Lincoln-Way students named National Merit Finalists
Monday, April 2, 2018

In mid-January, Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210 recognized 35 total students in a special ceremony for outstanding academic performance based on the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) requirements. Of the 35 students, 31 earned Commended status and four earned Semifinalist status. After celebrating their Semifinalist status in January, students Alexandria Krupske (Lincoln-Way West), Taylor Lenburg (Lincoln-Way Central), Lucas Nienhouse (Lincoln-Way East) and Karnap Patel (Lincoln-Way East), each submitted an application for Finalist status. Despite the competitiveness of the NMSC program, all four advanced as Finalists.

“This is the equivalent to be named an academic All American,” says Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Tim Reilly. “These students should be incredibly proud of their achievement.”

According to the NMSC website, of the 1.6 million entrants, approximately 50,000 test takers with the highest PSAT/NMSQT Selection Index scores qualify for recognition in the National Merit Scholarship Program. More than two-thirds of the 50,000 high scorers on the PSAT/NMSQT receive Letters of Commendation in recognition of their outstanding academic promise. One-third of the 50,000 high scorers are notified that they have qualified as Semifinalists. From there, after submitting additional qualifications and an essay response to a writing prompt, approximately 15,000 Finalists are chosen.

Of earning Finalist status, Alexandria Krupske, says, “It’s always exciting because of all the scholarships that can come along with it, so it opened up opportunities for colleges that I may not have looked at if I didn’t win this.”

In her essay application for NMSC, Krupske wrote about her job as a math tutor and how she unexpectedly enjoyed it. Her involvement in various clubs and activities has kept her busy at Lincoln-Way West. Krupske is a part of National Honor Society, Math Honors Society, Scholastic Bowl, Mathletes and Bowling. She is also president of Key Club. She applied to twenty total colleges, writing a different essay for each application.

“I’m deciding between Northeastern University, University of Southern California and UCLA,” she says. “I want to study finance, and some schools will offer the opportunity to merge entrepreneurship with finance, so that would be my preference,” she says.

When Senior Taylor Lenburg of Lincoln-Way Central was first called down to the office to notify her of her Finalist status, she says she slightly panicked. “I’ve never been called down to the office before,” says Lenburg. “So I was actually scared; I thought I was in trouble…Then it kind of occurred to me that maybe it was about the National Merit recognition.”

When Principal Steve Provis presented her with her certificate of achievement, Lenburg’s fears disappeared. While at Lincoln-Way Central, she has kept busy by participating in Mathletes, Guitar Studio Ensemble, Tri-M Honor Society, National Honor Society and AFJROTC.

While she’s excited for college, she’s still trying to decide which one she’d like to attend. She says, “I’m choosing between Illinois Wesleyan and Knox College; I’m thinking I want to go pre-law. If not, I’ll major in psychology and decide when I get there, but either way, I think graduate school is in my future.”

Finalist Luca Nienhouse of Lincoln-Way East was excited to reach Finalist status. For the essay portion of the NMSC application, he was asked to write about someone who has been inspirational in his life. Nienhouse chose his grandmother. “She’s got a plethora of medical conditions, and she still always acts not for herself, but for everyone else,” he says.

When he heard letters were mailed notifying students of their status, he “bolted out” to his mailbox and opened the letter with his Finalist status. “I was like ‘Nice!’” he says. “I’m a twin, so having two kids going to college is a big monetary deal for my parents.” Nienhouse says, however, that his academic performance and Finalist status will help him secure scholarships. “By designating schools I’d like to attend on the National Merit website, I can get scholarship benefits for my Finalist status,” he says.

Although some students will attempt to “lighten the load” of their classes and activities during their senior year, Nienhouse has kept himself incredibly busy and dedicated. He is part of Computer Club and Mathletes, and is also the current president of Gamers Club. Nienhouse is a member of National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, Pi Sigma Pi, and Science National Honor Society. His favorite class is Calculus BC, where he earned over 100% last semester and aims to do the same during his final semester of high school.

Karnap Patel, who also earned a perfect score on his ACT, earned National Merit Finalist status as well. During his time at Lincoln-Way East, Patel has been a part of the National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, Science National Honors Society, Mathletes, Computer Club, Gamers Club, and was also the co-captain of the Ultimate Frisbee Team. This year, he joined Track and Field to give shot put and discus a try.

Patel wants to study aerospace engineering, and is still waiting to hear back from a few of the six colleges to which he’s applied. “A lot of colleges have merit-based scholarships, so I’m sure it helps me there,” he says. “One of the colleges that I’m really interested in right now is University of Michigan; I know their aerospace engineering program is really good…U of I is also another one I’m looking at; I was really impressed by their clubs that related to aerospace.”

Patel says he was able to look at “some higher tiered colleges” due to his National Merit Finalist status, as well as his perfect ACT score. He looks forward to receiving responses over the next few weeks before making his final decision. “I have good options,” he says.