Update: As of February 2021, Natalie has been moved from semifinalist standing to now a National Merit finalist! Students move to finalist standing based on demonstrating distinguished performance and having a high potential for future academic accomplishment. There are more than 15,000 finalists, and in March the National Merit Scholarship Corporation will narrow down to 7,500 winners to receive a scholarship. Winners will be notified and announced officially this spring.
Natalie Horwath, a senior at Lighthouse School for Gifted and Insatiable Learners, has been named a National Merit semifinalist. More than 1.5 million juniors entered the competition last spring by taking the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT). Natalie was 1 of only 288 Minnesota students to qualify as a semifinalist.
“I’ve taken many standardized tests but I’m always a little nervous beforehand,” says Natalie. “I’m always stressed after tests because I begin to overanalyze my answers, but when scores came out I felt much better. I still didn’t expect to be a semifinalist, so that was a welcome surprise.”
Natalie has been a Lighthouse School student since 2009 when she enrolled as a first grader.
“In my elementary years I loved to write. Essays and other assigned written assignments were difficult, but I could write for hours creating fantasy worlds and short stories. The environment of Lighthouse allowed me to submit these writings for credit and it encouraged me to continue writing,” says Natalie.
In addition to her academic focus, she also participated in extracurriculars. She acted in Antigone, a student-led play, participated in the University of MN Talented Youth Mathematics Program and has been a part of Destination Imagination teams that have advanced to World Competitions.
“The environment of Lighthouse really aided my academic independence from teachers and a structured work environment,” says Natalie. “I know I would not be where I am today if not for Lighthouse.”
National Merit next steps
National Merit semifinalists advance to finalist standing in the National Merit Scholarship competition by writing an essay, obtaining letters of recommendation and demonstrating high academic performance. Natalie is now in competition for more than 7,600 scholarships worth more than $30 million. She is already gaining post-secondary experience through coursework at the University of Minnesota.
“I’ve wanted to be a surgeon for as long as I can remember, and I’m still dedicated to that dream. My post-high school plans right now mostly consist of the steps I need to take to achieve that dream.” says Natalie. “For now, however, I’m focused on maintaining good grades and applying to colleges.”
National Merit Scholarship finalists will be named in February 2021. Scholarships are awarded in the spring.