REGIONAL NATIONAL MERIT SEMIFINALISTS
• Home school: Darcy Arnall
• Calhoun High School: Vruj Patel, Rebecca Reddoch
• Darlington School: Graceanne Greene
• McMinn County High School: Duncan Bryant
• Baylor School: Mary Crowell, Amethyst Evans, Lauren Johnson, Melissa Manuel, Sean McGunigal, Madeline Parks, William Temple, James Wheeler
• Chattanooga Christian: Amy Davis
• Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences: Nancy Wong
• Girls Preparatory School: Sara Griffith
• East Hamilton Middle-High School: Minoh Jung, Milad Malek, Maria Walshe
• Home school: Susan Zeglen
• McCallie School: Gregory Basnight, Bowen Brown, Foster Elsea, Aaron Long, Alexander Ramey, Michael Ray, Scott Shelton, Joseph Tate, Jonathan Warren, Eric Wolf
• Notre Dame High School: Steven Dorris
• Cleveland High School: Derek Snyder
• Centennial High School: Mika Giedt
• Franklin Classical School: Hal Moyer
• Franklin High School: McKenzie Bottoms, Ashley Deperi, Mary Robinson
• Fred Page High School: Delaney Amatrudo, Caroline Hill, George Owen, Jared Schaumann
• Sequoyah High School: Kevin Collins
• Home school: Henry Whittemore
• Tullahoma High School: Hollis Bui, Elliot Emadian
Source: National Merit Scholarship Corp.
Susan Zeglen had never taken a college entrance exam before taking the PSAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test last fall.
"My mom bought me a study book because I hadn't taken the ACT or SAT test," said the 16-year-old home-schooled senior. "I knew what the PSAT was, but I didn't really know what it entailed. I went through the book, did some practice questions. I thought I'd just take it and see how it went."
Zeglen is among 45 regional high school seniors named as National Merit Scholarship semifinalists today by the National Merit Scholarship Corp. Of those, 26 are students in Hamilton County.
All the students are eligible to compete for more than $32 million in National Merit Scholarships to be awarded next spring.
For Susan, one of seven home-schooled students of John and Dianne Zeglen, getting the scholarship not only would ease the finances of her own college career, it would make things easier on her parents, she said.
"Next year my parents will have three children in college," she said.
Last fall, 1.5 million juniors in the country took the 2011 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test to enter the competition, according to the National Merit Scholarship Corp. Of those, 16,000 reached semifinalist status, the highest-scoring entrants in each state.
Locally, McCallie School led the region with 10 semifinalists.
"McCallie is proud of the impressive achievement of these 10 young men, and we are very fortunate to have them as a part of our school community," said Kirk Walker, school headmaster. "As we salute them and their families, we applaud the teachers who have served as motivators, mentors and role models for these students."
In contrast to Susan, who had never taken a college entrance test, Girls Preparatory School senior Sara Griffith had two practice tests under her belt before last fall's qualifying exam.
"We take the test as freshmen, sophomores and juniors at our school, but only the junior year counts," said Griffith. It's a practice that she said helped alleviate nerves.
"My score improved each year, and I think that's because I knew how to better prepare each time and was more comfortable with it. Last year, I missed the [semifinalist] cutoff by one point, so I knew I was going to be close this year."
Griffith, 17, the daughter of Rhonda and Delton Griffith, said she wants to attend either Samford University in Birmingham or the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to study exercise science.
Susan Zeglen said she plans to major in nursing at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, then further her education to become a physician's assistant.
"This helps me consider more prestigious schools, such as Emory University, after I graduate from UTC," she said. "But right now, it's a great way for me to represent home-schoolers; to show we get a quality education as well."
Contact staff writer Susan Pierce at 423-757-6284 or firstname.lastname@example.org.