SANDPOINT — When Adele Marchiando's teacher told her she needed some help in the office, Marchiando thought she would be copying some papers during her independent study class at Sandpoint High School last week.
But then she was directed to the conference room adjacent to the office, which Marchiando said she thought was a bit weird. And then she realized her parents and sister were there as well, which only added to the mystery. The mystery was quickly solved, however, as Marchiando learned she was recently named a semi-finalist in the National Merit Scholarship program, putting her in the top one percent of high school seniors in the nation.
"It didn't really register at first," Marchiando said, adding that, a week later, it still hadn't quite sunk in. "I understand that it is a prestigious academic accomplishment, and I am really excited about that, but I am curious about the real life implications of how can I get scholarships from this, mainly, and advantages in applying to colleges and how that will help me further my goals."
Marchiando said Stanford University is her "reach school," and she is also looking at the University of Colorado in Boulder. For the National Merit Scholarship, it is up to the school to offer the student a scholarship, so every school offers different amounts, if anything. University of Idaho, for example, has historically given National Merit students full-ride scholarships. Semi-finalists who advance to the finalist level will have the chance to compete for the National Merit scholarships as well.
If she attends UC Boulder, Marchiando said she plans to enter the technology, arts and media program. The program is offered through the engineering department, so it is an engineering degree with a focus on creativity, she said. She toured the school last December when she went there to take a Japanese proficiency test, and said there was a lot of technology being used to explore virtual reality and robotics.
"That all just sounded extremely exciting," Marchiando said.
At Stanford, she is looking into their symbolic systems program, which is, essentially, cognitive science, Marchiando said. This would include study of the mind and "all the ways you can study the mind," she said, such as philosophy, psychology and neuroscience. It also includes artificial intelligence, which Marchiando said is the route she would want to go. She had been looking at cognitive science as a career since her sophomore year, but as that does not always fit into college programs, she began looking at other options as well, such as the TAM program at UC Boulder.
Marchiando enjoys acting and has been involved in theater since eighth-grade. She is currently the assistant director for the school play coming up at the end of October — an original play titled "Fugelmann," written by the school's drama teacher. She also does some tinkering with computers as a hobby and taught herself Japanese.
Her favorite class in high school, she said, is Academic Decathlon.
"I love the interdisciplinary aspect of AcaDeca," Marchiando said. "And I think it has really helped with interviewing and speech-giving skills."
She has been involved in AcaDeca since she was a freshman, and last year, she and the SHS team went to nationals. Marchiando was awarded bronze in speech and interview, and gold in the essay category with the second-highest essay score at the national competition, she said.
SHS postsecondary counselor Jeralyn Mire said one of the things that impresses her most about Marchiando, is that she not only has a lot of natural intelligence, she worked very hard to get the scores on the PSAT test that put her in the National Merit running.
"She studied, and she did some tutoring and she really went after it," Mire said. "It really impressed me that she wanted to do the work and put in the time that was necessary to score well ... She is a very positive, a very hopeful, kind young woman. She has some really neat areas of interest to study, and it's going to be neat to watch where she goes and what she does."
Out of more than 1.6 million juniors across more than 22,000 schools in the nation who entered the competition by taking the qualifying PSAT last year, 16,000 students were named National Merit semi-finalists. More than 90 percent of the semi-finalists are expected to attain finalist standing. Finalists are typically announced in February, and with her activities and intelligence, carrying a 4.37 weighted GPA, Mire said Marchiando has a good chance of being named a finalist.
To become a finalist in the program, semi-finalists and their high school must submit a detailed scholarship application, with information about the semi-finalist’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received.
Semi-finalists are required to have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, write an essay, and earn SAT scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying PSAT test.
Finalists will compete for three types of scholarships offered in the spring. Each finalist has an opportunity to earn one of 2,500 scholarships in the amount of $2,500 that will be awarded on a state-representational basis. About 1,000 corporate-sponsored National Merit Scholarship awards will be provided by approximately 230 corporations and business organizations for finalists who meet their specified criteria. In addition, about 180 colleges and universities are expected to finance 4,000 college-sponsored scholarship awards for finalists who will attend the sponsor institution.
Mary Malone can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.