Four area high school seniors have been named semifinalists in the 66th annual National Merit Scholarship Program.

Semifinalists include Patrick G. Beranek, of Joplin High School; Cade Wilkerson, of Carl Junction High School; Johanna K. Jeyaraj, of Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School in Joplin; and Cory Brynds, of Girard (Kansas) High School.

They are among approximately 16,000 high school seniors from across the country who were announced today as semifinalists. They now have the opportunity to compete for 7,600 National Merit scholarships worth more than $30 million that will be offered next spring.

The 2021 program began in 2019, when 1.5 million high school juniors took a qualifying exam that served as an initial screen of program entrants. The nationwide pool of semifinalists, representing less than 1% of U.S. high school seniors, includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state.

To be considered for a National Merit award, semifinalists must advance to the finalist level of the competition. About 15,000 students are expected to become finalists, a designation that will be announced in February; more than half of finalists will win a scholarship.

To become a finalist, semifinalists must submit a scholarship application with information about their academic record, participation in school and community activities, leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received. They must also write an essay and be endorsed by a high school official.

Three types of National Merit scholarships will be offered in spring 2021. Every finalist will compete for one of 2,500 National Merit $2,500 scholarships. About 1,000 corporate-sponsored awards will be provided by 220 corporations and business organizations. And about 180 colleges and universities will finance 4,100 scholarships for finalists who attend the sponsoring institution.

Scholarship awards will be announced in four installments beginning in April and ending in July.