North Texas Daily

UNT anticipates 15 more National Merit Scholars

UNT anticipates 15 more National Merit Scholars

September 03
10:48 2015
[df-subtitle]That much closer to achieving national prominence[/df-subtitle]

Linda Kessler | Senior Staff Writer


The university welcomes 15 new National Merit Scholars this semester, an increase triple the enrollment of last fall, when the incoming class included five of these prestigious students. University officials say the increase is an indicator that the school is becoming more recognized as a national research institution.

Zelma DeLeon, executive director of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships, said the university anticipates a total of 31 scholars this semester –15 incoming and 16 returning — though that number will not be official until Sept. 12, when the university census is released.

The enrollment of National Merit Scholars is one of the evidences universities across the country use to promote that they’ve got nationally competitive programs,” UNT President Neal Smatresk said. “I think this growth in a single year period points to the fact that students from across the country are recognizing what an incredible educational institution we are.”

In order for students to become National Merit Finalists, they must go through a selection process beginning with the PSAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test in high school.

After students take the test, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation identifies semifinalists. Those who meet academic requirements advance to the final level where they compete for scholarships. Students are notified in February of their senior year if they have advanced to National Merit Finalist standing.

Once the list of National Merit Finalists becomes available, many universities attempt to recruit those students, Dean of Honors College and TAMS Glênisson de Oliveira said.

“Those students have the opportunity to go to the first school of their choice,” de Oliveira said. “So for us to have a greater number of National Merit Scholars suggests we are becoming the first choice institution for these students.”


2015 UNT National Merit Scholars Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

One benefit of having these students on campus is the academic enthusiasm they bring with them, de Oliveira said.

“They come and make significant contributions to the institution,” de Oliveira said. “Our goal is for them to be at the heart of scholarly discourse, and really produce in their area of interest.”

James Duban, associate dean for Research and National Scholarships, Honors College and TAMS, said UNT has a two-fold incentive to recruit National Merit Scholars.

“First, we get to recruit, educate and inspire some of the brightest students in the country,” Duban said. “[Second] their choice to enroll at UNT further corroborates the fact that UNT offers all students immense possibilities for personal, academic and professional developments.”

de Oliveira agreed that people see the enrollment of National Merit Scholars as a measure of attractiveness of the university they are attending, but said there is more to UNT’s interest.

“We are interested because of the scholarly community we work to develop,” de Oliveira said. “We want excitement about learning and academic success to be ubiquitous at our university.”

Smatresk said the increase in National Merit Scholar enrollment is no accident.

“We are consciously working toward an increased enrollment through identifying finalists and sending them materials on the value of our institution and the scholarships we provide,” Smatresk said.

UNT offers the UNT Meritorious Scholarship for National Merit Finalists to those who select UNT as their institution of choice, become members of the Honors College and complete six honors credits per academic year.

The Meritorious Scholarship covers tuition and fees, on-campus room and board and textbook expenses up to $500 per semester for up to three consecutive years, or until they complete their undergraduate education.


The scholarship value is annually set and the award for the 2015-16 school year is $28,438, which, over the course of four years, can result in an award of more than $113,000.

DeLeon said the financial support for the National Merit Scholars program at UNT comes from a combination of institutional funding and grants from donors.

“We are working with donors who are eagerly signing up to be National Merit Scholarship award givers,” Smatresk said. “Donors love high-quality students, we already have eight scholarships lined up and we’re trying to get eight more.”

Featured Image: Glênisson de Oliveira, dean of the Texas Academy of Math and Science, speaks to the new National Merit Scholars of UNT in Sage Hall on Wednesday, August 26, 2015. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer 

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North Texas Daily

North Texas Daily

The North Texas Daily is the official student newspaper of the University of North Texas, proudly serving UNT and the Denton community since 1916.

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