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Harvard Tops List of National Merit Scholars

By Abby Y. Fung

Continuing a long-standing tradition, Harvard once again boasts the highest number of first-year National Merit Scholars, with about one fourth of first-years having received the award in 1996.

In statistics released by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation and published in The Chronicle of Higher Education this week, Harvard "as always" topped the list, with 391 matriculating in the Class of 2000.

Director of Admissions and Financial Aid, Dr. Marlyn McGrath-Lewis '70-'73 said that Harvard has enrolled the highest number of Merit scholars for as long as she can remember.

The high concentration of Merit Scholars at Harvard comes as no surprise to many of its first-year recipients.

"I think it's reasonable that Harvard, being the best, would attract such a high number of talented, high-caliber students," said Garrett B. Moritz '00, a National Merit Scholar.

At the same time, McGrath-Lewis said the college does not specifically look for National Merit Scholars during the admissions process.

"Test scores are by no means the only measure of academic success for Harvard applicants," McGrath-Lewis said.

"We're looking for people who decades later will do something constructive and positive with their lives," she said.

Merit scholars comprise a large portion of students admitted because many students accepted by the office also hold credentials which earn them a Merit scholarship, McGrath-Lewis said.

"Not surprisingly, there is a great overlap in people who are accepted and people who are National Merit Scholars. It is certainly not a guarantee of admissions by any means. It is merely coincidental," she said.

Students are chosen as National Merit Scholars based on their scores on the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT) and credentials and essays submitted after they become semi-finalists.

Last year 7,255 high school seniors were named finalists, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Two thousand of the finalists receive $2000 scholarships from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, and many more received money from the nearly 200 sponsoring colleges and universities and about 340 businesses and foundations. 1996 National Merit Scholars Harvard has 92 more Scholars than next best Graphic: Rebecca T. Brown University  Number Scholars  Number Sponsored 1. Harvard U.  391  0 2. U. Texas, Austin  299  233 3. Rice U.  204  138 4. Stanford U.  184  0 5. Texas A&M U.  183  141 6. U. Florida  177  162 7. Yale U.  165  0 8. lowa State U.  154  134 9. U. Oklahoma  153  134 10. U.C. Berkeley  131  90 Source: Chronicle of Higher Education

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