Two TMP seniors recognized as Merit semifinalists
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
There wasn't much suspense for Jacob Brull when semifinalists of the National Merit Scholarship Program were announced earlier this month.
Brull, a senior at Thomas More Prep-Marian Junior-Senior High School, recorded a perfect score of 240 on the qualifying PSAT, the preliminary scholastic aptitude test.
Kathy Taylor, longtime guidance counselor at the school who took over the principal's position this year, called Brull and classmate Ryan Hammerschmidt into her office one day to tell them the news.
"Those are pretty rare," Taylor said of the perfect score, a first for one of her students. "Knowing that Jacob had the perfect score, we knew he would be a semifinalist. Ryan getting there, too, was icing on the cake."
Brull said knowing he had the perfect score would assure him of the semifinalist level. Hammerschmidt also had a high PSAT score but "you just never know for sure," he said. "It changes every year."
The number of semifinalists in each state is proportional to the state's percentage of the national total of graduating seniors. The TMP duo features the only semifinalists this year in the entire western half of the state.
Approximately 1.5 million juniors entered the 2014 National Merit Scholarship program. From the 16,000-some semifinalists across the nation -- which represents less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors -- approximately 15,000 are expected to advance to the finalist level, which is announced in February.
Part of the finalist application process includes taking the SAT. That doesn't scare Brull, who also has scored a perfect 36 on his ACT. Nor does it bother Hammerschmidt, who scored a 34 on his ACT the first time he took it and hopes to raise that score with his second try Saturday.
The two have gotten to know each other well during their high school careers, both participating in similar activities, including chess, scholars bowl, math competitions, band and the school musical.
Hammerschmidt, with his 99.83 percentage, even edged Brull for top junior class scholastic honors given at last year's graduation ceremonies with an award recognizing each freshman, sophomore and junior with the highest grade percentage for the year.
While they often are paired together because of their academic success, Hammerschmidt and Brull plan to go separate ways following graduation.
Hammerschmidt will stay close to home and attend Fort Hays State University, one of the few colleges in this part of the country and the only one in the state that offers an information systems engineering program.
Brull has aspirations to teach music and math at the high school level and is considering the University of Kansas, the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma and the University of North Texas.
For now, though, they both want to enjoy their senior year.
"There's a lot to do," Brull said of multiple scholarship applications he and Hammerschmidt will be filling out throughout the year. "But seeing (their names on the National Merit semifinalist list) is nice."