The selection committee at the National Merit Scholarship Corporation uses SAT scores to whittle down a field of 1.5 million college scholarship applicants to a smaller group of semifinalists. After that, the organization examines extracurricular and community activities engaged in by the student.
When one looks at the overall contributions from Ben Miller, who graduated from The Park School of Baltimore last spring, one can understand why he was among the just under 8,000 students nationwide picked as National Merit Scholars this year.
At Park, Miller, who is set to attend Washington University in St. Louis this fall, was student council president, varsity tennis team captain, senior leader of Vocal Chords (the school’s male a cappella group) and a pianist and vocalist in the varsity jazz band. He also worked with Jewish Volunteer Connection as a part of the Diller Teen Fellows Program — a group of 20 students who aspire to attain leadership positions in the Jewish community — and was a board member of OSTRYG (Temple Oheb Shalom’s youth group).
Through Diller, Miller set up a chess club at Levindale Geriatric Center, where residents could play each other or be taught (by Miller) to play the game.
“It doesn’t surprise me to hear he won [the scholarship],” said Janine-Marie Boulad, Levindale’s manager of volunteer services. “He took a lot of the initiative and was very excited and proactive about the project.”
To become a finalist, each semifinalist had to complete a detailed scholarship application, which
included a written essay detailing (in addition to extracurricular achievements) examples of student leadership and academic prowess. It also required a letter of recommendation from a school faculty member.
Then, each finalist (15,000 in 2013) had to provide their SAT scores to supplement the PSAT scores already provided. A little more than half of those students wound up earning National Merit Scholarship honors.
“It’s definitely nice,” he said of the scholarship.
Miller, who will receive $2,000 each year as a result of his scholarship, said he plans to study mathematics and economics at Washington University, as well as to continue to take classes in Mandarin, music and history.