5 graduates of GPS, McCallie, Collegiate High win National Merit college-based scholarships

Among the steps to qualify is the SAT/National Merit Scholarship qualifying test. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Among the steps to qualify is the SAT/National Merit Scholarship qualifying test. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Five students with ties to Chattanooga have won college-sponsored scholarships in the latest announcement of winners by the nonprofit National Merit Scholarship Corp. The awards provide from $500 to $2,000 annually for up to four years of undergraduate study at the institution financing the scholarship.

Girls Preparatory School and McCallie School each have two winners. The fifth scholarship winner is a student at Hamilton County Collegiate High School. They are among more than 3,000 high school seniors nationwide selected for the latest round of awards.

Winners were selected by college officials from the finalists in the 2023 National Merit Scholarship Program who had indicated plans to attend the institution. An additional group of college-sponsored scholars will be announced in July. Earlier this spring, the organization announced winners of corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards and National Merit $2,500 Scholarships. By the end of the competition, more than 7,140 academic champions will have won scholarships worth $28 million.

(READ MORE: Chattanooga area's National Merit scholarship winners include Signal Mountain, STEM, Tullahoma students)

High school juniors entered the 2023 program when they took the 2021 preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship qualifying test, which served as an initial screen of program entrants. Last fall, more than 16,000 semifinalists were named, based on each state's percentage of graduating high school seniors. Semifinalists were the highest-scoring program entrants in each state, representing less than 1% of the nation's seniors.

To compete for awards, semifinalists had to fulfill 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, be recommended by a high school official and earn SAT or ACT scores that confirmed the qualifying test performance. From the semifinalist group, more than 15,000 met requirements for finalist standing. About half of those are receiving scholarships.

The local winners in the latest round are:

— James J. Darby, of Knoxville, a McCallie graduate who plans to study chemical engineering at the University of Georgia.

— Rowan Anderson Espy, of Dalton, Georgia, a GPS graduate who plans to study marine biology at Tulane University.

— Meghan G. Gardner, of Signal Mountain, a GPS graduate who plans to study architectural engineering at Samford University.

Anirudhha S. Harsha, of Chattanooga, a McCallie graduate who plans to study electrical engineering at the University of Tennessee.

Vraj P. Patel, of Chattanooga, a Collegiate High graduate who plans to study aerospace engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

— Compiled by Lisa Denton

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