalists as Dallas ISD, which has been underperforming in student achievement metrics and graduation rates for years.

The students named have the opportunity to compete for 7,250 National Merit Scholarships worth nearly $28 million that will be offered in the spring of 2023.

To become finalists, semifinalists must submit a scholarship application that includes information about the student’s academic record and other achievements. Students must also write an essay and earn SAT or ACT scores that corroborate the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test.

Three types of National Merit Scholarships will be offered in 2023, including 2,500 National Merit Scholarships worth $2,500 and 950 corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards. In addition, 160 colleges and universities are expected to finance 3,800 scholarships, with a total value of about $30 million.

Frisco ISD allows students two opportunities to take the test in 10th grade to prepare for the qualifying test in 11th grade. These practice tests help them score their best on the PSAT, to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship.

Administrators said the convenience of offering the test during the school day instead of on the weekend is partly responsible for the higher number of qualifiers. But they also credit the curriculum, the teachers, supportive families, and the students themselves.

“It shows our teachers preparing our kids for college. Our teachers, our curriculum, and our coordinators as a whole are preparing our kids for the future,” Krishna Chetty, the advanced academic coordinator for the district, told The Dallas Express.

When Chetty took over his current role in 2015, Frisco ISD had 27 National Merit Scholarship semifinalists. While the higher numbers in 2022 are somewhat reflective of population growth, he says it is also indicative of the district continuing to improve and move in the right direction.

Chetty also said the National Merit Scholarship semifinalists are perceived favorably by prospective universities.

“Numbers like this show high levels of preparation, high levels of community involvement, and high levels of success,” he claimed.

The students were recognized at the November school board meeting.

The 2023 National Merit Scholarship semifinalist numbers by school or district in the greater Dallas area are:

Akiba Yavneh Academy – 2

Allen ISD – 31

Carroll ISD – 41

Cistercian Preparatory – 5

Coppell ISD – 31

Dallas ISD – 12

Frisco ISD – 119

Grapevine-Colleyville – 17

Greenhill – 6

Highland Park ISD – 14

Hockaday – 26

Irving ISD – 2

Jesuit – 6

Lewisville ISD – 60

Plano ISD – 105

St. Mark’s – 24

Trinity Christian Academy – 7

Ursuline Academy – 5

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