About 1.5 million high school juniors in more than 22,000 high schools across the country entered the 2013 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2011 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT). From that group, a nationwide pool of semifinalists, representing less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors, was named. That group included a number of Daniel Hand High School students.
A semifinalist, according to the National Merit organization, must 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 test to advance to the finalist level. From the approximately 16,000 semifinalists, about 15,000 are expected to move to the finalist level. All National Merit Scholarship winners will be selected from this group of finalists.