Achieving excellence

Ella Tallett

As Aristotle once said, “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation.”

Xavier High School seniors Justin Korbel and Joanne Lee were both named National Merit Finalists this February. The National Merit Scholarship Program is an academic scholarship competition for recognition and university scholarships, with this process starting when junior high school students take the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT). 

“Becoming a semifinalist is mostly based on your PSAT score and scoring above the threshold for your year qualifies you for the National Merit Semifinalist status. Becoming a finalist is based on an essay that you write and a transcript of your grades. The process to become a finalist is relatively simple after becoming a semifinalist as long as you write and turn in a decent essay on time and have good grades,” Korbel said. 

Once a student becomes a National Merit Finalist, they are open to receive scholarships from their selected colleges, with officials of each sponsor college selecting winners of their awards. To become a National Merit Scholar, finalists must undergo further evaluation. This includes submitting a high school official’s written recommendation, as well as information about their activities and leadership to help show they are well rounded students.

Korbel mentions how he is involved in band, bowling, robotics and tennis at Xavier, as well as Boy Scouts and a bowling league outside of Xavier. 

Lee also says how she is involved in band (concert band, marching band and jazz band), First Tech Challenge (robotics) and the Science Olympiad   team, as well as Mock Trial. 

According to the National Merit Scholarship Association (NMSC), approximately half of the finalists will go on to become National Merit Scholars and receive these awards. 

However, being a National Merit Finalist is about more than possibly receiving scholarship money for Korbel and Lee.

“I am incredibly grateful to be a National Merit Finalist—hard work often has delayed results and this honor has shown me that all of my work has paid off,” Lee said. 

In addition, seeing the high achievements of Korbel and Lee have inspired younger Xavier students. 

“It is no surprise to me that these two are National Merit Scholar Finalists. After seeing their diligence in classes as well as on the robotics team, they are exactly the people I would expect to be awarded such awards,” Isaac Stadelmann, a junior who competes in First Tech Challenge with Korbel and Lee, said. 

Becoming National Merit Finalists have been testaments to all the work and effort Korbel and Lee have put into their high school careers, with the future being bright for those who turn their aspirations into action.